With the executive segment of the big SUV market being as competitive as it is, its hard to make any real impact on it, especially since you are fighting against those 3 mighty Germans, Audi, BMW and of corse Mercedes-Benz.
This also means that every Tom, Dick, and Harry owned one and with the result, the exclusivity factor just goes down the tubes. Not that they arent spectacular vehicles in their own right, it’s just that, the arent special anymore.
With the XC90 being the new kid on the block, it’s a little late to take the hammer to them head on. So it’s really been infiltrating the market with a trojan horse like approach and indeed it should. It is bloody excellent.
The model we have on test is the very responsive D5 and while only being a 2.0 diesel and a 4 banger, one can really see where the confusion comes in. I had to keep reminding myself that this is not a 5 cylinder, you know like they use to be.
The engine while being petite in size really does well hauling the big brute around. The 173kw engine also delivers excellent fuel economy when nursed around. When you do drive it without a care in the world, the consumption still stays perfectly acceptable, which is a first for me in this segment. From gadgetry point of view, there are performance, eco and off-road modes available, each altering the way the power is delivered.
Look, I don’t care if you are a German fanboy at heart. The interior of the Swede is where it is at. The soft touch panels combined with alu like inserts really give it a very exclusive and upmarket feeling. The huge 9inch Sensus connect touch screen fits in so well, it’s like the car was designed around it. It can, however, be a little overwhelming to operate if it’s your first time, but after a few minutes with it, you realize mostly anything is a swipe left or a swipe right. Don’t get me wrong, you will often find yourself ready to launch a space shuttle from somewhere deep within, but the overall coolness of this setup makes up for the science degree that should be attained beforehand. The biggest must have in the XC90 is the 19 speaker Bowers and Wilkins optional audio system, there is frankly nothing in this segment that sounds anything quite like it. I’ve not heard music come alive, not like this before. Every music note has its place, I’ve heard instruments that I’ve never noticed before and of course drum solo’s never kicked me in the back seat.
The 7 seat option on the XC90, will take seven people. Though as I’ve tested with 4 of my largest 140kg friends and my wife, we’d soon run out of legal GVM before anything else. Though, I would probably leave the last 2 seats to the wives or children… depending who is the smallest.
The XC90 is on the forefront of safety and is in fact in the top 3 safest vehicles of all time of the Euro NCAP tests. It’s often hard to comprehend that a vehicle can be this safe. I kept thinking to myself, it’s probably impossible to die in this thing… When you take the IntelliSafe with City Safety and then optionally add blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert, it would really be difficult to do any damage to yourself or your surroundings. It’s amazing to see how active passive and active safety systems can work so well together.
The Air suspension with active chassis is an optional system which will allow you to lower or lift your XC90 for nearly all conditions. Switching the XC to Off-road mode, raises it up to a very impressive height. On my short off-road excursion, I soon realized that its perfectly adequate off the black stuff and will get you places when the road gets a little bumpy or loose. On the other side of the spectrum, it will lower itself too and firm up the suspension when switched to a performance mode. The overall dynamics is impressive and there is more than enough lateral grip, considering this size and weight of the XC.
The XC90 offers an impressive spacious package and is perfect if you want to break away from the normal SUV crowd. The interior is beautiful and build quality is first class. Just don’t order it without the Bowers and Wilkins sound.
Base price R995 800
Price as tested R 1 140 550