First Drive: Volvo’s new XC90 B5 sharpens up an already capable SUV

What is it?

The Volvo XC90 has been a car that we’ve frequently regarded as one of the big-hitters in the large SUV segment. It’s a well-regarded seven-seater, and one we’ve often found topping lists despite numerous rivals appearing against it. Others have thought the same and, when you add this to healthy sales figures, you can understand why the Swedish firm has updated it in such a subtle, downplayed way.

The B badge is a newly-introduced moniker from Volvo
(Volvo)

But a slight adjustment to Volvo’s naming structure has been introduced as part of the firm’s big push towards electrification. It’s why we’ve got the new B5 here – replacing the older D5 – which incorporates a mild hybrid system to help with emissions.

What’s new?

The biggest update here is that previously mentioned mild hybrid system, but we’ll look at that in a little more depth when we go under the bonnet later. The exterior has been given a light nip and tuck, but it’s by and large the same old XC90 – and we’ve got absolutely no complaints about that.

Long journeys are where the XC90 feels most at home
(Volvo)

Volvo has expanded the number of possible seating configurations inside, too. It means that now, should you want to, you can opt for a six-seater layout rather than the traditional seven, while a new range of cabin materials are there to choose from. It’s a minor update, for sure, but it helps to sharpen up the appeal of the biggest Volvo.

What’s under the bonnet?

The XC90 B5’s powertrain uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine primarily, which here produces 232bhp and a healthy 480Nm of torque. It sends power to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and performance figures are decent enough for a car of this type. Going from 0 to 60mph takes 7.4 seconds while Volvo says it’ll reach a top speed of 137mph.

Well-sorted suspension means the XC90 feels comfortable at all times
(Volvo)

And there’s that new mild-hybrid system to remember, too. It utilises power generated through braking to improve fuel consumption while driving down emissions. Volvo claims that the B5 will return up to 37.7mpg combined (around 5mpg better than the older D5), while CO2 emissions sit at 154g/km. The electric power also helps to boost acceleration and can drive the car when it’s coasting or coming to a stop.

What’s it like to drive?

It’s fair to say that it’s hard to tell the B5 apart from the D5 during everyday driving. It’s still effortlessly hushed and smooth, with a nice linear throttle response making for a quiet and composed drive. It even feels punchy too, and this helps with overtaking or motorway merging.

The ride is particularly good. Our test car was fitted with relatively small wheels, and this added a creamy quality to the ride, helping to iron out the worst of the bumps that the already well-sorted suspension couldn’t quite dissolve.

The steering is lifeless, we’ll admit, but this isn’t the kind of car you look to when trying to exploit a twisty section of road. It’ll manage a faster pace of life, but a reasonable amount of body roll means you have something to contend with if you decide to whisk the XC90 along at an increased speed.

How does it look?

Despite the refresh, you’d be hard-pressed to notice the latest XC90 as anything different over the older version. As we mentioned, this isn’t a bad thing; Volvo’s big seven-seater is a handsome thing, with angles and cuts in all the right places.

It may not be as out-there as other SUVs in the segment, but the subtle nature of the XC90’s styling will likely appeal to those who would rather their four-wheel-drive didn’t shout for them. As we’ve already said, our test car rode on quite small wheels and this only helped to downplay the car’s looks – not something we’re against.

What’s it like inside?

The interior of the B5 is just as well-appointed and well-finished as it has always been. It’s a generously spaced place to sit, with good legroom for those sitting in the bag – in either the second or third rows. The seats are excellent too, with plenty of cushioning helping to take the sting out of longer journeys.

The interior of the XC90 is finished to a high specification
(Volvo)

Up front, there are plenty of cubbies and storage options along with a good amount of cupholders too. High-quality materials are used in the forward section of the cabin too, and the aluminium elements help to keep things bright.

And when it comes to boot space, few are as good. There are 451 litres of space with all seven seats in place, rising to 1,102 litres with the third row folded. Flatten all seats, and you’ve got an impressive 1,951 litres to play with.

What’s the spec like?

Our car came in Momentum Pro trim, which comes as the entry-level specification under Inscription and R-Design specs. Included as standard are 19-inch alloy wheels (far smaller than the 20- and 21-inch units on high-spec cars) along with full leather upholstery and those previously mentioned aluminium trim inserts. ‘Pro’ adds a heated steering wheel, as well as active ‘bending’ headlights and upgraded nappa leather seating.

The main infotainment system is still the same as it always was, occupying a portrait tablet-style screen in the centre of the dashboard. When it was launched it felt pretty cutting-edge, but it’s now starting to tail off; it doesn’t offer quite as much functionality as rival offerings. That said, it’s still easy to use and superbly responsive, while smartphone integration systems such as Apple CarPlay are dovetailed well into the car’s standard tech.

Verdict

The XC90 has undoubtedly been given a boost with its new B5 powertrain. It’s more efficient – no bad thing in the SUV game – and there’s still loads of tech onboard.

Most of all, it’s still effortlessly practical, and easily one of the most comfortable steers in the market. It’s not vastly different to its predecessor, but as we’ve mentioned that’s something we’re not against. It still remains an excellent seven-seater and has now been bolstered just a little further.

  • Model as tested: Volvo XC90 B5
  • Price: £58,100
  • Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel with mild hybrid assistance
  • Power: 232bhp
  • Torque: 480Nm
  • Max speed: 137mph
  • 0-60mph: 7.4 seconds
  • MPG: 37.7
  • Emissions: 154g/km CO2
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