Volvo XC90 VS Mercedes-Benz G-Class
- 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
- Good ride and handling finally
- Not as roomy as you'd think
- Smallish cargo capacity
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|
Just like smoking, base jumping and shooting rounds off in a firing range the Mercedes-AMG G63 really shouldn’t be allowed… but dammit it’s fun. Super capable over tough terrain and a bullet on the road this top-ranking G-Wagon is the rock star of the AMG line-up.
Now, you may think this new-generation G63 looks just like the old one, but it’s completely new and fun and expensive and ridiculous.
We piloted the G63 for the first time on Australian roads at its launch. So, what’s this tall, imposing SUV like to drive? Is the cabin as spacious as it may appear from the outside? And yes, it’s fast in a straight line, but what happens when you get to a corner?
|Engine Type||4.0L 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.
The Mercedes-AMG G63 shouldn't exist, but I'm glad it does. The previous generation was loud and fast, but had its flaws with poor ride and handling. This new gen G63 now rides comfortably and handles like a hero, while staying fast, loud and fun.
Is the G63 the ultimate SUV? Tell us what you think in the comments 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.
You know something looks interesting when people can't agree on whether it’s attractive or not. The CarsGuide office is divided on the new G63’s appearance with most saying it’s hot, but with a couple violently opposed to its looks.
Not that the new G63 looks different from the previous model, but that’s intentional. Mercedes-AMG knew the boxy personnel carrier-like shape was a massive part of this SUV’s appeal. The look has barely changed in 40 years. You could go back to the year 1979, push somebody into a time machine and when they fell out in the present day the first thing they’d say is: “Oh look, a G-Class”.
Despite the appearance that nothing has changed, almost everything has. The new G63 is longer, wider and taller than before at 4873mm end-to-end, 1984mm across, and 1966mm in height.
I’m 191cm tall and there aren’t many cars that I can’t stand beside and see over. Fortunately, if I even needed to wash the roof, I could hand off the side steps, which come standard and are as functional as they are good looking.
Also coming standard are the LED running lights which ring the outside of the headlight like a futuristic lining on an old-school design, so too are the LED tail-lights. The 'Panamericana' grille with its hat-tip to racing Benzes from the 1950s is also new part of standard kit. So is the tough looking side exhaust with two pipes poking out under the pronounced running boards on either side.
Our test car was fitted with the 'Night Package' which darkens the brake lights and adds the black treatment to the spare wheel cover, the bumper and mirrors. The pack also swaps the standard 21-inch wheels for 22 AMG cross-spoke matt black rims.
The G63’s interior has also been completely overhauled and updated with a dash featuring two 12.3-inch screens, which almost look like one giant widescreen display for nav and instrument cluster. The 'Exclusive Interior Plus' package box had been ticked on our test car and that brings diamond quilted nappa leather upholstery (ours was red) everywhere.
While it’s a sumptuous, luxurious, decadent cabin it’s impossible to ignore how vertical and upright the structure of the interior is – the windscreen, the dashboard, the doors - and then you spot the giant grab hold handle mounted on the glove box and you’re reminded that you’re actually in a hardcore off-roader.
The G63 is built on a ladder-frame chassis. Again, intentional. Yes, it’s the same as the Flintstones used in their car, but it adds immense rigidity, making it a mountain-eating monster on tough terrain.
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 G63 may not be as spacious as you think it is. While the ceiling is high, legroom can feel a bit restricted in the front and the back.
Riding shotgun I needed to have my front seat brought back almost to its limit so my legs didn’t feel cramped in the footwell. And while, at 191cm tall, I can sit behind my driving position with room to spare – it’s really thanks to the carved-out driver’s seat back.
There’s a 12-volt power outlet in the front, second row and cargo area, while there are two USB ports in the centre console bin and a charging USB port in the second row.
That centre console bin is enormous and the rest of the storage places are great through the cabin with large door pockets and cupholders in the front and second rows.
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 new G63 lists for $247,700, before on road costs, which is about $12K more than the previous model, but you’re gaining a completely new SUV with improvements in the form of two 12.3-inch screens for your instrument cluster and media, there’s the Burmester 590w 15-speaker stereo, automatic parking, AMG sports exhaust, proximity key, nappa leather interior, sat nav, TV tuner, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, three-zone climate control, heated front seats and 21-inch alloy wheels.
The Edition 1 G63 will costs you another $19,500 on top of the list price but includes the 'Night Package' which brings the black elements along with the 'Exclusive Interior Plus' package and an interior which adds carbon-fibre trim.
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.
New engine, more grunt. Gone is the old 5.5-litre V8 turbo and in is the new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 (the same engine used in the Mercedes-AMG GT) with stacks more torque and the same power, at a whopping 430kW and colossal 850Nm.
How fast is the new G63? First, can I point out it weighs 2.5 tonnes, so take that into consideration. Second, it can nail 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds. That is incredible.
Shifting gears seamlessly is a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The G63 is four-wheel drive and has three 100 per cent differential locks and low-range gearing.
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.
Oh, come on, you don’t want to know this… skip to the next section.
You’re still here. Okay then, it’s 13.1L/100km over a combination of urban and open roads. That’s under ideal conditions, too. Our car was going through premium unleaded at about 16.0L/100km. Good thing is you have a 100-litre fuel tank.
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.
Have you ever driven a G-Class before? Nope, well then have you ever ridden an elephant, then? Passed time hanging out on the roof of your house just drinking beer? Sat on somebody shoulder’s in a game of swimming pool volleyball?
Okay, well you feel very high up and the bonnet stretches out before you like the hood of Mack truck, and that’s when you realise those weird-looking indicators on the guards double as signposts letting you know where the edges are.
But even then, it doesn’t feel big to drive, even the cabin feels a bit tight up front.
What it does feel is fast. Very fast. Dab the accelerator and the nose rises up and you better be pointing in the direction you want to go, because hold the pedal down and the G63 will yank you down the road at warp speed.
Acceleration isn’t supercar brutal by any means, but how it gets there is roaring through that side exhaust like a Viking running into battle, after waking up on the wrong side of the bed. With the windows down its deafening, but in good way.
Complaints about the old G63 centred around steering, ride and handling or more specifically the absence of those three things. In this new generation G63 those pain points have been addressed by replacing articulating ball steering with electric power steer, swapping the live front axle for independent front suspension and revising the chassis rails.
Now, the G63 can go around corners – incredibly well. Our test track was Victoria's Great Ocean Road, and if we were in any other large SUV, they would have been fishing us out of Bass Strait.
Steering is now accurate and progressive; the front end feels pointable and light.
Comfort drive mode is too comfortable for me, giving the ride a wafty bounce. Sport mode firms the dampers for good handling but keeps the ride comfortable, which adding weight to the steering. Sport Plus firms the adaptive dampers further and combines great cornering without an unbearable ride.
The G63 isn’t a vicious animal unlike some big grunt sports cars, but you have to keep reminding yourself you can’t drive it like one. Not because it will bite you, but because it’s 2.0-metre tall, 2.5-tonne metal box. A hilariously fun one.
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.
For child seats you’ll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
Obviously, there’s a full-sized spare wheel. Don’t make me point it out.
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.