Volvo XC90 VS BMW X5
- 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
- Great new interior
- No price rise on 30d
- Loaded with tech
- Pricey seven seat option
- Warranty starting to look short
- No spare tyre
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|
It took decades to catch on, but Range Rover eventually inspired German carmakers to look outside big sedans to satisfy luxury car buyers. When BMW introduced its first SAV - Sports Activity Vehicle - the X5, the outrage was palpable. Nearly two decades later, the X5 is as indispensable to the BMW oeuvre as the 3 series.
The X5's sales statistics have been impressive, with 55,000 sold in Australia since 2001, and each generation outselling the previous one.
The fourth-generation X5 has arrived in Australia, with two diesels now and a petrol arriving early in 2019 before four-cylinder, plug-in hybrid and the head-butting X5 M arrive over the next year or two.
The G05 X5 is bigger, better-looking and loaded with new technology.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
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.
The M50d is the more dynamic drive, but the 30d is an excellent all-round package, especially if you have the M Sport option pack onboard. The G05 X5 might be bigger but it hasn't lost its sense of driving fun. In fact, I'd say it's more fun than the F15 - it feels lighter on its feet.
What the G05 also has over the F15 is better value - BMW reckons there's an easy $11,000 of extra stuff in the 30d for no extra money and about $15,000 in the M50d for a price rise of about $5000. It feels a lot more luxurious, looks better inside and out and feels super techie.
It's not cheap and out of the two, I'd probably go for the 30d - it's not that much slower and you can spend a few bucks on the extensive options list.
Does the new X5 shape up against the fancy Porsche or the attractive Mercedes?
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 new X5, while bigger in most dimensions, hides its extra bulk well. The extra wheelbase length has improved its proportions slightly and BMW's new design language inside and out has delivered a fine-looking machine. The huge (sometimes chrome) grille is at first a bit hard to take but with time the car grows around it.
The new exterior design features a strong front end, classic X5 profile with a stronger, wavier character line along the flanks. The rear features a new-look set of LED tail-lights and satin finish rather than chrome exhaust tips.
You can tell the 30d from the M50d by the wheel arch extensions (among other things). The M50d's M Sport body kit features a different rear diffuser, side skirts and deeper front spoiler.
Inside is a new cabin that's high on quality with a choice of leather, wood and aluminium trim, including a very nice leather dashboard option. The base leather trim is known as Valcona and you can specify Merino, which is arguably better than the Nappa leather of some rivals. The cars I drove had a very premium feel, the materials a serious cut above the older F15 X5.
One interesting addition is the "Crafted Clarity" glass that comes in the Indulgence package. Obviously going for a very exclusive feel, the start stop button, shifter, volume control and rotary controller have a funky glass application. It could have looked awful but somehow it looks lifted from a Rolls-Royce and works really well.
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.
The X5 is a big car and delivers plenty of interior space. Interior images show an expansive cabin, with room for five in comfort. Front and rear passengers score two cupholders in each row, with plenty of storage bins and pockets throughout, including bottle holders and pockets in the doors. The rear armrest's clever folding cupholders liberate space for a phone-stowing tray.
Front passengers have plenty of room in all directions. Rear legroom is improved with the car's longer wheelbase - rear passengers are very well looked after.
The interior dimensions mean larger loads fit easily and if you have the air suspension you can drop the car to the weeds to make loading easier. An electrically retractable cargo cover will reduce the boot space dimensions but hide all your goodies and a set of rubber rails rise 3mm when the car is in motion to secure the load.
Luggage capacity is unchanged with the seats up at 650 litres, almost tripling to 1870L with the seats down.
The third row seat option must be combined with the air suspension, meaning you'll be paying around $7000 for the privilege of occasionally carrying people safely in the boot.
Gross vehicle weight ranges from 3010kg for the 40i to 3160kg for M50d. Turning circle is 12.6 metres and wading depth is 500mm.
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.
The price list is in RRP and reflects either no change (30d) or a small percentage increase (M50d). A BMW dealer might offer you a drive away price, but how much that will cost you will depend on your taste for options. Our range guide takes in the first three variants of the G05 X5 - the 30d, 40i and M50d. Unlike its British rivals, there is no launch edition.
The 30d ($112,900 plus on-road costs) and 40i ($115,900 plus on-roads) models comparison reveals they're basically the same apart from the motor. If gadgets are your thing, the X5 certainly delivers, even in its unadorned entry-level spec.
