Volvo XC90 VS BMW X4
- Stylish inside and out
- Powerful four-cylinder engine
- Spacious cabin
- Cabin storage could be better
- Quiet exhaust note doesn't match brutish looks
- Touchscreen takes getting used to
- Bold, in-your-face styling
- M40i is a little beast
- Good ride
- Limited room in the back seat
- Boot practicality reduced by sloping rear window
- Steering feels a bit numb
Does the Volvo XC90 R-Design T6 have what it takes to match other large seven-seat prestige SUVs... or is it even better?
This Volvo XC90 is where it all began for Volvo way back in 2014. Okay, let me rephrase that, it wasn't the beginning of Volvo – that was in 1927. This second-generation XC90 was a kind of new beginning for Volvo because it brought with it the styling and technology rules for the brand's future models. But how does it hold up now?
See, when the new XC90 arrived in Australia in 2015 it wowed us with its large portrait display, advanced safety equipment and 'Hammer of Thor' headlights. Since then, safety and tech has come along way - has the XC90 been left behind?
And while on the topic of reality checks: what's this large seven-seat SUV like to live with – how did it cope with our nightmare car park test?
We tested the XC90 R-Design T6. What the heck does that mean? Well the T6 refers to the engine – it's a four-cylinder petrol – and R-Design is the highest trim level.
A four cylinder… in a giant SUV? Yep, we'll get to that.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Love it or hate it you can’t say the X4 hasn’t been a hit for BMW, just like the bigger X6. Now the completely new version is here – the sequel to the original, the second-generation X4. But is it better?
This one is bigger – but does that solve the practicality issues of the previous one? The outside is completely restyled, but has the ageing interior of the past been turfed? And now that this is not just a rebodied X3 like the previous car was – does it feel like it has its own identity? And then there’s the wilder M40i - could this be the X4's ultimate form?
I found out this week at the new X4's Australian launch.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The XC90 may have been the first of Volvo's new breed of cars, but it remains exceptional in its styling, refinement, technology and safety. The R-Design trim level makes it the burger with almost the lot in that it still gives you room to option more and doesn't assume you want, say a sunroof, when you might not.
The T6 engine is excellent – powerful, with plenty of torque. All that's missing is a beefy soundtrack to go with this brute of an SUV. A cool alternative to a large SUV from BMW, Benz and Audi.
Would the XC90 R-Design T6 be on your prestige SUV shopping list? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
This is the X4 I wish BMW started with in 2014 – it feels a far more complete SUV and looks confident in its identity, with a thoroughly modern and cool interior. The M40i feels almost like a completely different car to the xDrive20i in the way it drives. Which reminds me, the X4 M will be here soon – now that is going to be a little monster.
As far as value goes the sweet spot in the range is the xDrive30i – a good price, a great engine, plenty or equipment.
Is this car this or that? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Can you believe the current Volvo XC90 came into the world in 2014 and still looks this good? Signature elements are the giant grille with its oversized badge, the 'Hammer of Thor' headlights, the unmistakable Volvo tail-lights and the tall profile with enormous windows. Yup, the XC90 is still a futuristic, stylish and elegant-looking brute.
The R-Design trim level enhances the look by adding a gloss-black grille, body-coloured side skirts and bumpers, silver wing mirror caps, aluminium roof rails, a roof-top spoiler, fog lights in the front spoiler, dual tail pipes and the 20-inch alloys you can see in the images.
The modern, minimalist design cabin has also aged well – although the portrait-orientated screen now feels a bit small. I remember writing about how outrageously large it was when it was launched – and then I sat in a Tesla with its mega touchscreen, taking displays to a whole new level.
The R-Design spec makes its presence known in the cabin, too, with the R-Design steering wheel, R-Design Sport pedals and R-Design carpet; it also adds carbon-fibre door inlays and a leather illuminated gearshift knob.
The R-Design trim level also gives buyers two seat trim choices – Nappa leather/Nubuck or Nappa perforated leather. Both are no-cost options and our test car featured the perforated hide.
How big is the XC90? Let's take a look at this seven-seater SUV's dimensions. The XC90 is just less than 5.0m long, more than 2.0m wide (with mirrors) and nearly 1.8m tall.
