SWEDE DREAMS MADE OF THIS: Spacious, luxurious and safe, Volvo's sporty seven-seater is the perfect family hauler...if you can afford it.
SWEDE DREAMS MADE OF THIS: Spacious, luxurious and safe, Volvo's sporty seven-seater is the perfect family hauler...if you can afford it.

He said/She said: Volvo XC90 D5 R-Design road test review

WAITING is often not favoured by kids.

Immediate gratification tops the agenda, and the thought of three-figure sleeps to Christmas or anything that resembles a queue can leave them flat on their backs and legs kicking.  

But it seemed many families, and associated cherubs, didn't mind waiting for the new Volvo XC90.  

Sharp pricing ensured the aging Swedish seven-seater remained steadfast among more modern competition.

But the new variants arrived last year boasting remarkable technology, safety that goes above and beyond current standards, and modern European looks.  

But that came with a price, starting from $89,950 for the base diesel variant.

Our latest test was in the range-topping R-Design oil-burner, which has been breathed on by Volvo's Polestar Performance Optimisation program and comes in at, gulp, $122,825 plus on-roads.  

Motoring writers Grant Edwards and Vani Naidoo talk us through their XC90 thoughts.

The 2016 model Volvo XC90.
The 2016 model Volvo XC90.

Grant: Well, that's enough to make the eyes water when you're hauling the family, but it does come with some impressive kit and aligns it closely with key rivals - such as the BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Lexus RX and the Mercedes-Benz GLE.   

Vani: Some fierce competition there but the XC90 is likely to hold its own. Let's talk design first. This new offering is a major step up from the outgoing model and the R-Design adds a gloss black grille, bigger roof spoiler, twin exhaust tips and a number of other sporty-looking add-ons.   

The interior is pretty schmick too, with those soft-touch materials and gadgets and gizmos you expect from a luxury marque.

The seats are super comfortable and supportive and both head and legroom is impressive. More importantly, there were no complaints from the littlies in the rear. In fact, they were quite taken by the excellent storage back there and the fact they could control their own air. High praise indeed.  

G: How good is the new tablet-like touch-screen? The ability to swipe left and right on the 22.8cm colour screen is brilliant and sets it apart from the competition…along with that funky little console toggle which is the ignition to start the car.   

Collectively in the looks department, the XC90 has appeal inside and out - most important for kudos on the school run.   

V: That infotainment system really is an excellent feature and very easy to navigate, which is a bonus.

The XC90 is impressive on the road, too. It feels strong and sturdy on its feet and that 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel under the hood really shifts it along with ease.   

Vision is excellent and it doesn't sway too much into corners and is fine around tight roundabouts. It's beautiful on the highway too; an effortless drive. Did it handle well enough to keep you interested?  

2016 Volvo XC90.Photo: Contributed
2016 Volvo XC90.Photo: Contributed

G: Those fine folk at Polestar added some firepower, with nine extra kilowatts and a leap of 30Nm of torque to 500. On the road it remains refined and beautifully mannered.   

Family hauling was a breeze and those robust torque levels at a low rpm ensured it easily pulled into traffic slots and never wavered during overtaking.  

The diesel would be my pick in a close race with the petrol-powered XC90 T5 stablemate. Although the petrol is quicker in a sprint, I found the oil-burner more hairy-chested and insanely thrifty on fuel.   

V: Ja, I agree. I am quite partial to diesels anyway but found this one in particular a much better pick over its petrol counterpart. Now, one of Volvo's strengths has always been its unshakeable safety credentials and this XC90 just takes those driver aids to a whole other level.

Adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera, blind-spot detection, city-safe pre-collision braking, rear-cross traffic alert and frontal collision warning are just some of the features that will help keep your family safe.  

But here's the thing. While I understand their appeal and would want every protection available for my people, I did find them a bit intrusive, especially when there were cars parked on the curve of a road or when slowing down at a red light with oncoming traffic still flowing.   

The sound warning and braking did scare the bejeezus out of me. Now, of course you can turn the sound down and the feature off but what would be the point?  

The 2016 model Volvo XC90.
The 2016 model Volvo XC90.

G: Our experience was the same. The flashing on the head-up display (where information is projected below the driver's eyeline on the windscreen) had me thinking death was imminent.

But the big seven-seater has achieved outstanding safety results, and last year it was the first car from any manufacturer to score full points in Euro NCAP autonomous emergency braking car to car rear-end tests. Yet this is a truly loveable car.   

