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Volvo XC90 T6 2008 review

The latest version of Volvo's XC90 is a versatile vehicle for big families.

Except, perhaps, watching the figures zoom on the instantaneous fuel consumption readout.

A champion of safety and security technology, Volvo is famed for insulating you from everything else that could possibly hurt. But seeing the fuel figure go up to the 60s — as in 60-plus litres per 100km — will make you wince.

Granted, that's as you put your foot down a little to get two tonnes of XC90 under way. As you ease off, consumption drops back to less hair-raising levels.

The XC90 is solid, safe and big enough to seat seven comfortably.

Its formidable suite of safety gear is too long to list; suffice to say it ensures Volvo's customary five-star crash rating.

And the list of creature comforts, even in the $69,950, base-spec version, is equally comprehensive.

A CD stacker adds $795, with $1200 for the blind-spot information system. Bi-xenon headlights will set you back $2500, and satnav $4000.

Third-row passengers are better catered for than in most seven-seaters, with comfortable pews rather than the camp-cot version of folding seats.

They have their own aircon outlets, four cup-holders and extra storage in lidded side bins.

But despite being one of the best third rows we've seen, it could become tiresome for adults on a long trip.

We tested the entry-level, 3.2-litre, straight-six petrol version, which delivers 175kW/320Nm to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic.

The other engine choices are a 136kW/400Nm all-alloy 2.4-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel ($72,950) and a 232kW/440Nm 4.4-litre petrol V8 ($84,950), both also employing the six-speed auto.

Cruising in the XC90, you feel cosseted and comfy, but fairly remote from the outside world.

It's whisper-quiet and blancmanges over bumps, but there's little sense of what's happening out there — or underneath the wheels.

The six-cylinder drivetrain is supposed to get you to 100km/h in 9.5 seconds, but we couldn't replicate that.

Nor could we get close to the claimed 11.8L/100km fuel consumption in mixed town and country driving. Ours was closer to 16L/100km, even with us being feather-light on the pedal around town.

But we could feel a touch smug, knowing the XC90's 239g/km of emissions was pretty small for SUV territory — certainly low enough to quell any accusations of environmental vandalism. It's less than the 3.6-litre engine in Holden's VE Commodore puts out (260g), and pips the three- litre BMW X3 at (248g).

The all-wheel-drive system had no trouble with crumbling and slimy surfaces around beach areas, and with a little air let out of the tyres it was fine on the beach itself.

Although there's generous clearance for most off-road situations, the lack of low range means the XC90 won't be happy crawling up rock faces.

The chassis has become tauter than on the previous version, with much better handling and steering, but it's still not all that sharp dynamically.

Like most SUVs, the XC90 has a tendency to lumber around at higher speeds when cornering. And the large turning circle is a handicap in shopping centres and narrow streets.

Where the XC90 shines is in packing up the family hordes and heading out for long trips, when comfort and safety matter more than performance.

Pricing Guides

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Range and Specs

3.2 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $10,880 – 14,990 2008 Volvo XC90 2008 3.2 Pricing and Specs
3.2 Executive 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $7,700 – 10,890 2008 Volvo XC90 2008 3.2 Executive Pricing and Specs
3.2 R-Design 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $7,920 – 11,110 2008 Volvo XC90 2008 3.2 R-Design Pricing and Specs
3.2 Volvo Ocean Race 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,130 – 12,870 2008 Volvo XC90 2008 3.2 Volvo Ocean Race Pricing and Specs