The X4 is all about the design, well maybe not all but a large part of the appeal of this SUV is its styling, which can polarise opinion more than a dinner party conversation that turns to politics. These opinions don't matter anyway, because it seems the reason some people don’t like it is exactly why some do.
Like the X6, the X4 is an in-your-face SUV with fastback styling. The X4 does look like a ‘Mini Me’ version of the X6, but it’s actually the X3’s twin under the skin, sharing the same platform and engines. But unlike the first generation this new X4 was built in conjunction with the X3 and not just a rebodied afterthought version of the X3.
While this second-generation X4 shape may appear to look a lot like the original X4 from 2014, there have been some big changes.
Let’s start with dimensions, because this SUV is now slightly bigger. At 4752mm end-to-end the length (4733mm for the M40i) has grown by 81mm and it’s 37mm wider at 1918mm (1938mm for the M40i), but 3mm shorter in height at 1621mm tall.
Its profile is less humpy and more sleek, too. Edges have been smoothed especially around the tailgate which now looks more minimalistic, while the big taillights have been replaced by thin blade-like units.
The headlights have been redesigned and the kidney grille is now enormous – and possibly too large, with structural supports behind it being clearly visible. Have a look at the video above – when the SUV is driving towards the camera they are hard not to see, and once you notice, it’s hard to unsee.
You can tell the sporty top-of-the-range M40i by its grey grille treatment and side vents, plus a trapezoidal dual exhaust. The front bumper is more aggressive than the lower grades, but there’s not much in the way of a tough body kit – even the roof spoiler is low key.
The changes to the X4’s cabin are just as significant. See, there’s only so much cosmetic surgery a car company can do to slow the aging of a cabin before a new generation is needed to start fresh.
The previous X4’s cockpit was starting to date with its small-ish touch screen, analogue instrument dials and older styling, but the new X4’s cabin is impressive with a large dash-top display, a fully digital instrument cluster and modern styling. BMW owners will still find it familiar, with the layout of controls almost identical to every car in the BMW line-up.
Have the interior dimensions grown as well? Is there more legroom? And how does that roofline affect anybody with a head in the back seats? Skip forward to practicality or keep reading to find out what you get for your money.
It's a giant box on wheels, how could be it be impractical? Actually, there are ways it could be more practical, but first the good points.
There's plenty of room. This is one of the few seven-seat SUVs where even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with space to spare, and then behind that position in the third row with just enough room for my legs. Headroom in the second row is excellent, but the third row is getting tight although my head still isn't touching the roof.
The doors to the second row are large providing a tall and wide opening for easy entry and exit. The third row is a bit tricky to get into, but I haven't met a single seven-seat SUV where entry into the third-row is a breeze.
Even though the XC90 does well to slide and fold its second row (40/20/40 split) forward, I still ended up crawling in on my hands and knees. Older kids will be able to leap in, so put them back there.
The boot is enormous and with the optional air suspension the XC90 can lower itself like an elephant getting down on its knees to make it easier for you to load stuff into the back. Yup, with all seats up you have 314 litres of boot space; with the third row folded flat you'll have a cargo capacity of 1019 litres, and with all of the seats folded (no not the front ones), there's 1868 litres. Those are measured in ISO litres which are different to the VDA litres used by many other car makers.
Storage throughout the cabin is good but could be better. There are two cupholders in the third row, two in the second and another two up front, and while the storage boxes in the armrests in the third row are an excellent idea, the second row just has small door pockets and seat-back cargo nets. It would be good to see drawers under the seats or even a fold out tray from the centre console.
Storage in the front isn't great either – that long sliding panel next to the shifter (you can see it in the images) houses the cupholders, the glove box is also on the smaller side and so is the storage area under that armrest – but it does contain two USB ports. There's one 12-volt power outlet in the second row, another in the boot and a cigarette lighter (or another 12-volt) in the front.
There's four zone climate control – and directional air vents in all three rows.
I was afraid you were going to ask this. Even though the X4 shares so much of the X3’s engineering the body itself limits space inside – which is just the price you pay for the coupe roofline.
So, while the boot capacity may sound good at 535 litres (and that’s only 25 litres less than the X3) the sloped rear window and roof will limit you from carrying taller items. With the rear seats folded down you have 1430 litres at your disposal.
