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Volvo XC90 2008 review

The Volvo XC90 V8 has the get up and go to challenge the top contenders in upmarket family four-wheel drives.
EXPERT RATING
7.7

The Swedish carmaker now does its best work in Australia with a full-sized, family four-wheel drive.

Close to half of Volvo's deliveries Down Under are the giant XC90.

But there's another twist. Volvo is becoming a diesel-driven brand and the diesel XC90 is the pacemaker. The XC90 has been building support since it joined the local line-up in 2003, even though it competes in a luxury four-wheel-drive class that includes the Audi A7, Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne.

Its advantages include size and price. The XC90 is a full seven-seater and starts at $69,950.

The spread of engines and equipment means the Volvo can be a family-first people mover or a serious off-roader or a sporty wagon with a V8.

“The XC90 is significant for us. It accounts for most of our sales in Australia,” Volvo Cars spokeswoman Laurissa Mirabelli says.

“Last year we sold 1912 XC90s, 40 per cent of Volvo's sales in Australia. Given that the vehicle has increased its year-on-year sales since it was introduced in 2003, we expect another increase this year.”

The emphasis at the moment is on the XC90 V8, the flagship with a price of $84,950. It's the one I tested and shows how the car has been improved.

The first time I drove an XC90 I felt it was slow and ponderous.

It lacked the performance and driving enjoyment to challenge a BMW X5 or a Benz ML. Nice for a big family, but . . . Then came the V8, with 4.4 litres and 232kW, and things changed.

The improvement is reflected in the 0-100km/h sprint time, which is 11.5 seconds for the XC90 diesel but 7.3 seconds for the V8.

The engine is a joint development with Yamaha and is intended to do general duty at Volvo. It is fitted in the XC and the S80 luxury flagship.

It comes with a six-speed automatic gearbox and 18-inch alloy wheels. Both make it more responsive and sporty.

I was impressed when I first drove the XC V8, on the road and in interesting and challenging off-road climbs, and felt it was time for a second look.

“It's a halo for the brand, but it's not our primary focus,” Mirabelli says. “It is not intended to be a volume seller. It's there to add another dimension to the Volvo range. The people who buy the V8 are younger families and older people, mainly men.”

 

On the road

The racer-red XC90 looked impressive in the pick-up line at Sydney airport, and the throbbing V8 engine note promised an interesting time with a vehicle that goes a little against the general grain at Volvo.

Yes, it has seven seats in a huge cabin, but a V8 is still a V8.

The general feel was exactly as I remembered; slightly dull steering, a large turning circle and a wobbly feeling from the suspension that reminds you of early Range Rovers. It's not loose or floppy, but has a rubbery feel that reminds you the XC is designed to go seriously into the bush.

But those impressions faded in the first few kilometres as the XC's V8 and optional sports pack — $5000 for alloys, special leather electric seats, premium sound and more — made the haul across the harbour city surprisingly easy and comfortable.

Fuel consumption looked awful in the grind, topping 17 litres for 100km, but it eased during calmer country running.

The XC is definitely comfortable and visibility is great. It is easy to park and has a huge amount of space inside.

It doesn't matter who or what you are carrying, it can do the toughest jobs. And tow.

The V8 makes the XC more enjoyable than the basic engines, having the instant crack to cut through traffic and the pull to make even the steepest hills feel flat. Remember, it is a two-tonne beast.

I also liked the operation of the six-speed automatic — which is smooth with well-chosen ratios — and the chance to take manual control.

Little things make a big difference to any car. I particularly appreciated the punchy premium sound system, the optional blind-spot lights and the comfort of the front buckets.

The XC has classy trim and the sort of impressive finishing you'd expect when you're paying more than $70,000.

Lined up against its rivals, the XC V8 makes a stronger case than I'd expected.

It is quick enough to make it a rival to an X5 and ML, with a considerable price advantage, and the seven-seat deal means it also pushes hard against the Volkswagen Touareg and even the Toyota LandCruiser I have tested.

Is it the class leader? No. But does it do a good job. Will it appeal to people who like the idea of a Volvo but want something more, something a little special with their V8? Yes.

So the test was a success, I learned more about the XC and was reminded Volvo still does a good job in the face of tough opposition.

 

The bottom line

Big and comfy with a surprising turn of pace. Not a leader in its class, but worth a look. 77/100

 

 


 

Snapshot

fast fact

The V8 in the XC90 is very narrow, with a 60-degree angle between the banks. It must fit across the nose of the luxury S80.

 

Inside view

Volvo XC90 V8

Price: $89,950 as tested

Engine: 4.4-litre V8 with fuel injection

Power: 232kW at 5850 revs

Torque: 440Nm at 3900 revs

Transmission: Six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

Body: Five-door wagon

Seats: Seven

Dimensions: Length 4807mm, width 1898mm, height 1784mm, wheelbase 2857mm, tracks 1634/1624mm front/rear

Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion

Fuel tank: 80 litres

Fuel type: Regular unleaded

Fuel consumption: Average on test 14.6 litres/100km

Weight: 2111kg

Spare tyre: Full-sized

Brakes: Anti-skid four-wheel discs

Wheels: 18x7 alloy

Tyres: 235x18

Safety gear: Front, side and curtain airbags, anti-skid brakes, stability control, traction control, roll stability

Warranty: Three years/100,000km

 

Features

Airconditioning 4

Cruise control 4

Alloy wheels 4

Climate control 4

Leather seats 4

Heated seats 4

Parking sensors 4

Automatic wipers 4

4 standard equipment

8 non standard equipment

 

How it compares

BMW X5 84/100 (from $85,000)

Mercedes-Benz ML 82/100 (from $79,100)

Porsche Cayenne 74/100 (from $94,700)

Volkswagen Touareg 75/100 (from $64,990)

 

Pricing Guides

$11,990
Based on 25 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$6,500
Highest Price
$15,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.2 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $6,500 – 12,999 2008 Volvo XC90 2008 3.2 Pricing and Specs
3.2 Executive 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $8,250 – 11,550 2008 Volvo XC90 2008 3.2 Executive Pricing and Specs
3.2 R-Design 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $8,470 – 11,880 2008 Volvo XC90 2008 3.2 R-Design Pricing and Specs
3.2 Volvo Ocean Race 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,900 – 13,530 2008 Volvo XC90 2008 3.2 Volvo Ocean Race Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.7
Pricing Guide

$11,770

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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