“Volvo is now cool!” said Mandy Turner as she slid into the front passenger seat. She’s up in Sydney for a podcasting project, and with the XC90’s help, we’re also helping out with some logistics.
Sitting in the back and looking around the cabin, I can’t disagree with her. I have to say, I’ve grown progressively more and more fond of this big Swede over the past month or so.
Volvo’s whole modus operandi of pared back, understated elegance is probably most noticeable when looking through the cabin. High-end SUVs with price tags that start dipping into six figures need to be impressive in terms of aesthetic and design, and I reckon Volvo has done a good job.
For an exercise in dimensions, let’s compare the XC90 with Audi’s big, hundred-odd-thousand-dollar and direct competitor Q7. You’d think the Q7 is much bigger, in every dimension. However, it’s not completely true. The XC90 is slightly wider and 35mm taller, which I find surprising.
One telling element is length: the Q7 has just over 100mm more from nose to tail, which is important for a three-row vehicle. My litmus test for interior space is installing our rearward-facing baby seat in the second row.
We splurged around $600 on a baby seat deemed ‘safest’, and it takes up a pretty significant amount of space. If you can fit the baby seat in, along with enough legroom and rake for the front passenger, then you’ve got a good footprint. Only the biggest of vehicles pass this test particularly well.
The XC90 passes, just. This is helped from the sliding second row, but you can fit both in with decent comfort. Child seats aside, the second row is a particularly comfortable place.
Special mention must go to the classy controls for air-conditioning and seat heating, along with a few other nifty features: both sides have a built-in shade to keep glaring sun out, and the centre pew flips up into its own booster seat.
For a seat, the centre spot is a bit narrow and stiff, typical of just about any other vehicle you can think of.
Up front, it’s all about that tasteful elegance without going over the top. There are plenty of nice details and touchpoints that you’d expect from a vehicle of this price and pedigree.
The lit centre console is of a decent size and sports two USB points. Move forward for a couple of cupholders and a 12V socket, finished off with a few additional small storage spots. Bins in the door are of a usable size, too.
We’ve got a black interior finished with carbon-fibre inlays and the R-Design nubuck and leather seats. It’s certainly dark, and some might prefer a palette with some contrast or colour.
White stitching, especially along the soft dashboard, looks great. Aside from sounding awesome, the optional Bowers & Wilkins audio adds some very nice metallic splashes to the interior.
The seats look a bit racy and have plenty of huggy bolstering, but prove to be pretty comfortable for your everyday driving. They have stacks of electric adjustment, including (my favourite) good thigh support. It’s comfortable with a clean design that befits the brand. Cool.
The steering wheel is also an R-Design feature using stitched and perforated leather for a very nice feel. There are some piano-black plastic buttons here that maybe feel like the weakest link in an overall very nicely presented cabin.
Another good test for me is the pram test for boot space. Can we fit our ridiculously large Mountain Buggy Duet straight into the boot lengthways and shut the door? Yes, we can. In other words, boot space is quite good. There are a couple of extra bins for storage on each side, along with a nicely flat load space.
There is a bit of versatility to the load area, with a flip-up divider and an extra little burrow of storage hidden below the flat, carpeted floor. Keep digging and you’ll find the narrow little space-saver tyre and associated tools, along with air tanks for the optional air suspension.
For those keen to know, the battery is in the back as well, behind an easily removed panel on the passenger side. An additional benefit of the airbag suspension is the ability to drop down the bum of the XC90 and lower the load height by a fair margin – handy for those heavy bags of groceries.
Deploy the seats and you’ll find room for another two souls aboard. It’s pretty roomy depending on how generous those in the forward rows are with their adjustability. It’s a little tight for legroom and headroom, leaving it more suitable for kids than adults on the longer hauls.
We had seven aboard for a short run through town, and had few complaints in terms of comfort. In fact, it was mostly praise. The engine and suspension didn’t feel burdened with the weight of bodies aboard, helped no doubt by the adjustable air suspension option.
I was expecting the engine to begin to fluster under the extra weight, but was pleasantly surprised.
What I do like, however, is the fact that there is still usable boot space with all three rows deployed. There’s enough for a load of groceries – more so than a Land Rover Discovery, for example.
Those ensconced in the rearmost seats will find air-conditioning vents, along with a centre bin, cupholder and additional storage cubby, handy.
There’s airbag protection in case of a prang, but don’t forget about those in the back when you crank up Hot for Teacher – a dirty great speaker sits just above their heads.