The seven-seat XC90 has always been a big deal for Volvo.
The first-generation model served for 14 years, an eternity in the motoring world, and earned a legion of loyal fans with its practical, hard-wearing design. There was even a version powered by a Yamaha V8 engine.
When it launched in 2016, the latest XC90 ushered in a new era for Volvo. It was the first of the brand’s cars developed under Geely ownership, debuting with it a new platform, a new suite of safety systems, and a new range of engines.
Four years (and a very subtle facelift) on from launch, the XC90 is still seriously handsome.
Finished in Thunder Grey and riding on 22-inch wheels, our T6 R-Design tester certainly has looks befitting a high-tech Swedish battle bus.
Of course, what’s under the skin is what really matters here. Does the 2020 XC90 still have the practical chops to keep families happy?
How much does the Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design cost?
Pricing for the XC90 range starts at $94,990 before on-road costs, but our T6 R-Design features a $96,990 sticker price before on-roads.
With options fitted, however, our test car actually cost $107,390 before on-road costs. That still undercuts the BMW xDrive 40i with its petrol inline-six engine ($120,900 before on-roads) and Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 ($117,400 before on-roads).
Even optioned-up, the T6 is less expensive than the range-topping T8 plug-in hybrid, which kicks off at $114,990 before on-road costs.
What do you get?
The XC90 is generously equipped regardless of which model you choose.
The entire range features a portrait-oriented 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system, complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation, and connected online functionality.
Auto-dimming mirrors, four-zone climate control with a cooled glovebox, and a full gamut of luggage organising nets and dividers is also included.
As a sportier option, the R-Design gets carbon-fibre trim inlays, unique seat trim, a charcoal headlining, powered and heated front seats with lumbar and under-thigh adjustments, illuminated tread plates, unique pedals, and a leather gearshift.
Externally, you’ll be able to tell the R-Design from its more mundane siblings by the unique front grille, coloured sills and bumpers, blacked-out mirrors, roof rails, and window trims, and twin exhaust. It looks seriously sharp.
Our tester also featured the $5500 premium pack (Bowers and Wilkins sound system, panoramic sunroof, tinted rear glass), the $3000 versatility pack (grocery bag holders, power-folding headrests, power outlet in transmission tunnel), and air suspension for $3000.
Metallic paint costs an extra $1900.
Is the Volvo XC90 safe?
The XC90 has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on testing carried out by Euro NCAP in 2015.
It scored 97 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupant protection, 72 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 73 per cent for safety assist.
A full suite of safety assists are standard on the car in Australia, including autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera.
What is the Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design like on the inside?
The XC90 is fitted with some of the nicest seats in production today. They look like modern art pieces, and manage to blend surprisingly solid bolsters with long-haul comfort to die for.
At just over two metres tall I fall firmly into the realm of oddly-proportioned, but the XC90’s pews offered more than enough adjustment to accomodate me. Particularly impressive in the extendable under-thigh support, which extends further than I’ve experienced on anything else.
All the materials in our tester were lovely, too. From the leather and suede seat trim to the carbon and chrome trim on the dashboard and doors, everything you touch feels high quality – and looks sharp to boot.
Although the screen and air vents have since been refined in the XC60, the design language kicked off by the XC90 still holds up in 2020.
There’s plenty of storage options from the cupholders and oddment slot on the transmission tunnel to the deep bin under the armrest, spacious door pockets, and large glovebox. But there’s no wireless charging, which is something of an oversight given it’s standard on the BMW X5.
It’ll be replaced soon, but the Sensus infotainment system in the XC90 can still hold its own.
It’s built around tiles which expand and shrink based on what you’re using at a particular time, and manages to get away with lacking physical climate controls by anchoring a shortcut for your temperature, seat heaters, and climate control at the base of the display.
Apple CarPlay worked seamlessly, as did Bluetooth connectivity, and the range of swipes, pokes, and prods required to navigate are met with snappy responses and relatively smooth graphics.
Points go to the optional Bowers and Wilkins sound system for its clear, punchy performance.
The digital instruments are clear and easy to read, but lack the customisation options you get from the Volkswagen Group’s exceptional Virtual Cockpit. The head-up display is also a rare ergonomic misstep from Volvo.
Mike Costello and I are both tall, and both ended up turning the HUD off because it was set too low for our seating position – even with some fiddling around in the setup menu.
It’s not really a head-up display if you’re looking down at the windscreen washer jets, is it?
Down back, the XC90 does nothing to tarnish the reputation for practicality established by the original. With the rear bench in its rearmost position there’s acres of foot, knee, and headroom, and the car’s broad body means you’ll fit three across the back without too much clashing of elbows.