Calm. Serene. But, not exactly very enjoyable. The Volvo XC90 feels surefooted and unwavering in a straight line, which should make it great for long distance travel. But, show it some corners and it begins to get uncomfortable. It is a heavy car and as a result, the XC90 rolls around and struggles a bit under braking too. The brakes themselves are great: lots of bite, lots of feedback and just the right amount of travel. But, as you go faster and the momentum builds, it takes more effort to slow the Volvo down. We are also no fans of the XC90’s electrically powered steering; there’s little feedback and a hint of laziness in its reactions.
Selecting Dynamic mode improves the XC’s handling characteristics, no doubt; the steering weighs up better, the suspension becomes tauter still, and there’s an improvement in the throttle response as well. But, it certainly doesn’t turn the SUV into a sports car.
Other driving modes include: Eco (for fuel efficiency), Comfort (for a cushier ride and lighter steering), Off-Road (for taking on the rough with hill descent and raised ride height), and finally Custom (which allows you to take bits and pieces from various modes and come up with your own recipe).
The engine on the Volvo XC90 meanwhile (and there’s only one) is a 2.0-litre, 225bhp, 470Nm four-cylinder diesel unit. Compared to its competition, which get 3-litre engines and more power and torque, it would be fair to assume that the Volvo is underpowered. But, it isn’t.
The torque spread is even and flat, and the 8-speed automatic the engine is coupled to, uses this torque very well. Be it puttering in the city, cruising down the highways or overtaking, the XC90 never feels lacking; the driveability is really well judged. It’s only when you start chasing its top speed of 230kmph in a hurry, that one can feel the lack of power.
The one area where Volvo does need to work on is the XC90’s ride quality. It is lumpy and jiggly, and crashy at times as well.