Legroom in the second row of the previous X4 was pretty good, but it’s been improved further now that the wheelbase of has been increased in this second generation. At 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with 30mm to spare, thanks also to the cleverly designed front seatbacks, too.
Headroom is where it starts to get ‘iffy’. If you’re as tall as me, you’ll be ok, just, but that roofline drops towards the back so quickly that anybody taller is going to be uncomfortable, especially if there’s a sunroof, which lowers ceiling further.
Up front there are no space issues. BMW says it’s a driver-orientated car which I have a feeling is a diplomatic way of saying only the driver will have the plenty of space and comfort, that and all the dials and control are angled in the pilot’s direction. I was the front passenger for a couple of hours and can report that leg, head and shoulder room was fine for me during my time riding shotgun.
Cabin storage isn’t bad, but could be better. There are large bottle holders in all of the doors, and there are two cup holders up front, but there aren’t cupholders in the back and the bin under the front centre armrest isn’t huge.
Price and features
The Volvo XC90 R-Design T6 lists for $104,900, plus on-road costs. The trim level below, with the T6 engine, is the Inscription which lists for $102,900, and the entry-model is the Momentum for $96,900.
So, while nearly $105K might seem like a lot (especially once you add the on-road costs) you can feel comfortable knowing it's actually mighty fine value for money considering the amount of equipment you're given in return.
Coming standard is the 9.0-inch portrait touchscreen and the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a head-up display and sat nav, there's a 10-speaker 330W stereo, Bluetooth and internet connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android auto, digital radio, 360-degree parking camera, gear shifting paddles, power and heated front seats, four-zone climate control, a pop-out booster child seat in the second row, bending LED headlights, fog lights and a proximity key.
That's along with all the R-Design gear which we covered in the section above and the extensive safety equipment list which we'll cover below.
Our test car was fitted with the $8000 'Premium Package' which brings sunblinds for the rear doors, a Bowers & Wilkins sound system, air suspension, plus tailored dashboard and door trims. The 'Bursting Blue' metallic paint our car wore is a $1900 option.
Worried you're paying too much? Fear not, because relative to most other prestige seven-seat SUVs the XC90 R-Design T6 is at the more affordable end of the pricing spectrum.
Audi's Q7 3.0TDI Quattro lists for $106,900, Mercedes-Benz's GLS 350d is $118,729, while the Land Rover Discovery TD6 HSE manages to undercut it at $103,000.
It's interesting to note that while the XC90 T6 has a petrol engine, those rivals are diesels. Audi doesn't make a petrol Q7, Land Rover does make petrol Discoveries but only sell diesel ones in Australia, and as for a Benz GLS petrol there's only one - the GLS 500 and that lists for $165,129, which is $60K higher than our Volvo XC90.
How much does an X4 cost? It depends which one you get – there are four grades in the line-up. The range starts with the petrol xDrive20i with a list price of $76,900 and there’s its diesel twin, the xDrive20d for $79,900.
Both come standard with a 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat nav, reversing camera, digital radio, six-speaker stereo, cloth-leather seats, auto parking, a head-up display, adaptive suspension, LED headlights, M leather steering wheel and 19-inch alloy wheels. If you want Apple CarPlay you’ll have to option it for $623. Like all BMW's, there's no Android Auto available.
The next grade up is the xDrive30i and it looks to be the best value in the range with a list price of $83,900. It adds full leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster, proximity keys, adaptive LED headlights and 20-inch alloys.
At the top of the range is the M40i at $109,900, and it brings adaptive M suspension and an M Sport differential. There’s a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo, panoramic sunroof, wood trim, heated front seats, ambient lighting and 21-inch M alloy wheels.
The optional Innovations package adds wireless charging, proximity keys and the 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster for $2200 on the 20i and 20d.
There’s also the $2800 Comfort package which brings heated seats with lumbar support, ambient lighting and wood trim.
As for colours only Alpine White is free – the rest you’ll pay for. Carbon Black, Glacier Silver, Sophisto Grey, Flamenco Red and Phytonic Blue cost $1950, while Sunstone Metallic is $2300.
How does the X4’s price compare to rivals? As a model comparison there’s the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe which starts at about $70,000 and heads north to a bit more than $100,000; also check out Jaguar’s F Pace which lives in the same price range and Porsche’s Macan is more expensive at $80-147,000 but did you consider you can step into a Porsche for $10,000 more than the base X4?