Standard features include 20-inch alloys, two-piece power tailgate, panoramic sunroof, keyless entry via BMW's digital "smart key" (part of the standard comfort access system), push button start (or keyless go), LED headlights, daytime running lights, floor mats (I know!), a basic first aid kit, active cruise control, "2.5-zone" climate control air conditioning, GPS navigation system, front view camera, side view camera, limited self parking, basic tool kit, roof rails, and a front and rear parking sensor setup.
Moving up to the M50d at $149,900 plus on-road costs ($5000 more than before) adds an active M differential, laser headlights, dynamic handling package including adaptive suspension with active anti-roll system, rear-wheel steering, M Sport exhaust and brakes (blue rather than red brake calipers), 22-inch alloy wheels, aero package, M steering wheel, four-zone climate control, heated front seats, soft close doors, and heated and cooled front cupholders.
The new park assist function is particularly clever - if you have driven forward into a tight parking space or difficult garage, the system can remember the last 50 metres and back you out automatically, twiddling the electric power steering while you run the brake and accelerator.
BMW's Operating System 7.0 (the name iDrive appears to be fading) looks after the multimedia and sat nav system. The big 12.3-inch touch screen is mightily impressive. You can control it from the rotary dial controller, use air gestures or by swiping or tapping the screen. The sound system has anything from 10 to 20 speakers with an intermediate 16 speaker setup. There's a subwoofer - actually, there are two - lurking in the back. The system includes Bluetooth and DAB radio with USB connectivity. iPhone owners will be pleased to learn CarPlay is standard, while the rest of the smartphone world will be frustrated - Android Auto isn't available at all.
Colours include Alpine White, Carbon Black Metallic, Black, Mineral White, Phytonic Blue, Arctic Grey and Sunstone Metallic (gold). Curiously absent are silver, red and green and even the brown of past models seems unavailable.
On top of the basic specs, there are additional trim levels - M Sport, Indulgence, xOffroad and Performance Package.
The $4000 M Sport edition for the 30d and 40i includes M Sport brakes, adaptive M suspension, aero package and interior trim changes including an M Sport steering wheel.
The $9500 Indulgence Package adds ventilated front seats, crystal glass on some of the switchgear, heated seats front and rear, front seat massage function, merino leather and on the 30d soft-close doors and heated and cooled cup holder for each front passenger.
The $5000 Performance Package (30d and 40i only) puts you on 22-inch rims, adds an M Sport exhaust and includes metallic paint.
Finally, the $7500 xOffroad package - the first of its kind on an X5 - adds additional off road capability (sand, rocks, gravel etc.), rear diff with diff lock, extra gauges in the infotainment screen, adjustable ride height air suspension and the clever display key. That front and rear air suspension negates the need for a lift kit. Aluminium side steps are optional.
BMW also offers a range of 20 inch alloy wheels, as well as 19 inch and 22 inch rims. The 22s, it must be noted, are not run-flats so you cop a space-saver spare. The xOffroad pack does not come with off road tyres but you can purchase the right ones through BMW. Only 22-inch equipped X5's feature a spare tyre as the tyres are run flats on all other sizes.
The accessories and options list is extensive: Apple CarPlay for iPhone integration, a heated steering wheel, a roof rack setup, darker tinted windows, laser headlights and various other technological and comfort enhancements are available.
Missing from these lists are a seat belt extender, light bar, car phone, xenon, HID or projector lights (you get LED lighting as standard, range-wide!), an auxiliary heater, nudge bar, snorkel, bull bar, winch, self driving, autopilot, CD player, homelink, quad exhaust, television, digital TV tuner, DVD player, cargo barrier, boot liner, carbon fiber trim, MP3 player, a rear seat entertainment system or wifi hotspot.
Where is the BMW X5 built? Spartanburg, North Carolina.
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.
At launch, you can have any engine size you like as long as you like 3.0-litre straight-sixes. Of course, each has its own specifications to arrive at very different horsepower and torque figures.
The 30d's engine specs are a 3.0-litre turbo diesel developing 194kW of power and 620Nm of torque.
Moving on to the 40i, this is a 3.0-litre twin turbo petrol knocking out 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque. Petrol vs diesel, the latter wins on torque, hands down.
Want even more? The M50d's 3.0-litre diesel has four turbos strapped to it - that's two times two - for a huge 294kW of power and 760Nm of torque.
