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Volvo XC90 2020 review: T6 R Design


If you’ve got three to five children, chances are you’ll be looking at seven seat SUVs to fit the whole family comfortably. And while you might be tempted to head straight for a Land Rover, Mercedes or an Audi, may we suggest another brand to put on your list? 

The Swedish-made Volvo XC90 is the company’s seven-seat offering and brings good value to the luxury large SUV segment. The one I test drove was the T6 R Design which is second from the top of the range and sells for $104,990 before on road costs and extras and really holds its own in the category. 

Here’s how it did over seven days of test driving for this week’s family review.

How does it drive?

The XC90 is very smooth for such a large car. There’s a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine which doesn’t sound very big for a car this size, but it’s supercharged and turbocharged, so there is plenty of power.

It got up hills quickly and I also took it on a few highway drives this week so can vouch for the ease of driving long distances. I felt confident overtaking and didn’t have any issues.

The XC90 is very smooth for such a large car. The XC90 is very smooth for such a large car.

It also handles well and the steering is great to turn, so attempting even tight parks was possible, despite the size. It has a high definition reverse parking camera and you can also switch views to get a variety of angles - reverse, left, right, front and 360-degree view so you can see everything around the car, too.

How does it look?

There’s no denying it’s a large SUV but the XC90 still manages to look quite sophisticated. There are curved angles rather than straight lines and the signature Volvo grille on the front gives it an elegant finish. There’s nothing butch or rough about this SUV, but it still looks solid. 

The interior offers a lesson in refinement. There are nappa leather seats with nubuck centres. The nubuck is a lovely touch and really lifts the design.

There’s nothing butch or rough about this SUV, but it still looks solid. There’s nothing butch or rough about this SUV, but it still looks solid.

External white stitching accents the seats, doors, and the dash. And there are interesting shapes on things like the dash top and centre storage area. It’s an original design without being quirky and retains a premium feel. 

In front of the steering wheel is a digital dashboard with a number of views to switch between. My personal choice is the cockpit pilot style layout.

This car also came with a panoramic glass roof which stretched all the way to the back. It’s part of the $5500 'Premium Pack' option which includes a sound system by Bowers & Wilkins, the panoramic roof, and tinted rear glass.

It’s an original design without being quirky and retains a premium feel. It’s an original design without being quirky and retains a premium feel.

How spacious is it?

There’s plenty of space up the front in the XC90, even with the large panoramic sunroof there is enough headroom for taller passengers and leg space is generous as well. It’s a very comfortable cabin to be in for long periods of time. 

The back was sizeable for my two children, aged six and eight. They had extra space to swing around in this week. I also fit in the second row with almost 30cm of space between my knees and the seat in front of me, so taller passengers will fit in the second row easily. 

And the third row is one of the most comfortable I have sat in. The angle of the seats lodges you in rather ergonomically and I was quite settled back there with just enough leg space.

The third row is one of the most comfortable I have sat in. The third row is one of the most comfortable I have sat in.

Granted, I’m little, so taller adults might find the headroom limited, but kids will be happy back there. You can also move the second row forward and configure the two rows to give more space to either one. 

The boot is a good size for family use. With 314 litres of space with the third row in use, that’s enough for school bags or grocery bags. Even a medium suitcase can fit on the side. We also managed to fit the bulky CarsGuide pram in on the side, which is unheard of for a seven-seat SUV boot. 

Fold the third row flat and boot opens up to a huge 651L which will fit most things a family will throw at it. It easily swallows the CarsGuide pram and you’d be able to load in groceries beside it. 

The boot is a good size for family use. The boot is a good size for family use.

How easy is it to use every day?

There’s a load of automation in this model, with power operated front seats, keyless entry, a park brake that turns on and off automatically and a power operated tailgate.

The front seats are heated and for storage there are two cupholders, two small spaces for things like keys and a phone but no Qi (chi) charger. There’s a decent centre storage box and bottle holders in each door. 

Rear passengers get two cupholders in the centre armrest, pockets on the back of the front seats and their own air vents and climate control. 

Standard with this model is a park brake that turns on and off automatically. Standard with this model is a park brake that turns on and off automatically.

The third row has two cupholders and a small storage spot on either side. The air vents are well placed, right at face level and are very breezy which is exactly what you need in this row. 

Getting into the third row is standard, but I found lifting the seats themselves a little heavy and would have appreciated straps on the back to lift them both at the same time, from the boot.

As it stands you need to open the door on one side, put the second row forward and lift the third row seat, then you need to go around to the other side and do exactly the same thing, which is a little inconvenient. 

The boot is a good height and our car's optional air suspension meant you could lift and lower the car with a button.

How safe is it?

Safety is Volvo’s forte and there is loads of advanced tech as standard in the XC90, including auto emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection which will be handy when driving along bush roads. Other safety features include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist.

It comes with seven airbags that cover driver and front passenger and side curtain airbags that extend down to the back row. There are two ISOFIX points and three top tether points for kids car seats and has a maximum five star ANCAP rating from when it was tested in 2015.

What’s the tech like?

There’s a large 12.3-inch touchscreen in a vertical shape which makes it seem bigger and the XC90 comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can plug in for instant access to your phone’s main apps.

The test car's optional Bowers & Wilkins speakers gave excellent sound. The test car's optional Bowers & Wilkins speakers gave excellent sound.

It’s also got voice control, so you can ask the car to navigate to an address or to make phone calls and it will respond to your command. So easy when you have two hands on the wheel. 

The test car's optional Bowers & Wilkins speakers gave excellent sound. Turn the volume up.

How much does it cost to own?

The Volvo XC90 T6 R Design costs $104,990 before on road costs and extras. This car was fitted with the Premium Pack ($5500), the 'Versatility Pack' ($3000 -  grocery bag holder, rear power folding headrests, compass, 230-volt power outlet in tunnel console, and air suspension) and metallic paint ($1900) taking the total to $115,390.

The Volvo XC90 T6 R Design costs $104,990 before on road costs and extras. The Volvo XC90 T6 R Design costs $104,990 before on road costs and extras.

Fuel consumption is a claimed 8.5L/100km on the combined cycle and for us this week it did a best of 13.5L/100km. 

It’s covered by Volvo's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months – whichever comes first.


The Wrap

This car makes complete sense for a family. As a seven seater it’s got enough space in all three rows, it’s fitted with all the equipment you need to make family life easier on a daily basis, it drives really well and has loads of safety. Plus it looks good and you feel good driving it. 

I gave it a family rating of 8.4 out of 10 taking a few decimal points off because I would prefer the hybrid version - there is one in the range. My kids gave it an 8.4 too, I found them playing hide and seek in the car this week.

Likes

Interior design
Interior space
Boot space

Dislikes

Folding heavy third row seats
Fuel consumption
Warranty only three years

Scores

Nedahl:

4.2

The Kids:

4.2

$104,990

Based on new car retail price