Friday, 5 July 2013

REVIEW - Volvo XC90 SE Lux

This isn't the first time I've experienced the Volvo XC90. I reviewed an R-Design version last year and rather liked it. But what if you want a more upper class, aristocratic model then why not consider an SE Lux? This is the higher end of the XC90 model line up, but would it offer the same charm as the R-Design? With the model being dated now- it has been essentially unchanged since 2003- would this car have the appeal to make you want one? Well I did my best to find out...

Looks - 7/10

Despite essentially being a 10 year-old design, the XC90 isn't a bad looking car. It's large and rather box-like I admit, but there's are some stylish details to it. And at the end of the day this is a large, 7-seater 4x4, so it will look big and box-lixe, or else the 7 people inside would have no room! The SE Lux model does lack some of the features I liked about the R-Design. In some areas, such as the modern 2-tone wheels and quad exhaust found on the R-Design mask the age somewhat, and not having these allowed the wrinkles to show through. A new XC90 is undoubtedly on the cards at some point in the future, and if it does even half as well as this one did, then it will be vastly successful. And judging from Volvo's recent styling attempts (most notably the V40) then I anticipate it will be rather handsome too.

Moving on to the inside and things are less well covered-up. In particular the centre console really lacks a sense of style. Some of the buttons feel and look like afterthoughts, and that's not very Volvo-like. The seats and steering wheel are as good as in any other model, and the materials are of high quality. The SE Lux model benefits from inch-thick carpets and the highest grade of leather Volvo offers, which means that you really can sense the luxury element inside. The foot-operated parking brake seems a bit old fashioned these days too. Having said that, some of the electric ones don't offer the same confidence as this one, so that's a good thing.

Handling/Performance - 7/10

There's one are where configuring your own XC90 won't take long, and that's here. The options are limited to the 2.4-litre, 5-cylinder diesel engine and an automatic 'geartronic' gearbox. That's your lot. Don't get me wrong though, it's a great engine. The 200PS and 420Nm on offer are more than adequate and- although it's not entirely relevant- allow for 0-62mph acceleration of 10.3 seconds and a top speed of 127mph. Not too bad for a continent really. The geartronic transmission is smooth and uses the torque well. You always feel like you have a bit in reserve should you wish to move forward at a brisker pace. Simply press the loud pedal (and it is a lovely noise thanks to the large, 5-cylinder engine) and off you go.

As for the handling, well don't expect too much. As mentioned earlier the XC90 is rather large, and tall. This means is does tend to lean somewhat. What's more, the soft leather seats might be comfortable, but they offer little in the way of lateral support. This means you need to grab onto something to prevent ending up in a different seat to where you started. If you bear this in mind though, and don't go silly in the corners, the XC90 is rather pleasant. It rides well on the motorway and is wonderfully comfortable even on bumpy roads, and that's applicable to all seven seats. What more could you want?

Economy - 6/10

In all honesty, nobody buying an XC90 is expecting great things on the economy front. Because this weighs as much as a palace and has a large, 2.4-litre engine the economy figures aren't going to keep the polar bears too happy. Combined fuel economy is 34.4mpg, and CO2 emissions are a quite substantial 215g/km. This puts the XC90 in VED band K, which means £260 each year to Mr. Taxman. What's more, buy it new and you're looking at £620 for the first year. What the XC90 does well though, is offer 7 seats and in some instances this might save you taking two cars.

Practicality - 9/10

The big, 7-seater Volvo is one of the most practical cars I have ever come across in many ways. All of the 7 seats could fit me in them, and I'm 5'8" in height. Even with all 7 seats up, there was still boot space for your shopping. The cabin is vast with plenty of storage space all round. I like how the seats operate and fold flat to the floor in the back, and can be operated with ease. The split-folding tailgate doubles up as a great bench and also helps when loading the car. You could quite easily hook up a towbar and pull a town around behind you.

Where the XC90 falls down from scoring a perfect 10, is the sheer size of it. I found that in tight multi-storey car parks the XC90 struggled to fit, and this was also true of some small villages. It's rather wide too, and you notice this on smaller, twistier roads.

Fun - 7/10

A car which offers this amount of flexibility and practicality means you can do just about anything with it. The kids will always be entertained when they can go in the front, back, middle, boot, on the roof or whatever takes their fancy. There's also an optional media system which integrates DVD screens into the front headrests. Again this will keep the kids happy- as long as they can agree on a film. The problem with the fun of the XC90 is that it is limited as far as the driver is concerned. It's a good car, undoubtedly, but it just doesn't fill you with that urge to get out on the road, which is a feature of a great car.

Concluding Remarks

I was impressed with what the XC90 has to offer. There's just so much use for it that you'd struggle to come up with something it can't do. Where it falls down now is the tired image and styling that just doesn't cut it when you're talking upwards of £35,000. The new one will come, and I have no doubt it will be a huge success. This model has been a huge success since launching in
2003, with it being a favourite of the school run thanks to it's 7 seats. For now, I'd advise you to look at the XC60. Firstly because it's absolutely brilliant. And secondly because it's a pointer at how good the next XC90 will be.

Total Score - 36/50

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