Engine & trans
You may have noticed in the images that our test car wears a tiny blue square on its tailgate. This is the badge of Volvo's Polestar performance tuning division. All R-Design XC90s come with the 'Polestar Optimisation' package which increases the T6's power output from 235kW to 246kW and its torque from 400Nm to 440Nm.
The Polestar Optimisation package also recalibrates the XC90's throttle response and increases the shifting speed of the eight-speed automatic.
Acceleration from 0-100km/h according to Volvo is 6.4 seconds which is a tenth of a second quicker than an 'un-Polestar-optimised' T6 - say in the Inscription T6 or Momentum T6.
The XC90 R-Design T6 is all-wheel drive and for the five of you out there who will ask, including my father in-law – it's a Haldex 'Generation 5' system.
My bet is the same people will also want to know its braked towing capacity: 2400kg.
There are four grades in the X4 line-up, a different engine for each and the most affordable is the least powerful.
The xDrive30i is also a 2.0-litre petrol four but makes 185kW and 350Nm, which should be enough for most people but if it isn’t then there’s the six-cylinder turbo petrol xDriveM40i which puts out 265kW and 500Nm.
While the X4 is all-wheel drive, dirt and gravel roads are as adventurous as you should probably get in this SUV. Ground clearance is 204mm which is better than most regular cars.
Volvo says the T6 four-cylinder turbo- and supercharged petrol engine with its eight-speed auto should use 8.5L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads – this goes for the Polestar Optimised T6, too.
We measured our test car's fuel economy at the petrol pump and calculated that after 246km of mainly suburban and city running we were using 14.3L/100km. The trip computer reported a slightly higher figure of 14.5L/100km.
According to official combined figures, the four-cylinder diesel engine in the xDrive20d uses the least fuel of all X4s at 5.8L/100km. The most fuel-efficient petrol engine is the 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the xDrive20i and the xDrive30i, with both rated at 7.8L/100km. The six-cylinder petrol in the M40i is the thirstiest at 9.2L/100km.
At 5.0m long, 2.0m wide and nearly 1.8m tall the XC90 R-Design T6 is big, but in comparison to other large SUVs it's one of the easiest to drive.
The images in this review were taken at the top of an eight-storey carpark: it's a good place to take photos of my review cars and at the same time test pilot them through probably the worst-designed car park you'll encounter.
Narrow ramps and tight turns are not really ideal conditions for a large SUV but the great visibility through the XC90's big windows, the excellent field of vision offered by the wing mirrors, the light steering and smooth throttle response made climbing to the summit pretty simple.
The flat, broad bonnet helps with being able to see exactly how much room you have between the concrete pylon and an insurance claim, too. Other large SUVs with curvaceous lines and noses that dip away from sight will have you sitting up like a meerkat trying to see how much room you have.
A four-cylinder petrol engine may seem small for such a large SUV but the T6 is outstanding – it's efficient and impressively powerful. Not once did I feel like it was lacking in grunt, but there were many times I wished the exhaust note sounded beefier.
Our car had the optional air suspension which for the most part turned out a composed and comfortable ride, although being fitted with fairly low profile tyres on large wheels (Continental ContiSport Contact5 275/45 R20) meant when the road surface turned bad the ride suffered.
And these aren't even the largest wheels. The R-Design T6 comes with no-cost option 22-inch wheels – they look good, but you'd be wise to try them before you buy.
The touchscreen will take some getting used to – I kept discovering more hidden 'pages' and functions the more I swiped around it.
A serenely quiet cabin, comfortable seats with uber-stylish surrounds, a commanding driving position and not being in just another German SUV made the experience even more special.
My main takeaway from the original X4 launch in 2014 was that the suspension seemed to be over sprung, which resulted in a jittery, pogo stick-like ride.
This has been fixed for the new X4. The ride is outstanding, even on the giant 21-inch wheels of the M40i.
Helping achieve this is the M40i’s M Sport adaptive suspension – you can either lock it in Comfort or Sport, but adaptive will adjust the dampers on the fly by ‘reading’ your driving style.
I only had the chance to drive the M40i and the xDrive20i – so the top and bottom of the range. The pick for me is surprise, surprise, the M40i. While it’s not a hardcore M car, it comes under BMW’s M Performance banner, or somewhere in between mild and wild.
