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Volvo XC90 2007 review

EXPERT RATING
6.8

A six-hour road trip, with a car full of people and gear, can go two ways. It can be a fun adventure with music, comfort and a relaxed environment, or it can be cramped, nauseating and leave you with the feeling you've been hit by a truck.

Luckily a trip to the snow in the Volvo XC90 goes down the path of sing-a-longs, tranquility and kangaroo-friendly driving.

The magic carpet which got us safely to and from the snow was the 3.2-litre, six-cylinder XC90, which comes in at $69,950. This engine was only introduced last February. As a luxury all-wheel-drive, the Volvo is well-equipped with a whole lot to offer at a reasonable price.

To start with, there is plenty of room. At almost-full capacity, which included five backsides and luggage bursting at the seams, the Volvo proved it was up to the challenge.

It was roomy and comfortable for a long trip, with three adults able to sit in the back. The only complaint was that the middle seat was too firm. But with leather seats and a decent amount of leg, head and shoulder room, there wasn't much else to complain about.

Holidaymakers are well catered for in terms of luggage space, although the rear could have been a little deeper, especially as there is only a space-saver spare underneath.

Another impressive feature is that it's a seven-seater, with a third row consisting of two fold-up seats as standard, although these are suitable for children or small adults. While the extra seats are cramped, they were useful, along with the 40/20/40 middle-row split, which meant we were able to lay down one seat to allow for snowboards and skis.

Although it wasn't quite so lucky for the passenger who drew the short straw and got to squash into the back on our daily travels to the snow. On the first trip to the slopes and back again, a cargo net proved handy, preventing luggage from entering the passenger area.

While highway driving, comfort of the XC90 extends to ride handling. The car glides over any road problems and does it all in a quiet and cushiony manner. Around town, the ride is slightly bumpier, but it's still tolerable and relatively comfortable.

The in-line six-cylinder produces 175kW higher up the tacho at 6200rpm, with 320Nm@32000rpm.

Hill climbs are a bit of a struggle under a full load, especially with some slightly delayed gear changes. There's more than 2000kg in kerb weight to take into account, too. But taking decisive control of the gears gives a better performance. It also comes in handy for faster acceleration when overtaking.

There is a consistent delivery of power, revving up to 4000rpm under harder acceleration in auto mode. Volvo says the large car accelerates from 0-100km/h in just 9.7 seconds, although with extra weight it didn't feel as quick.

The XC90 is nimble around corners and you don't really notice the size of the vehicle until it hits tight spots, especially in car parks. Manoeuvring in most places is made easy by the friendly steering that has just enough feedback to make it feel smooth but not too light.

The nose feels quite big and with the slanted dash gives a notion of being even further away from the front. It's also hard to see where the nose ends.

The brakes were put to the test when a kangaroo decided to play chicken with the XC90. But with Volvo's impressive safety features and reputation, including ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution, a driver and passenger dual-stage front airbag, SIPS airbags, front seat, protect head and chest, dynamic stability traction control, whiplash protection and side impact protection, not to mention the five-star Euro NCAP rating, we didn't have to be too worried.

But in this circumstance I wouldn't like to be in the kangaroo's shoes, although it could have shown more concern. So luckily for both of us, the alert driver and tight-gripping brakes kicked in and pulled the car up with plenty of room to spare.

On our adventure, we didn't quite get the car down to the snow, rather opting for the ski tube to save time. And unfortunately, there was no time to venture off-track, so we were unable to get a feel for it in varying conditions. Although after leaving the XC90 in the snowbound car park all day, the airconditioning didn't want to work on one occasion.

But during long drives on highways and through towns, the XC90 was all about capability, control and comfort. Although it's also very thirsty, averaging more than 13 litres per 100km, which meant filling the 80-litre tank was a costly exercise.

When it comes to exterior design, it just doesn't feel quite as classy as other cars in the segment, such as the BMW X5, the Lexus RX330, the Audi Q7 or the Mercedes ML.

There's not really anything wrong with its looks, it just didn't seem to stand out among the many four-wheel-drives making their way to the snow. Instead it looked a little outdated and average, but some other models have undergone changes in recent times, whereas the XC90 has been on the market with pretty much the same look since it arrived here in 2003. In its defence it is much cheaper than most of these models.

On the inside, the dash layout is very user-friendly and different with its slanted position making controls easier to reach. Functions are also fairly easy to use and it looks very stylish with the black leather interior and black console with silver trim. The test car was fitted with some extras such as metallic paint, a Premium Sound system and the useful Blind Spot Information System (BLIS).

At $1200 it may sound steep, but BLIS uses digital cameras under each side mirror and software to recognise and detect other cars in your blind spot. A small light on the bottom of the large mirrors lights up when there's a vehicle next to you, which helped when carrying a full load.

Rear passengers have their own air controls and the middle seat features an integrated child booster cushion.

So the trip to the snow was a success. It was like making a cake. Add five occupants, women who don't pack lightly, into a pre-prepared mixture of comfort, luxury, safety and a strong performance and you get the work of Betty Crocker, in Swedish-car form. Although it could have used a little more sweetener, especially in the design department.

The bottom line

A long road-trip may seem daunting but the XC90 makes it a walk in the park, with its comfortable, roomy and safe environment, combined with a decent performance.

Volvo XC90

Price: $69,950

Engine: 3.2L/ 6-cylinder, 175kW, 320Nm.

Transmission: 6-speed Geartronic

Economy: 11.8L/100km (claimed), 13.5L/100km (tested)

Pricing Guides

$9,500
Based on 16 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$2,990
Highest Price
$12,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.2 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $6,990 – 11,500 2007 Volvo XC90 2007 3.2 Pricing and Specs
3.2 Executive 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $7,040 – 9,900 2007 Volvo XC90 2007 3.2 Executive Pricing and Specs
D5 2.4L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $2,990 – 12,888 2007 Volvo XC90 2007 D5 Pricing and Specs
D5 Executive 2.4L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $7,260 – 10,230 2007 Volvo XC90 2007 D5 Executive Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.8
Pricing Guide

$2,990

Lowest price, based on 16 car listings in the last 6 months

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