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Big Volvo still betters the rest

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Big Volvo still betters the rest

There are times when you can tell that a car feels just right, and that’s exactly the impression made by the latest incarnation of Volvo’s XC90.

The ride quality was great, but more of that later. The significance was the presence of the new B5 diesel engine, which delivers a mild hybrid, Adblue-sipping drivetrain that recaptures energy to use it again. It’s a proven model among other makes and, until fully electric cars deliver total real world use, is probably the best way to travel.

When Volvo announced that every car from 2019 onwards would have battery power in some form. optimists thought this a declaration there would be no more internal combustion engines from Volvo but that was stretching the message a tad too far.

The world might be ready for electric-only cars and Volvo now has one in a version of its XC40 small SUV, but the industry that has to make them is still way from success. It’s doubtful they will achieve the Government’s 2040 target, never mind the Extinction Rebellion desire to see the death of all petrol and diesel cars by 2025.

We have just come back from a three week break in Scotland where it was only too obvious from our perch beside a sea loch that pollution from shipping is a big issue. Not only do you get tour boats pumping grey water into sensitive marine areas as they take people on 'eco tours' but there’s also significant and highly visible exhaust pollution from the vessels.

We are considering abandoning trips to Oban altogether because the narrow streets trap choking vehicle exhaust particulates and marine traffic pumps black smoke across the town in some volume. As ex-smokers, our lung problems are largely of our own making (although there is some likely industrial damage from early years in car repair workshops) but it does focus the mind on what the younger generation is sucking in.

Sealed away in the XC90, the world seems a better place. It offers a lofty perch from which to look down on lesser mortals and judging by the number of this generation XC90 models on UK roads many people take the same view, quite literally.

The car is vastly different from and superior to the original XC90, good though that was. And this latest version with the B5 engine feels so much better than the T8 twin engine model, especially if that car is fitted with air suspension. Even on steel springing, though, the T8 can’t match the ride quality of the B5, which remains firm but more compliant. It’s probably helped by the 55 profile tyres on the test car, a B5 AWD Momentum Pro.

The list price for this model is an eye-watering £56,085, lifted by about £3,300 on the test car thanks to its options, the most useful of which was the £525 parking camera with its 360 degree view of the car’s position. It gives a strangely distorted yet pinpoint accurate view of the surroundings, highly useful when the car itself is so bulky.

It might be thought that the B5 would bring better economy thanks to the hybrid technology but that doesn’t seem the case. We averaged 40 mpg and did about the same back in 2016 with a D5 XC90 Momentum that was marginally better for CO2 emissions. However, that latter difference is probably accounted for by equipment variations rather than less successful technology.

The main advantages of XC90 ownership remain, not least among them build quality and interior volume. Few SUVs this side of the exotic, and possibly not even those, do a better job than the big Volvo. True you may be reluctant to tackle the scenery in the Volvo; few of the others would be placed in that field of conflict, either. But if you want to go shooting, fishing, or out with a horsebox or caravan the Volvo is up to the task and is capable of pulling 2.7 tonnes.

Even better, with a usable 550 mile range on a long journey, it can get to where most journeys end without the need for refills, which saves quite a bit of time as well as a shedload of money when you look at major route fuel prices, possibly today’s biggest motoring rip-off!

Car: Volvo XC90 B5 AWD Momentum Pro


Does it fit your ego...

0-62 mph: 7.6secs

Top speed: 137 mph

Bhp: 235 @ 4,000 rpm

Torque: 480 Nm @ 1,750 – 2,250 rpm


...and your wallet...

Price: £56,085

Combined: 37.7- 44.1 mpg

CO2 emissions: 154 g/km


Best bits: no better SUV

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