Its straight six is a beautiful engine. The sound, the grunt, and the power delivery through the eight-speed auto is wonderful, with great acceleration. BMW claims it will do 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds.
Don’t get me wrong, the 2.0-litre four cylinder in the xDrive20i isn't flawed, but to me it just doesn’t have the bark or power to match those fighting-dog looks. Or the handling. The M40i feels taut, planted and confident in the corners despite it being an SUV with a high centre of gravity. That M Sport differential is there to reduce under and oversteer, too. The xDrive20i handles well, but more body roll reminds you that you’re not in a Z4.
What didn’t I like, about the driving experience? Visibility out the slim rear window from my driving positition is terrible, but the auto parking system and reversing camera partially solves that problem. Also, the steering in the xDrive20i feels a little numb – it’s accurate and well weighted but I like more feedback. The M40i has the same issue, but to a lesser degree.
If this was Family Feud and the question was: 'Name a type of car that's safe? I'd bet the answer would be 'Volvo' every time. I'd also wonder if Volvo had paid for the question to be asked on the show.
Anyway, the reputation is justified and the brand continues to pioneer life-saving technology and equip its cars with the latest safety gear.
What's just as noble is how Volvo applies the full range of safety systems to all grades of XC90 – so even the base grade Momentum T6 comes with the same safety features as the R-Design T6.
This includes AEB which Volvo says is active from four km/h and can brake effectively to avoid a collision with a pedestrian at up to 45km/h. At speeds higher than 45km/h but below 70km/h the collision is mitigated.
According to Volvo the system will also detect cyclists and if one swerves into the path of the car, the XC 90 can reduced its speed by up to 50km/h. As for other cars, the XC90 can brake to avoid a collision if the speed difference between the cars is less than 30km/h.
The XC90 is also equipped with adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, lane keeping assistance, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert with AEB that works while reversing.
A run-off mitigation feature also brakes and uses evasive steering to pull the car back into its lane if the vehicle accidentally starts to veer off the road.
The XC90 is fitted with front airbags, side airbags, driver knee airbag, plus second and third row inflatable curtains.
For child and baby seats you'll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the second row – there aren't any in the third row.
The XC90 R-Design T6 has a space saver spare located under the boot floor.
Chinese company Geely own Volvo, but the XC90s that are sold in Australia are made in Sweden.
The new-generation X4 is based on the X3 which was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2017. Coming standard across the range is AEB, but in the xDrive20i and xDrive20d it’s a city version which only operates at lower speeds. Step up to the xDrive30i and you’ll get the full AEB which also operates at highway speeds and brings adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance. All grades come with LED headlights, lane departure warning and auto parking.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts in the second row and three top tether anchor points.
All grades come with run-flat tyres rather than a spare.
I gave the X4 a better score here than the first-generation car I reviewed earlier in 2018 because of the increase in advanced safety technology. That said, the new X4 did not score an even higher mark because the AEB offered on the 20i and 20d is limited to city speeds. They also miss out on blind spot warning and lane keeping assistance. Also, considering the poor rearward visibility, all X4s should be equipped with reverse AEB and rear cross traffic alert.
The XC90 is covered by Volvo's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12months – whichever comes first.
There are two service programs offered for the XC90. There's the 'SmartCare' plan which costs $2225 for three years/45,000km; $3500 for four years/60,000km and $4230 for five years/75,000km. Then there's the 'SmartCare Plus' plan which costs $3050 for three years/45,000km; $5350 for four years/60,000km and $6540 for five years/75,000km.
It would be good to see Volvo offer capped price servicing, which doesn't need to be purchased as an additional piece of coverage.
The X4 is covered by BMW’s three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which is in line with its German luxury competition but lags behind the five-year status quo among mainstream brands.
Servicing is condition-based but you can pre-purchase a variety of service packages to add a bit of certainty to the maintenance bills. Terms range from three years or 60,000km to 10 year or 200,000km, and are available in Basic or Plus levels, with the Plus adding brake pad and disc, clutch and wiper blade replacement.
As an example, the Basic pack costs $1495 for five years/80,0000km, while the Plus package costs $2680 for the same terms.
I'm giving the X4 a fairly low mark here based on the short warranty and the need to pre-purchase the service packages.