Volvo XC90 B5 (D) review

Volvo's XC90 has been given a mid-life refresh, with a range of new mild hybrid engines the primary changes to the line-up. We had a quick drive of the XC90 B5 diesel last year, but have now had the chance to have a full test of the latest powertrain. We review the large SUV to see how the mild hybrid technology works in day-to-day life.

Review by Chris Lilly


Volvo is phasing out its diesel engines - well those that are purely diesel fuelled anyway. The XC90's refresh has seen the policy applied to the SUV, with 'B' badged models now available in both petrol and diesel forms with mild hybrid technology. The core of the range is now made up of B engines with B5 petrol and diesel units available. The T name remains for petrol engines in the T6 variety as a high-power option, and the T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid models. The B5 diesel produces 235 hp and 480 Nm of torque, good for a 0-62 mph time of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 137 mph. It's not particularly slow nor fast, with the unit providing a useful amount of performance for users. Those wanting more pace can opt for the T6 or T8 models, but the B5 will suffice for most in terms of performance. The engine can be a little rough sounding when accelerating hard, but it becomes very refined when cruising, which gives a good indication as to how the car is set-up overall. With power going through an eight-speed automatic transmission, the changes aren't the fastest around, but again there's no issue with this. Should the Volvo have been pitched as a performance model, there would be a problem, but the XC90 is clearly intended as a comfortable, long-legged SUV and here is performs very well. The mild hybrid is virtually undetectable, but improves response when restarting the engine on the move, and it presumably helps flatten out the torque curve at low revs, but it works behind the scenes to such an extent that it would take a back-to-back test to really discover the difference.


Continuing on from the performance, the XC90 remains a relaxed drive - even in sportier R-Design trim. In fact, the Inscription trim tested is probably ideal for most as it focuses on comfort and luxury rather than sportiness. As such, you get the standard set of springs, which aren't adaptable as on the R-Design Pro and Inscription Pro trim levels, but there's no issue here. As a comfortably-sprung SUV, it excels. There is a reasonable amount of lean and shifting of weight when accelerating or braking, but it's all controlled well and no potential sea-sickness ensues even when pushing hard. The XC90 feels well suited to a wide range of surfaces, from dealing with speed bumps to a bit of off-roading. It's closest in ethos to a Range Rover, and has a similar suitable-to-go-anywhere set-up - unless that anywhere includes a race track. The steering is fairly light but precise, allowing piloting what is a large car through city traffic to be less cumbersome than might be expected.


I like the look of the XC90, particularly when compared to the likes of the Audi Q7 and BMW X5. It's stylish and disguises its bulk well, plus it introduces the current design language to a host of other fine-looking Volvo models. The updates here have been slight to say the least. The front grille and vents have seen some tweaks, but that's about it really. Likewise, space inside remains the same, but again there are few complaints here. The XC90 is a very practical machine, with seating for seven should it be required, and a huge boot when the rearmost seats are folded flat. Having run one as a family car with two young children for a week, it's easy to get seduced by the levels of load space on offer - and we own a large Volvo estate as comparison. The space for occupants is no less impressive, with acres of space for four adults, and even space for a small one or a child in the rear seats - there's a transmission tunnel bump where feet would otherwise go.


Volvo XC90 B5 interior

The interior in the model tested proved a light and airy one, with a sunroof and pale cream leather - plus plenty of glasswork around the place - helping the situation. It just goes to improve on what is a real Volvo strength; namely car cabins. They're comfortable, stylish, and practical, with the XC90 offering the maximum points on all of the above in the Volvo range. The seats are excellent even over long distances, and the three in the rear slide forwards and back to help create a flexible interior should the third-row of seats be required. Physical controls are pretty scarce, but those there are feel well built and are easy to use. Most features are accessed via the large touchscreen system, with the benefits of its portrait lay-out when it comes ot navigation having been extolled many times before by myself. The system is beginning to show its age compared to the latest offerings from rivals, but it still works well and is easy to use. The driver gets a digital display which again isn't as flash as the likes of Audi's set-up. Likewise, it's still a well designed system and provides a range of displays depending on requirements.


Volvo says the XC90 in B5 diesel specification gets fuel economy results between 37.7 and 44.1 MPG depending on specification. With 21-inch alloys as standard, we can expect the lower end of that spectrum for the B5 Inscription tested, and it proves remarkable accurate if my results are anything to go by. Having completed 350 miles of driving over a variety of road types and driving styles, the trip computer reported 34.7 MPG at the end of the stint, though more typical 'normal' driving saw that figure increase to 36 MPG. It's a decent set of figures considering the sheer size and weight of the XC90. The Volvo's CO2 emissions come in at 154 g/km, which gives a first year VED cost of £855 (included in the car's OTR) with the next five years costing £465 for all models barring the T8 Twin Engine PHEVs, which qualify for the £10 Alternative Fuel Discount. This is because all XC90s cost more than the £40,000 Premium Rate threshold. For company car tax, all models apart from the PHEVs are in the top 37% BIK rate.


The key green system for this XC90 is the mild hybrid powertrain. It's a 48-volt system, which allows for beefed-up support over a 12-volt set-up, and allows the electrical components to take the strain from the engine when restarting the car or when the engine's under load. For those wanting added greenness, the T8 Twin Engine models will help you there. There's a drive mode select system which allows the driver to put the XC90 into Eco mode, shifting the auto gearboxes changes and throttle response settings. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 42.


The XC90 comes with the following as standard: 19-inch alloys, Volvo's 9-inch touchscreen infotainment with navigation, apps, DAB, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, and voice activation, climate control, parking sensors front and rear, rear parking camera, LED headlights, seven seats, heated front seats, powered tailgate, and Pilot Assist. Inscription trim tested adds Nappa leather trim, 20-inch alloys, integrated rear sun blinds, Orrefors crystal gear selector, and black ass trim. Added to the test car were a Bowers & Wilkins sound system (which is excellent), smartphone connectivity, 360-degre parking camera, electric panoramic sunroof, winter pack including heated steering wheel, windscreen, & washer nozzles, and four-zone climate control with air conditioning for the third row of seats.


Volvo XC90 B5 Inscription rear

The XC90 is a pricey model, but the large premium SUV market is where you would expect to find such prices. Early impressions are that the mild hybrid B5 diesel set-up makes little significant difference in day-to-day driving, but small improvements in the powertrain help keep the XC90 fresh. The XC90 is a market leader, and further developments have only helped that position.

Model tested: Volvo XC90 B5 (D) Inscription AWD
Body-style: Large SUV
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre diesel engine / 154 g/km

On-road price: from £52,760. Price as tested: £64,960
Warranty: Three year / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars

Click here for more info about this model range

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:21st Feb 2020

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