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Volvo XC90
Volvo XC90
The SUV That’s An MPV In Disguise
Volvo XC90
Volvo XC90
Volvo XC90
Volvo XC90

7-Seats, Comprehensive Package, High Safety Rating
Diesel Version Drinks, Competition Tough
Rating - *** out of 5 

LE MAS DU GUA, Haut Languedoc, France The Volvo XC-90 is a magnificent long distance cruiser. It is comfortable and quiet on the motorway, and will cruise across Europe at 100 mph-160 km/h all day without fuss, as long as you keep a sharp eye out for the increasingly active traffic cops and burgeoning speed cameras.

In past forays across France in the summer, I’ve always felt that French traffic on highways seemed to travel much faster than British cars. If you were in the fast line at 100 mph, you often had to move over for speeding BMWs and Mercedes. But this year the traffic seemed slower, cowed perhaps by harsher speed limit enforcement and tougher fines. France, after all, has road death rate more than twice that of the British. 

At least all the cameras seem to be clearly marked, on the highways and the byways in France. In England the authorities try to frighten motorists with speed camera warning signs, when there aren’t in fact any cameras at all. In France, every warning sign produced a camera. For the first time, I noticed speed cameras on country roads, at least on the road to Castres and Mazamet from Toulouse in the South-West. The camera regime disappeared east of Mazamet on the way to St Pons and Olargues, the medieval town with its Devils Bridge, close to my destination, the  hamlet of Le Mas Du Gua, which is about 35 miles north of Beziers.

The Volvo XC-90 has been a deservedly popular iteration of the hated SUV. Many buyers have probably opted for the big Volvo, the company’s first SUV, because they somehow felt that the company’s image as the safety conscious, cuddly, tree-hugging friend of the sandal wearer would free them from the guilt associated with owning a great big gas guzzling, environment-destroying 4x4.

I doubt whether Greenpeace fascists will allow Volvo owners the benefit of the doubt, but be brave, the XC-90 has many attractive qualities.

There are the standard seven forward-facing seats, which quickly transform this SUV into an MPV.

The XC-90 is a great big heavy vehicle and drinks huge amounts of fuel. Even my 2.4 litre 5-cylinder 185 bhp D5 turbodiesel version averaged only 26.0 mpg (10.7 l/kms) over more than 2,000 miles of driving, even though Volvo claims it will achieve an average 31.4 mpg (9.0 l/kms). An earlier XC-90 that I drove, powered by a 2.5 litre, 5-cylinder petrol engine delivering 210 bhp managed an average of 21.1 mpg (13.4 l/kms) compared with Volvo’s claim of  an average 23.9 miles per gallon (11.8 l/km).

For 2006, Volvo offers two all new high-performance engines – a six cylinder 3.2 litre and Volvo’s first V8. Don’t expect much economy there.

The XC-90 seems lower and more car-like than other SUVs. Inside, the dashboard is sombre but impressive. The cream leather seats were beautiful and comfortable. The controls are all in the right places. The air-con worked brilliantly. The six-speed automatic gearbox did the business. The huge boot absorbed massive amounts of stuff. Surprisingly, there was no docking point for my iPod.

The 5-cylinder diesel engine sounded a bit gruff under pressure, and made me wonder whether Volvo will persuade the powers that be at Ford, which owns Volvo, to give it the fantastic V-6 diesel which powers the Range Rover Sport and various big Jaguars. (Ford owns the Premier Automotive Group which is made up of Land Rover, Volvo, Aston Martin and Jaguar) Come to think of it, this diesel is in the Volvo S80 saloon, so it can’t be far away.

The basic model costs £31,635 (€46,500), which includes electronic climate control, and roll stability control, the latter being favoured by those who fear that SUVs are prone to roll in emergencies. Other standard goodies include permanent four-wheel drive, radar parking assist, and electric memory seats. Extras on this model included Sat Nav/communications pack, automatic transmission, and tinted windows.

Neil Winton – September 10, 2006

Volvo XC90
2.4 litre 5-cylinder diesel
185 bhp
6-speed automatic
4 wheels
0-62-100 km/h 9.5 seconds
Top Speed:
118 mph-km/h
Fuel Consumption:
claimed combined 31.4 mpg (9.0 l/kms) - WintonsWorld test 26.0 mpg (10.7 l/kms)
4,798 mm
start at £31,635-€46,500 up to £46,220-€68,000
BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne, VW Touareg, Lexus RX300/400h, Mercedes M-class, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Toyota LandCruiser Amazon, Audi Q7
*** out of 5
standard 7-seats, comprehensive package
it should be comprehensive at that price, awesome competition

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