Driven - Volvo XC90 V8 Sport R-Design

Our test of Volvo's range-topping V8 version of the company's popular large 4WD saw us taking the on an interstate drive. This certainly proved the long distance suitability of the XC90. The leather upholstered seats proved very supportive, comfortable and well suited to hours on the road. The V8 engine gives plenty of the sort of he sort performance which makes the XC90 a great country touring car. At around the speed limit it sits at low revs, with the transmission ready to quickly respond to the driver's demands for overtaking, hills or any other challenge.

Many buyers will be family people wanting the car t perform duties beyond city errands, and the 7-seater certainly excels. There's a pop-up booster seat built into the centre position of the centre row of seats, which is handy. The rearmost seats flip down or up easily, and when folded leaves a decent size boot - quite sufficient space for a family's luggage if five or less are on board. The split tailgate is of questionable use, with the lower section only a few centimetres deep.

Around town the big Volvo chews through the fuel, but it is a blunt object with a big engine, so you really pay for your pleasure. That said, those seeking more economy should consider the alternative engines Volvo offers in the XC90. The V8 is a lovely engine, which never seems strained. The biggest criticism around town is the poor turning circle, which makes for too many difficult manoeuvres when parking in tight spaces, and U-turns need a particularly wide road. Plenty of larger vehicles turn in a smaller radius.

The other major criticism of the car is from an external source - whoever Volvo Australia uses to supply their sat-nav information provides a pretty poor service. It's full of incorrect information and directs you to take ridiculous routes. For example, one time when I was expecting to turn left, I was given instructions to turn right, right again into a small side street, right again on a similar road, right a third time into a dunny lane and then left to go across the intersection to proceed where I'd initially expected to go. A simple, legal, left turn would have sufficed. This happened several times. I also avoided the instructions on freeways where I could see it was suggesting taking an exit be followed by re-entering immediately after...

The quality of finish is up to the high standard that we expect and enjoy from Volvo. The XC90 we tested wore Volvo's R-design upgrades, which on a red car looked quite striking. Large diameter, cleanly styled 5-spoke alloy wheels with low profile tyres are an aesthetic success. The overall styling is modern and attractive, if a little conservative, but that's probably one of the reasons why the XC90 has been a good seller for Volvo.

Overall, it's an excellent package and gets our vote of recommendation.

Engine type: 4.4-litre V8
Power: 232kW
Torque: 440Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Price: $93,950 at time of review
Main photo & text - Paul Blank (copyright)