With its new turbo, supercharged, electrically assisted engine, the new 300hp XC90 promises much.
Published on Feb 21, 2022 09:00:00 AM
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It’s an impressive all-rounder, but doesn’t excel in many areas.
The rear is still attractive but the design needs freshening up.
Seats covered in Nappa leather are supportive, but are a bit hard.
It has a fair-sized boot even with all three rows up.
Volvo’s XC90 created a sensation when it was first introduced in 2015. Its clean-cut, forward-looking design made people stand up and take notice, the cabin oozed of Scandinavian charm, and then, what made it popular was that it offered a whole bevy of incredibly attractive features.
The XC90 today doesn’t have it as easy. The design hasn’t evolved or been updated sufficiently to begin with. Then, the cabin on this version doesn’t feel as lavishly appointed. And Volvo has taken the price up, it’s now gone from an SUV that sort of straddled two classes to one that now isn’t as much of a value proposition anymore. So, should you still be interested in the new petrol powered XC90 B6? Should it be on your shortlist? The easy answer is yes, and here’s why.
The XC90 B6 now gets a petrol four-cylinder unit shared with other large Volvo cars. This one displaces 1,969cc and comes with power and torque figures that are very impressive for a petrol engine of this capacity.
Known internally as the B420T, this engine makes a strong 300hp and 420Nm of torque. That’s not as much as Audi’s facelifted Q7, which runs a larger V6 petrol engine and makes 340hp, or Merc’s GLE petrol that makes 367hp, but it is a lot of power for what is basically a 2.0 four-cylinder. So how does this engine do it? Simple, it uses three individual systems to boost performance; turbocharging, supercharging and an electric boost (from the hybrid system’s e-motor) to bump up power.
Initial responses as you put your foot on the accelerator are pretty good. A combination of a 10kW electric boost from the hybrid system and increased airflow from the crankshaft driven supercharger, the XC90 moves off smartly when you tap the accelerator. Put your foot down a bit harder and the Volvo even responds smartly with a strong tug felt. It doesn’t quite have the grunt of a larger V6, but it certainly feels responsive and on the ball. And this is especially true when you engage the Dynamic drive mode from the screen; the mode selector ‘button’ that used to sit on the central console between the seats has been deleted.
What’s great is that the Volvo engine even delivers a substantial kick when you mash the throttle. Do this and performance is strong, with 0-100kph coming up in a claimed 6.7sec. While the recently facelifted Audi Q7 is quicker by around a second, the Volvo delivers enough performance to keep things urgent and interesting.
The four-cylinder unit, however, isn’t as seamless or as smooth as a larger capacity motor. Probably down to the fact that it has to smoothen out responses from the turbo, supercharger and the electric motor, progression isn’t always as linear as you expect. Power delivery flattens out marginally at times, and at times there’s also a bit of a spike. This isn’t in your face or troublesome, and you encounter it more in Dynamic mode, but pay attention or compare it to Merc’s smooth straight-six and you will feel the difference. In addition, spin the engine past 5,500rpm and it gets a bit vocal as well.
While Volvo has improved its 8-speed automatic, which is now smoother and more responsive, this is still a gearbox that doesn’t like to be hurried. Yes, for the most part, it will do your bidding and with reasonable speed too, but drive it in a brisk manner and it often takes longer than you expect to deliver a downshift. At least, if it had paddle shifters behind the wheel, you could have better control when driving in a more relaxed manner.
Still, there’s loads more power here than on the diesel, the gearbox has been improved and then, because it is a petrol, refinement is also clearly better.
The XC90 B6 is also marginally better over bad roads. Whereas the first versions of the XC90 were sporty and stiffly sprung, Volvo has progressively improved the ride. As a result, the XC90 B6 is less thumpy and hard edged. While the ride is marginally more absorbent, sharp edged bumps occasionally make their presence felt, and then you still get gently tossed over badly paved sections of city roads.
Go faster in the XC90 and the ride smoothens out beautifully. Now bump absorption is much better, it rides flatter than many rivals and since it provides such a stable platform, straight-line stability is very good. What also impresses dynamically is the oily smooth steering. At low speeds, it is light and very direct, making the XC90 feel surprisingly agile, and then as you go quicker and need to steer into corners, it remains very accurate.
Club that with the stiffened and lowered air suspension in Dynamic, and the ample grip from the front wheels and you have an SUV you can drive and enjoy on a winding road. It’s no X5M or Cayenne, and you still have to pay attention to roll, but you can still carry a good amount of speed and that just adds another dimension to the XC90.
In the rough too, the XC90 is reasonably capable. It gets all-wheel drive, and a dedicated off-road mode that raises the suspension to 252mm, and seems perfectly at home on dirt roads and even heavily rutted sections.
The XC90’s cabin, when launched, represented the cutting edge in design. You simply went wow, the lofty material quality made you want to touch and feel the insides and then Volvo threw all manner of high brow kit in.
Today, the design of the cabin is more familiar, many of the materials aren’t as good as on the earlier car and there’s some important kit missing. The touchscreen, for example, is not so much of a novelty anymore and lacks many connected tech updates that even the S90 sedan gets. And then there are other features like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto missing here.
Where the cabin does impress is in that typically understated Swedish way where it makes everything pleasant to use. You also get a lot of kit. Stuff like head-up display, wireless phone charging, passenger seat adjust controls for the driver, cooled seats and massaging backrests for the front passengers, parking assist and a particularly clear and active 360 camera that alerts you about oncoming traffic, even from a bit of a distance. Also fantastic is the 19-speaker and subwoofer equipped Bowers and Wilkins audio system that has various listening modes and a nine-channel programmable graphic equaliser. There’s also what Volvo calls an Advanced Air Quality system, Nappa leather on the seats and a very upmarket looking crystal gear lever.
While the seats appear a bit hard at first, they are comfortable over long drives; they support your muscles better than softer seats. There’s also plenty of legroom for the first two rows and the cabin is nice and airy, aided as it is by the large panoramic sunroof. However, the second-row seats are a bit more compact than on rivals and not as plush. And while there are similar seats on the third row, space there is only barely sufficient and you are seated much lower. Access to the rear also isn’t very easy; the second row only slides and tilts and doesn’t flip forward. And to move the seat, you need to put in your shoulder. The tailgate, helpfully, is powered and even three rows up there’s a fair amount of luggage space.
Volvo also always provides you with an extremely safe body shell and loads of safety kit. This includes City Safe, Pilot Assist, Lane Keeping Aid, Adaptive Cruise Control, Park Assist, Road Sign Information, Cross Traffic Alert, Driver Alert, BLIS and rear collision warning. You also get driver and passenger airbags, a driver’s knee bag, Side Impact Protection System airbags, and curtain airbags.
On sale at a price of Rs 90.9 lakh, the new XC90 offers a lot of SUV for what is a big pile of cash. Still, it is a well-rounded package that, as ever, offers loads of safety, a clean-cut crystal-like design, an efficient three-row cabin, air suspension and a peppy new petrol engine. It rides well, drives with a fair amount of verve and comes with a well built and put together cabin. More kit and higher quality materials on the inside would have been appreciated, it lacks the smoothness of a six-cylinder petrol engine, there’s no diesel option and a more significant visual would have gone down well. Still, even at things stand, the XC90 offers a lot of luxury and its unique set of traits could be just what you are looking for in a luxury SUV.
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