For those with a big tribe, it offers lavish features and three usable rows - adults up to about 170cm can fit in the rear two seats, although there is limited space in the footwell.  

V: Certainly, all occupants can travel in almost luxurious comfort and with 436-litres of boot space with the third row in position, even the firstborn's cello wasn't complaining. The built-in booster in the middle seats was great, especially when helping to ferry the kids' friends.

The 40:20:40 seats are versatile and simple to drop, although we found folding the third row was easier from the rear passenger door than stretching across the boot.   

The hands-free tailgate works easily, which is a welcome change because I often find the promise of that feature is spoilt by the execution. It was nice to casually hold your foot under the boot and see it open gracefully rather than doing a mad Irish jig whilst laden down with the shopping.   

The 2016 model Volvo XC90.
The 2016 model Volvo XC90.

G: I just thought that was your version of twerking. And you're spot-on, the flexibility of the loading area is exactly what you need with a busy family.

Raising and lowering the seats in the second and third rows is fast and easy, pulling straps and levers is intuitive and makes the creation of a flat load area quick and simple.   

Throwing in the kids' sporting equipment and other items is a breeze. We fit in bikes and surfboards in seconds.   

V: It's funny, this XC90 is big and spacious but somehow never seems bulky when you are driving it. It is comfortable to manoeuvre and will happily negotiate the smallest of car park spaces - of course the 360-degree camera with surround view doesn't hurt either. The picture is crisp even in glaring sunlight and the markings useful.   

Ok, so here's pet hate. This Polestar R-Design edition we are testing here has a fair bit of additional equipment for the higher price tag but I don't like how you always have to spring for add-on packages if you want the really good stuff.

Even metallic paint or a colour other than white costs extra. Of course Volvo is not the only luxury marque to do this, but when I am handing over more than $90k, surely the choice of paint colour isn't too much to ask.  

The 2016 model Volvo XC90.
The 2016 model Volvo XC90.

G: At $1900 for metallic paint, that's a mighty fine hue. Interesting, too, that heated front seats cost $650, the sunroof is $3000, the Sensus Premium Sound by Bowers and Wilkins is another $4500, while your favoured keyless entry with hands-free tailgate is $975.

Remove some of those and the XC90 can start to feel somewhat bare-boned.   

Yet Volvo is not alone, the Europeans love their extra listing and overall this is an impressive package at a price which is competitive in the genre.

Much would depend on badge pride, with the buyer's decision ultimately swayed by Swedish luxury over the lure of a German propeller, three-pointed star or four-ringed prestige.   

V: Volvo owners definitely see this as a value-proposition.

Our week in the R-Design gave me a real indication of how strongly people feel about the brand and there was great interest in the school car park (yes, that pulsing mircrocosm of society) from owners and aspirants alike.

So many people buy a Volvo and hold on to it for ages and are supremely happy with it.   

That sort of loyalty, especially these days when so much is temporary, is amazing.

The XC90 and this sporty R-Design edition has a lot going for it - it's nice to drive, has on-trend technology and unparalleled safety - an excellent family carrier really.

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription. Photo: Contributed.
2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription. Photo: Contributed. Mark Bean

The verdict

Driving experience  18/20  

Features and equipment  18/20  

Functionality and comfort  19/20  

Value for money  17/20  

Style and design  18/20  

Total  90/100    

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription. Photo: Contributed.
2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription. Photo: Contributed. Mark Bean

Vital statistics 

Model: 2016 Volvo XC90 D5 Drive-E AWD.  

Details: Five-door, seven-seat, all-wheel drive large sports utility vehicle.  

Engine: 2.0 litre four-cylinder common rail twin-turbo diesel generating maximum power of 202kW @ 1500-3000rpm and peak torque of 500Nm @ 1750-2500rpm.  

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.   

Performance 0-100kmh: 7.7 seconds.  

Consumption: 5.8 litres/100km (combined average).  

Bottom line plus on-roads: $97,950 (with options $122,825 as tested). 

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription. Photo: Contributed.
2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription. Photo: Contributed. Mark Bean

What matters most

What we liked: Brilliant interior functionality and opulence, burly diesel performance, lovely proportions.  

What we'd like to see: Less intrusive safety systems (although they are outstanding), more standard kit.   

Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty with capped price servicing packages can be purchased in the first year. They start at $1850 for two years/45,000km. Road side assist is complimentary with Volvo dealer servicing, up to six years.   

The 2016 model Volvo XC90.
The 2016 model Volvo XC90.