They're all 4x4 at this stage, fitted with ZF's always-brilliant eight-speed automatic transmission. It is pretty much the best gearbox on the planet and super-reliable. At this stage, all wheel drive is all you get. A rear wheel drive sDrive X5 is likely later down the track in combination with a smaller four-cylinder engine - 4x2 buyers don't tend to want the extra power of the bigger engines.
The oil burners are fitted with a diesel particulate filter to help reduce emissions and the 30d's twin-scroll turbocharger helps improve low-down response. Advanced technology from injector to exhaust ensure diesel engine problems such as black smoke have long since been banished from modern BMW diesels.
The 0-100km acceleration times are impressive - 6.2 seconds for the 30d, 5.5sec for the 40i and 5.2sec for the M50d. The rolling acceleration performance figures of the M50d are epic.
Towing capacity is uniform across the range - you can drag 750kg of unbraked trailer and 2700kg of braked load. Maximum down load on the tow bar is 140kg.
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.
The X5's fuel mileage figures are based on the new WLTP standards which better reflect real-world use.
The 30d's diesel fuel economy is the best of the three initially on offer at 7.2L/100km. If you want your fuel consumption km/L, that's around 14km per 1000mL.
The petrol consumption figure on the 40i is the highest figure of the three at 9.2L/100km (or 10.9km/L).
Moving on to the M50d, for all that extra power and torque, the increase over the 30d is just 0.3L/100km to 7.5L/100km (13.3 km/L).
Fuel tank capacity differs slightly between the models - the diesels carry 80 litres while the petrol 40i can carry 83 litres.
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.
On the launch we had the 30d and M50d available, the former with various option packs.
I started with the M50d. Big fast SUVs are pretty common these days but little prepares you for the quad-turbo thrust from the 3.0-litre straight six. The 294kW/760Nm combination means you cover ground very quickly indeed, especially in the gears. Overtaking the famously large log trucks on the roads of northern Tasmania was easy, the torque slinging me down the road with little effort or fuss.
While the road noise from the tyres is noticeable, you can shut it out with the stereo and wind noise is only apparent above the legal limit. Which I never breached, obviously.
The adaptive drive system, which you can switch for economy, comfort or sport depending on your mood, genuinely affects the M50d's demeanour. With sharper everything, the M diff and rear wheel steering, you can have a lot of fun in the corners. We didn't have variable or active steering on the car and it was just fine without it. The active roll stabilisation is very impressive.
The 30d is a very good unit too. It's really not much slower than the M50d in a straight line but is far more relaxed, of course.
The one with the air suspension was supremely comfortable and quiet, raising and lowering itself depending on speed and conditions. The 30d was very accomplished on the loose gravel surface BMW bravely sent us over once I'd pressed the adaptive switch. The standard underbody protection is clearly very good - barely a ping from the gravel.
On both cars, the steering was a standout - the X4 M40i I came home to had a less than deft setup, with the weight in sport plus set too high. Neither 30d or M50d felt too heavy.
As an xOffroad package wasn't available, we haven't done an off road review. I can, however, guarantee you won't have to get out and operate hub switches.
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 X5's significant safety features an airbag count of seven, AEB (auto emergency braking), lane departure warning, lane change warning, blind spot assist, electronic brake force distribution, reverse camera, DSC (sometimes called ESP), reverse cross traffic alert, speed limit assist and information, hill descent control, and a warning triangle (it is a BMW).
If you need to fit a baby car seat, there are two ISOFIX points and three child seat anchor points in the second row.
The X5 range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in late 2018.
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.
BMW's warranty remains - resolutely - at three years/100,000km. BMW is adamant that most customers aren't that bothered. Roadside assist is part of the bargain, from a flat battery to a crash. Rust and paint coverage is also included, although I can't say I've heard any complaints or common faults when it comes to recent X5 bodywork.
Like all BMWs, servicing is condition-based, but you can pre-pay your service cost for five years on the basic package for $1995. Service intervals are then set at 12 month/24,000km maximums. You can also increase your maintenance cost coverage with further levels of cover.
BMW now offers a Genius service at its dealerships, showing you through the features if you have any problems or issues working them out. Even the central locking is a bit complex for some - you can configure different settings in the iDrive system.
Reliability issues are seemingly rare on the X5, but you can purchase an extended warranty if any defects or complaints arise after the initial warranty period expires. As the car is brand new, things like automatic transmission problems, transmission failure or other dramas are yet to rear their ugly heads.
The owners manual will no doubt explain things like oil type and capacity. Resale value for the X5 appears strong over the years although the extra value in these new ones might mean some second hand bargains.