Volvo XC90 buyer’s guide

FROM £2,000 Orig­i­nal seven-seat SUV is a prac­ti­cal choice; just buy care­fully

Auto Express - - Contents - Richard Dredge

First gen­er­a­tion of seven-seat SUV is now a used bar­gain

Road-bi­ased SUVS were noth­ing new when Volvo in­tro­duced its first en­try into the sec­tor in 2002. What the Swedish brand did do was some­thing that seems very ob­vi­ous now, but which hadn’t been done be­fore: the XC90 hhas a thirthird row of flat-fold­ing seats in its boot, mak­ing it a seven-seater 4x4. It’s a for­mula that’s now com­mon­place, but that doesn’t make the XC90 any less de­sir­able – although if you’d like one of th­ese 4x4s, there is plenty that you need to know be­fore buy­ing.


THE XC90 ar­rived in Novem­ber 2002, in 161bhp 2.4 D5 diesel or 272bhp 2.9 T6 turbo petrol forms. The Ex­ec­u­tive (from March 2003) brought rear en­ter­tain­ment; 18 months later a 2.5T petrol ar­rived, with an all-new 183bhp D5 from sum­mer 2005.

A facelift in sum­mer 2006 meant an ex­te­rior re­fresh and bet­ter trim ma­te­ri­als, plus a 4.4-litre petrol V8. At the same time, a 3.2-litre en­gine re­placed the pre­vi­ous T6 unit. The R-de­sign of sum­mer 2009 brought a sportier look, then from sum­mer 2010 a 2.0litre D5 was in­tro­duced, for bet­ter econ­omy.

By Jan­uary 2011 there was a 197bhp 2.4 D5, while a year later another facelift brought LED tail-lamps, LED day­time run­ning lights, re­pro­filed bubumpers and an im­proved in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. An all-new Mk2 XC90 was launched in 2014.

Which one?

A PETROL XC90 can make a lot of sense if you con­vert it to LPG; the V8 is a su­perb tow car. The diesels pro­vide easy cruis­ing and tow­ing, es­pe­cially when the Geartronic au­to­matic gear­box is fit­ted. How­ever, this trans­mis­sion in­creases fuel con­sump­tion and can be hes­i­tant off the mark.

Ex­act spec­i­fi­ca­tions changed reg­u­larly but all 2009 model year XC90S had rear park­ing sen­sors, self-lev­el­ling sus­pen­sion, cli­mate and cruise con­trol plus nav­i­ga­tion. The SE added an elec­tri­cally ad­justable driver’s seat and leather-faced trim, while SE Lux also had ac­tive head­lights, a pow­ered front pas­sen­ger seat, heated front chairs and leather up­hol­stery. The Ex­ec­u­tive added wood trim and mas­sag­ing front seats plus an up­graded sound sys­tem.


THE Land Rover Dis­cov­ery 3 and 4 are roomy, lux­u­ri­ous and highly ac­com­plished ri­vals to the XC90. Pur­chase and run­ning costs are high, but they’re the best 4x4s if car­ry­ing seven peo­ple is key. If you want seven seats but space isn’t so much of a pri­or­ity, the Audi Q7 and Mercedes GL are worth a look. Beau­ti­fully built and very well equipped, the two Ger­man cars come with some ex­cel­lent diesel en­gines and are great at tow­ing.

The Mit­subishi Shogun can carry seven and is very good off-road, but it’s com­pletely out­classed by the Volvo on-road and feels down­mar­ket in com­par­i­son. Another great SUV that’s well built, well equipped and tows ef­fort­lessly is the VW Touareg; how­ever, this comes with only five seats.


THE XC90 has been over­taken by a raft of ri­vals since it was launched 15 years ago. Even so, if you need a seven-seat SUV the king-sized Volvo is still worth a look as it was kept fresh with reg­u­lar up­dates. Buy the new­est car you can af­ford, as th­ese tend to have more ef­fi­cient en­gines and bet­ter-re­solved elec­tron­ics, plus Volvo kept the XC90 com­pet­i­tive by load­ing it up with ever more kit and im­proved cabin am­bi­ence.

Buy­ing one of the cheaper XC90S on the mar­ket will prove a false econ­omy: the run­ning costs will be high rel­a­tive to the pur­chase costs. Re­al­is­ti­cally, spend at least £10,000 to se­cure some­thing that’ll pro­vide years of plea­sure as it earns its keep.

“Volvo kept the XC90 com­pet­i­tive by load­ing it up with ever more kit and im­proved cabin am­bi­ence”

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