24.9.2019Volvo XC90 B5 (D) first drive
Volvo has come a long way in a shot space of time. The second-generation XC90 was launched only five years ago, and since then the entire range has been replaced and said XC90 has just been given a refresh. Now available with the B5 engine tested, Volvo has started delivering the next stage of its comprehensive electrification strategy. We've got plug-in hybrids across the line-up, and a pure-electric model isn't far away, but now it's the turn of the mild hybrid to be introduced to Volvo's cars. We test the new Volvo XC90 B5 at an electrified range review.
Review by Chris Lilly
Fitted under the bonnet of the XC90 B5 tested is a 2.0 litre turbo diesel unit, which puts out 239 hp and 480 Nm of torque. It's tried, tested, well proven, and a popular choice for XC90 buyers. However, Volvo no longer offers conventional 'D' badged diesel options, rather 'B' badged mild hybrid units - in this case a diesel. Supporting the engine is a 48-volt mild hybrid set-up with an integrated electric motor, for a combined 235 hp and 480 Nm of torque. It's primary addition is to improve performance in terms of efficiency, but that doesn't mean it doesn't help pace either. The 0-62 mph time comes in at 7.6 seconds with a top speed of 137 mph achievable. It's a useful unit in the real world too, with the boost from the electric components coming in when the diesel us trying to build up revs. The B5 can't be driven on electric power alone, rather the mild hybrid systems act as a bit of a booster when restarting in traffic or when the engine is under load. Although the XC90 is a large and heavy car, the powertrain rarely feels strained. It's a car well suited to long distance work, with the engine settling down quietly at pace - it can be somewhat noisy when worked hard. The eight-speed automatic transmission has a high couple of top ratios to improve efficiency and refinement at pace, but there's plenty of shove lower down the rev-range for town work. There's little sporty in this Sports Utility Vehicle, but there will be no problem with that for most buyers - or me to be honest.
Bearing in mind the above statement regarding the Volvo's performance, the XC90 is certainly more Range Rover when it comes to driving dynamics than Porsche Cayenne. There is a fair bit of lean in the corners when pushing on, but the Volvo has huge amounts of grip on offer and the steering is reasonably sharp. Although an imposing size from the outside, the steering shrinks the car for the driver, and it's easy to quickly get used to what size gaps you can thread an XC90 through. This is most helpful in built up areas and when parking, but it certainly comes in handy when on tight country lanes too. It's a large and softly-sprung SUV then, which brushes aside elements such as speed bumps and pot holes, keeping occupants supremely comfortable along the way.
Volvo has tweaked the XC90's design a little for this model update - no really, it has. It's tricky to see the changes as they're subtle, but then again, why mess around with what remains a good design? Alterations however minor have been made to the grille and front air vents, roof rails, rear trim, and alloy wheel designs. It remains a fine design for a large SUV, and fits nicely within the Volvo portfolio, having been the model to kick-off the current design language. It also makes for a hugly practical car inside. The load space is cavernous, and the XC90 can seat seven with a third row of seats pulled up from the boot floor. The more conventional set of rear seats can seat three in comfort, whilst there's a huge amount of space up front for the driver and passenger.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Volvo makes a fine cabin across its range, with comfort a high priority throughout. In the XC90 - the company's most comfort-focused model - you'd struggle to be more relaxed if you were sitting in an armchair at home. The XC90 is a supremely relaxing car to drive and sit in, and the seats play a big part in that. They are supportive but plush and complement the car's ethos perfectly. In terms of controls, the XC90 sticks with the simplistic ethos introduced with this model years ago. The touchscreen system remains the same size and, as far as I can tell, the same operating system - though no doubt updates have been progressively introduced to keep it up to date. It's easy to use, quick to familiarise yourself with, and helps keep the dashboard remarkably clean of switchgear. Volvo does a good interior, and the XC90 is perhaps the pinnacle of its craft.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
A main point behind the new powertrain is to improve the economy scores. The XC90 remains a large SUV, so don't go expecting stunning scores here, but the official stats are fuel economy figures top out at 44.1 MPG and CO2 emissions of 156 g/km. For a car this size, these are pretty good. There wasn't the chance to really test the efficiency out on the day's test run, so we shall see how accurate they are with a longer review at a later date.
The addition of the mild hybrid system to the powertrain is the biggest green element of the XC90 in this guise, though there are plug-in hybrid versions available for those wanting greater efficiency still. The integrated starter motor boost efficiency low down the rev-range and assists n restarting the car in stop/start conditions. The rest of the XC90 was relatively green before, and the platform and transmission are carried over. This sees a lightweight but strong architecture and powertrain systems designed frm the outset for electrification. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 42.
Fitted to all XC90 models are Volvo's 9-inch touchscreen infotainment with navigation, apps, DAB, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, and voice activation. The model also gets Volvo's excellent City Safety pack as standard alongside Pilot Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control. LED headlights, climate control, rear parking camera, parking sensors front and rear, seven seats, heated front seats, and powered tailgate. Included in the R-Design Pro model tested were the Bowers & Wilkins pack - incorporating Android Auto / Apple CarPlay integration and a superb audio system - four-zone climate control, 360-degree parking camera, Park Assist Plot, and powered panoramic sunroof.
The XC90 is fairly expensive but not overly so when compared to rivals, and the large premium SUV market is where you would expect to find such prices. You can get models from competitors at slightly lower prices, but then again the XC90 is the best car in its class by my reckoning. 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) R-Design Pro AWD
Body-style: arge SUV
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre diesel engine / 156 g/km
On-road price: from £52,235. Price as tested: £67,835
Warranty: Three year / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars