2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription Review

Driven: Volvo's all new XC90 full-fat SUV

By Tim Kendall | 29th May 2016

Vital Statistics

  • Model: XC90 T8 Inscription
  • Engine: 2.0 314hp petrol + 87hp electric
  • Transmission: 8-speed auto
  • Price: £64,555 (£75,500 as tested)
  • 0-60: 5.6 secs
  • Top Speed: 140 mph
  • Economy: 134.5 mpg
  • Options fitted to test car:
    see text

What is it?

If the new XC90 is anything to go by, Ford’s top brass must have had the odd tense board meeting after offloading the last survivor of the disbanded Premier Auto Group in 2010. Evidently nursed back to health under hands-off Chinese ownership, Volvo has been left to get on with what it does best – spending Geely’s billions on thoughtful Swedish design and investing in a new model range.

The new XC90 may not be sprinkled with an X5’s dynamic polish or a Q7’s chintz, but it doesn’t need to be. Volvo ploughs its own furrow, its new full-size SUV oozing quietly confident design and an unassuming desirability that trumps the obvious Germans. From a purely aesthetic point of view, I’m not sure they’ve hit a bum note recently and the MkII XC90 continues that form. Volvo has also notched up the lavishness to throw everything it’s got at the established premium players. This thing is gunning for the Range Rover.

New Volvo XC90

The new XC90 is a clean-sheet design

2016 Volvo XC90

Fresh, but very Volvo: the new XC90

What’s the new XC90 like inside?

The interior is a tactile tour-de-force and reeks of quality. From the tacky sounding yet tasteful crystal gear lever to ‘dark flame birch’ wood inlays and machined aluminium, it’s effortlessly stylish, but not over-styled. The standard of fit and finish is also several notches higher than the first generation XC90, which now looks a bit low rent in comparison. To my eyes there aren’t many nicer places to sit this side of six figures, but that’s important given where the XC90 is pitched – more of which later. For reference, the starting point for a new XC90 is £47k for the D5 four-pot diesel version in ‘Momentum’ trim.

2016 XC90 interior

You could spend some time in here….

The dash is dominated by an iPad-like touch screen, which controls the major functions including heating, navigation, stereo and drive mode (in the T8 hybrid tested). It’s night and day better integrated than Mercedes’ equivalent tacked on afterthought and very intuitive in operation. Elsewhere, it’s business as usual with three rows of plushly upholstered leather seats, all of which can be folded down to increase load space. In common with the rest of the field, there’s a premium branded sound system on offer as an option. In this case, a rather sweet sounding £3k Bowers and Wilkins affair. I’d already got my imaginary chequebook out when the Volvo PR lady told me to crank it up a notch.

XC90 crystal gear knob

Crystal gear knob should be tacky but isn’t

What’s it like to drive in T8 form?

It’s a big Volvo SUV, so the remit is comfort, safety and practicality rather than thrash-me-down-a-B-road chuckability. On optional (£2,150) air suspension it has a cosseting ride and handling balance entirely in-keeping with the rest of the car. That means that whilst it’s not brimming with poise and feel, the steering being pretty remote, it doesn’t roll too much and remains composed and easy to place in bends. So far pretty safe, very Volvo-like.

That’s not to say it’s a beige cardigan wearing sluggard. In T8 twin engine hybrid form it does get a shift on when prodded, indeed it comes as quite a surprise to learn that theoretically, a very mad school-run dash could see this 2343kg lump hit 60 in 5.6 seconds.  Under the nose there’s a 314hp petrol four which drives the front wheels, supplemented by an 87hp electric motor driving the rear wheels, which equates to 401hp. Or rather a lot for a Volvo. More than the lairy V60 Polestar, although all that weight does blunt things somewhat.

XC90 off road

XC90 will do the rough stuff pretty well if you must

It can be driven in purely electric mode, which allows a range of 24 miles, or left in hybrid drive where it chooses the most appropriate mode according to how hard you pedal it. It’ll shuffle fairly imperceptibly between modes, although can get caught napping – as it did when I asked it for full power on Millbrook’s Hill Route. There was a momentary stutter as the petrol motor woke up and torque shuffled around underneath me. A bit of a jerky start, but it elsewhere it felt smooth, quiet and rapid.

What about the extras?

Press cars rarely come in billy-basic poverty spec trim and the XC90 T8 Inscription as tested, was predictably loaded. Off the shelf it comes with most of the stuff you need – that superb touch screen with navigation and ‘Sensus Connect’ (web apps and internet browser), keyless entry, leather and a raft of driver alert systems – and some you probably don’t.

XC90 Bowers & Wilkins stereo

B&W stereo is a must have. Pricey mind.

The base price is £64,555 in top level Inscription trim, but the test car was specced up to £75,700 with the following extras:

Xenium pack (parking camera, park assist pilot) – £1,000

Winter pack (heated washers, heated steering wheel, head-up display) – £950

Apple CarPlay – £300

Blind spot monitor with rear collision mitigation – £500

Tinted rear windows  – £400

Four corner air suspension – £2,150

Premium sound by Bowers & Wilkins – £3,000

Dark flame birch inlays – £220

Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription Review

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription Review

  • Performance: 9/10
  • Ride & Handling: 7/10
  • Economy: 9/10
  • Equipment: 9/10
  • Want one factor: 9/10

The Verdict

You've probably guessed already. Having absorbed the tide of enthusiasm from established motoring press for the big Swede, the SMMT Test Day was my first opportunity to have a poke around the all-new XC90 and form an opinion. In a nutshell, what they say is true. The XC90 is a supremely desirable family wagon and one that would get my hypothetical £75k.


  • Serious alternative to a Range Rover Sport
  • Not much. A tad pricey

By Tim Kendall
29th May 2016

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