At a time when the word ‘compact’ is increasingly bandied about by motoring marketers and the virtues of downsizing are frequently extolled, Volvo have boldly taken a step in the opposite direction.
The second generation XC90 is a real behemoth of a motor which positively revels in its imposing stature.
This substantial seven-seater SUV had some big shoes to fill when it hit the roads just over 12 months ago, its predecessor having lasted for a dozen years and enjoyed huge global success.
But the new XC90 has proved more than up to the task, with plenty of substance to match its impressive proportions.
Power comes from a choice of three 2.0 litre engines – the D5 diesel I drove, a T6 petrol or the T8 petrol-electric hybrid.
The hybrid will appeal to business buyers with its low company car taxation and the petrol packs some impressive performance figures – but the D5 I drove is likely to be the popular choice for striking a balance somewhere in the middle.
Paired with a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission it is certainly no slouch, getting from 0-62mph in less than eight seconds and onto a top speed of 137mph. That performance comes with average fuel consumption of nearly 50 miles per gallon and carbon emissions of 149g/km.
All-wheel drive offers plenty of grip and the XC90 handles well for a car of its size thanks to some direct and accurate steering while the ride is comfortable and refined.
This is an ideal car for long-distance cruising, effortlessly eating up the miles, but manoeuvring around town obviously requires some care in such a big motor and the absence of a reversing camera as standard is one of the few disappointments when many much cheaper and smaller cars come with them.
They have reinvented the display, with an eight-inch touch screen in portrait rather than landscape orientation boasting a slick sideways swipe function to delve deeper into menus.
The user-friendly ‘Sensus’ interface offers access to many of the XC90’s functions, meaning very few switches and creating a clean, minimalist feel in the cabin, which is lavishly appointed.
The screen is the headline feature in a long list of equipment in this Momentum trim car – making it feel far from the entry level model into the range that it actually is.
You’ll also get sat-nav, air-con, Bluetooth, leather-faced upholstery, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, a power-operated tailgate with hands-free opening, keyless entry and ignition and rear parking sensors. But the really great thing about the XC90’s interior is its MPV-rivaling space and practicality.
The three middle-row seats slide, recline and fold flat individually allowing easy access to the two rear seats which offer enough room even for adults on shorter journeys, if they’re not too tall.
The XC90’s dimensions also mean there is a big enough boot for the weekly shop even with all seven seats in use, while with all five rear seats folded flat there’s load space to rival a small van.
Being a Volvo, safety is a prime consideration and a city safety system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, front collision warning with full auto braking comes as standard as well as driver alert with lane departure warning.
With prices starting north of £45k it’s not an entry-level price tag but if you’re lucky enough to be shopping in that market the XC90 is a compelling family car.
Volvo has been aspiring to join the premium classes inhabited by Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar Land Rover for many years – now they have a car that can take its place in such company.
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