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First drive: Volvo XC90 B5. Image by Volvo UK.

First drive: Volvo XC90 B5
Volvo’s midlife facelift/update for the seven-seat XC90 SUV sees a mild diesel-electric hybrid introduced.


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Volvo XC90 B5

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

One of our favourite seven-seat SUVs, the Volvo XC90 Mk2, has gone through its midlife facelift. It's subtle stuff but there are drivetrain tweaks across the range, nowhere more noticeable than with this new B5-badged 48-volt mild hybrid diesel.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Volvo XC90 B5 R-Design
Pricing: XC90 (2020MY) from £52,235, B5 R-Design from £60,835, car as tested £67,535
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel with 48-volt mild hybrid technology
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door seven-seat hybrid SUV
CO2 emissions: 156g/km (VED Band 151-170: £530 first 12 months, then £465 years two-six of ownership, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 37.7-44.1mpg
Top speed: 137mph
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Power: 235hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 480Nm at 1,750-2,250rpm
Boot space: 314-1,868 litres (seven- to two-seat configurations)

What's this?

The updated Volvo XC90 and we can start with the usual game of 'spot the difference' for the facelift items. However, this time, rather than being facetious, we are in fact relieved; the second-gen XC90 is a glorious-looking contrivance and radically redrawing it would have been a mistake. So peer hard, if you will, at the radiator grille, lower front bumper and air intakes, which have all been resculpted, tick off the box marked 'fresh designs of alloy wheels and additional paint colours', and note that every XC90 Mk2.5 has integrated roof rails and twin trapezoid exhaust finishers. If you're looking at an R-Design car, then much of the exterior detailing (door mirrors, window surrounds and roof rails) will be high-gloss black, while the Inscription versions enjoy a new chrome strip in the rear bumper. Overall, the facelifted XC90 remains utterly lovely, inside and out.

Instead, the big news is the change of drivetrains. Three petrols are offered, badged T5 (250hp), T6 (310hp) and T8 (390hp, this being the Twin Engine plug-in hybrid electric vehicle derivative), while the solitary diesel is called the B5. Now, that's not a typo - this is the engine formerly known as the D5 PowerPulse, a 235hp/480Nm four-cylinder, 2.0-litre turbodiesel. Only now, it has been bolstered by the addition of 48-volt mild hybrid technology. An integrated starter-generator is part of a system that sees a KERS set-up harvesting otherwise wasted kinetic energy and storing it in a 48-volt battery. The XC90 B5, which also has a modified eight-speed automatic transmission to better save fuel, then uses this stored energy to beef up the acceleration, which reduces consumption and also supposedly NOx emissions. All very worthy. But does it work well?

How does it drive?

Before we even start up the XC90 B5 and head off into the bucolic Cotswolds, we're a little bemused by the eco-stats... until we remember that NEDC and WLTP lead to rather different official numbers. Whereas the old D5 returned claims of 49.6mpg and 149g/km, making it look superior to the B5's bests of 44.1mpg and 156g/km, the D5 was ratified under NEDC and so those claims were, well... just that; claims. About as likely to be replicated in real life as Brexit is going to suddenly become an absolute breeze to thrash out and execute. Anyway, as some tiny recompense if you're still not convinced by the switch from 'D' to 'B' nomenclature, the newer XC90 diesel is two-tenths of a second quicker to 62mph from rest than the older one. If that matters.

What won't matter, once you're driving it, is whether the 48-volt hybrid stuff makes the tiniest bit of difference or not, because the XC90 B5 is still a truly imperious bit of kit. Geely-era Volvos are often cited as not being much fun to drive, but they're not terrible in the corners by any stretch of the imagination; often being blessed with impressive body control, lots of grip and decent steering. This XC90 is no exception: it handles a lot better than its 2,172kg kerb weight might imply. It's not hugely involving, granted, but then we can't think of many seven-seat SUVs which are, and you'll be surprised at how tidy and composed it is through a series of bends.

Otherwise, the B5 remains a beautiful thing to travel in. The ride quality and refinement are excellent in these 90-series cars, even in R-Design specification, although we can't help thinking an Inscription on four-corner air suspension is clearly the way to go with the Volvo family chariot. Nevertheless, this B5 engine is peachy. It seems quieter than the 197hp/420Nm B4 iteration we tried in an XC60 on the same day and it's also noticeably more muscular, despite the fact it is hefting about more weight in the form of the XC90. You don't really need any more punch than this for the XC90, that's for sure, which perhaps renders the pure-petrol T5 and T6 models as redundant. The B5's eight-speed gearbox is utterly innocuous in operation (the highest praise you can pay a transmission) and the controls of the Volvo are light, clean and well calibrated. It is an easy car to loaf about in, just as much as it is fairly simple, if a touch uninvolving, to hustle it down a road at speed.

Yep, this remains one of the best big SUVs you can get, no doubt about it. If it weren't for the fact that the car we tested was beyond £67,500 with options, which is a simply stonking amount of money for a four-pot diesel 4x4, we'd have been tempted to dole out full marks to yet another Volvo product.


A new broom absolutely did not need to sweep clean with the Volvo XC90 family and the midlife update gently massages all the magnificent attributes of this SUV that were already in place. This is exemplified by the B5 drivetrain: it doesn't feel, in all honesty, any different to the old D5 PowerPulse, but clever, unobtrusive hybrid tech means this is going to be a bit easier on the wallet in years to come and yet it is as desirable as ever to imagine living with the XC90 long-term. Excellent work, once again, from the team at Gothenburg.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 18 Sep 2019    - Volvo road tests
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2019 Volvo XC90 B5. Image by Volvo UK.2019 Volvo XC90 B5. Image by Volvo UK.2019 Volvo XC90 B5. Image by Volvo UK.2019 Volvo XC90 B5. Image by Volvo UK.2019 Volvo XC90 B5. Image by Volvo UK.

2019 Volvo XC90 B5. Image by Volvo UK.2019 Volvo XC90 B5. Image by Volvo UK.2019 Volvo XC90 B5. Image by Volvo UK.2019 Volvo XC90 B5. Image by Volvo UK.2019 Volvo XC90 B5. Image by Volvo UK.


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