Why would I buy it?
- Active safety features
Why would I avoid it?
- No diesel option
- Lacks outright performance
7.5 / 10
The original XC90 was the flag bearer for everything Volvo stood for in the early 2000s – practical, safe and sensible. It was extremely functional and impressive as a family SUV, but aesthetically? Not so much. Volvo, however, turned things around completely with the second-gen XC90 (introduced in 2015) which marked the start of the Swedish brand’s own take on design and luxury. With its clean elegant lines on the outside and calm, simplified interiors, the XC90 singlehandedly redefined what Volvo stood for.
Seven years later, the XC90 still looks the part but it’s had its work cut-out against far newer rivals like the Mercedes GLS and the BMW X5. Naturally, Volvo wants to cater to well-heeled buyers which is why the brand has given the XC90 a new lease of life with the 2021 model that gets a cleaner petrol engine with hybrid tech. So is this rejuvenated Volvo the ultimate family SUV you should consider? Or would you be better off choosing one of its rivals? That’s what we shall be exploring in this review.
Engine and Performance
7 / 10
All Volvos sold now are either petrol, hybrid or electric powered and the XC90 we have here is a hybrid, meaning it gets a 2-litre, four cylinder motor that’s paired to a small electric motor. All in, the system makes 300bhp and 420Nm of torque, figures that may seem less impressive on paper compared all its rivals from Germany but it’s a different story on the road. Although down on power, not to mention engine capacity, the XC90’s drivetrain is very refined, shows good urge and has a rather exciting power delivery – basically it uses turbocharging, supercharging and the electric motor’s boost to deliver peak power and as a result, there is some lag at low revs but as soon as you hit 3,000rpm the build-up in momentum is nice and the whole drivetrain remains reasonably quiet, too. The automatic gearbox is the same as before and it adds to the comfortable drive performance, delivering creamy smooth upshifts and downshifts.
Ride and Handling
7.5 / 10
On the road, be it city, outstation or highway, the XC90 is a pleasant SUV to drive. It’s got a lot of clearance (aided by the air suspension’s ability to raise the car considerably), all-wheel drive and chunky rubber meaning it’s good for rough terrain, too. While there is more noticeable road noise from the tyres than you would expect, you can always shut it out with the phenomenal Bowers and Wilkins audio system. Secondly, there is just a tad bit wind noise from around the A-pillar, that too at really high speeds. In terms of ride quality, it handles road undulations and imperfections much better than the XC60 which we drove recently. There is none of the excessive up and down movement that we experienced in the latter and in fact, the ride here is plush, silent and the whole car remains flat. Overall, the adaptive air suspension genuinely affects the XC90’s demeanour for the better.
Interior Space and Quality
8 / 10
Inside, the dominant black theme for the materials and vertically stacked elements remind you that you are in a Volvo before you even settle down in the front seat. The general look and feel is that of a thoroughly modern and richly appointed cabin. The whole dash, center console and the door pads are swathed in high grade leather/metal and the XC90 also gets wood and chrome inserts to break the monotony. The main display that dominates proceedings is super responsive and straight away feels familiar thanks to its tablet-like orientation.
At just over 4.9m long, 2m across and with a wheelbase of nearly 3m, the XC90 is a big old beast and it shows in the amount of space you get inside. So, no surprise that there's heaps of space everywhere, with more than enough head, leg and shoulder room for the occupants in the first two rows. The cushioning and contouring on the seats is just spot on and in like all Volvos, these seats are designed with the help from Orthopaedic surgeons and without a doubt they are one of the best in the business. At the front you can also adjust the side bolsters, lumbar and squab to alter them further to your liking. Better still, Volvo has given lot of emphasis to the rear and it shows. The legroom is phenomenal at the back and shoulder room is in abundance, too.
Having said that, the third row seating remains best suited for short journeys because even though there is a fair amount of space, the seats themselves are small and comparatively flatter.
Features and Equipment
7 / 10
There hasn’t been any change in the equipment list except you now get air cleaning tech inside the XC90. Basically, there is a sensor to measure PM 2.5 levels inside the cabin and the air cleaner then optimises the quality of air inside. Other notable features in here include a head-up display, panoramic sunroof, electric front seats, lots of leather everywhere and an even greater amount of safety tech. There’s automatic braking, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, parking assist, road sign information, cross traffic alert, driver alert and rear collision warning besides the usual list of safety equipment. So what is it that you don’t get? Wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay and that’s a big surprise.
7.5 / 10
The new Volvo XC90 isn’t going to set your heartbeat racing as it’s a little underwhelming to drive but for all other intent and purposes, it’s a lovely, posh SUV. It’s supremely comfortable inside and gorgeous to look at (not something you say to describe a full-size SUV, I know). But Volvo is hoping that it’s base pricing and service packages would be enough to set the XC90 apart from some of its much newer rivals. Speaking of which, it’s priced at Rs 89.90 lakh ex-showroom which seems fair but what makes the deal somewhat better is that Volvo is also offering a 3 years’ service package (including regular maintenance plus wear and tear cost for 3 years) for Rs 75,000 plus taxes.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi