The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
All XC90s come with electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, including adjustable lumbar support, so finding a comfy driving position shouldn’t take you long. In fact, it’s one of the most comfortable cars in the class to get behind the wheel of, helped by Volvo’s perennial ability to develop brilliantly supportive seats. The sports seats you get with R-Design trim are particularly good.
The pedals line up nicely with the steering wheel to ensure there’s no skewed driving position, and dashboard buttons are kept to a minimum. Most features are operated from the large, tablet-style 9.0in touchscreen.
This isn’t as great as it sounds, though; while the dashboard looks clean and minimalist, it’s not always easy to use the small on-screen buttons without diverting your attention from the road. Even the climate control has to be operated via the screen – this is far more distracting than using old-school physical controls. Thankfully, a voice control system is standard and pretty good at understanding your commands, which can include changing the temperature.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Happily, large windows all round make the XC90 easy to see out of, and relatively slim front pillars help when navigating roundabouts and junctions. Even the over-the-shoulder view is good for such a large SUV (unless the third row of seats are in use, of course).
Every model comes equipped with front and rear parking sensors as standard, making it easier to manoeuvre the XC90's large bulk into a tight parking space. You also get a rear-view camera, while a 360deg bird's eye view camera is on the options list. LED headlights are standard, too, with automatic high beam to help you see better at night.
Sat nav and infotainment
As said, Volvo has chosen to go down the touchscreen route. Now, as these systems go, it has its plus points, such as its large, high-definition 9.0in tablet-style screen. As with most touchscreens, touching an on-screen icon is trickier on the move than pressing physical buttons, or selecting items on a menu using a rotary controller. And with so many operations incorporated into the screen, the XC90’s menus can be confusing to work through. We firmly believe that the least distracting infotainment systems are those controlled using a rotary dial – as found in the BMW X5, for example.
DAB radio, Bluetooth and voice control come as standard, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allow you to use your smartphone’s apps from the screen, cost extra. The standard 10-speaker stereo sounds good enough, but there’s a 13-speaker Harman Kardon or an excellent 18-speaker Bowers & Wilkins upgrade available if you fancy pushing the boat out. Both stereo upgrades include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The XC90’s interior is of typical Volvo quality, with a mix of smart materials across the dashboard and around the centre console. There’s convincing chrome trim, plus gloss-black fascias around the infotainment screen and gear lever. As is always the case, you get what you pay for; the top-level Inscription trim feels the plushest, with fine-grade Nappa leather seats and leather-effect dashboard trim. T8 models have a unique touch: a blown-glass gearlever, sourced from a specialty Swedish glassmaker, that looks and feels particularly splendid, even if it does tend to refract sunlight directly into your eyes.
Even entry-level Momentum trim offers what many will agree is a sharp-looking, high-grade interior finish, though. High-quality materials are used in all the key places, along with substantial-feeling switches and buttons. R-Design models add sporty metal inlays, too. It has to be said that you don’t get quite the sense of impeccable robustness that you do from an Audi Q7, but that’s more down to Audi pushing to extreme boundaries than Volvo dropping the ball.