Volvo XC90 3.2 2008 Review

Volvo XC90 3.2 2008 Review


It’s with a deep sense of irony that Volvo, which hails from a country that has a fertility rate of only 1.67 births per woman, should develop a car that panders to a family of seven with such accomplishment. It’s the equivalent of manufacturing world-class surfboards in landlocked Nepal. Perhaps Volvo is trying to encourage procreation by making the results of it easy — after all, their slogan is Volvo. For life.

Five people can take a long journey in comfort and still fit 615 litres of luggage in; with the third row of seats folded up for an extra two passengers, there’s still almost 250 litres available.

There is a removable luggage net as standard that can divide the rear of the car and protect against shifting loads, and the XC90 will pull a respectable 2250kg trailer (braked). Self-levelling suspension and a Haldex electronic four-wheel drive system join a raft of other safety features that give Volvo its deserved ‘safe’ brand reputation.

There is roll-over stability control system (RSC), dynamic stability and traction control (DSTC), electronic brake assistance (EBA), ABS with electronic brake distribution (EBD), side impact protection system (SIPS), whiplash protection system (WHIPS), and enough airbags to cushion a falling meteorite — all you need to know is that when put in a compromising situation, the Volvo will fire up its microprocessors and do its damnedest to get you through.

I didn’t take a long journey with kids, but I would suspect the soft suspension has the potential to cause some challenges for the less gastronomically resilient child because while the Volvo feels like a superb motorway cruiser, it’s not really one for speedy travel down back roads, showing its size and weight noticeably under quick changes of direction.

A 3.2-litre 6-cylinder petrol engine lurks underneath the bonnet. It strains a little against the weight of the vehicle as there’s only 175kW/238hp to propel the 2060kg. 9.5 seconds is the time it takes to accelerate to 100kph; deceleration is courtesy of 17-inch ventilated disc brakes front and rear, and 235/65R17 tyres. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with sequential shift, and a winter mode which starts the car in third to minimise wheelspin in icy conditions.

Volvos usually come with comfortable seats, and the XC90 isn’t an exception, though surprisingly heated seats are only optional in our test model. The second row of three seats individually slide forwards and backwards. The middle seat can be slid right the way forwards, and along with a removable central binnacle, this allows a baby or toddler to be within easy reach of the front of the car. It doesn’t create a bench seat, but it’s the next best thing.

As a former sound engineer, to be able to start with the stereo equaliser perfectly flat and not think that I need to change it is brilliant. If you have lost some frequency response in your ears through listening to loud music (or simply want to boost that bass in memory of the dance parties of your youth), there is a five-band graphic equaliser and high and low shelf EQ. The rear speakers even get their own EQ.

Even better though is that four of the rear seat passengers can plug in headphones and choose to listen to a CD or auxiliary music device if the driver and passenger are listening to the radio in the front of the car, and vice versa.

Loading the Volvo is made simpler with a split folding rear tailgate. This is capable of withstanding a 130kg load, making it easier to get items up on the roof (roof rails come as standard).

Volvo’s model down from the XC90, the XC70, would also be an option to consider if you don’t need the extra ground clearance, seven seats and towing capacity. It has a revised interior, better proportioned exterior and offers a much better power-to-weight ratio with less thirst (11.4l/100km as opposed to 12l/100km, and almost a second quicker to 100kph.)

So whether it’s for a family trip, or a surfing expedition with some fellow yak herders, there’s plenty of room, and the all-wheel drive capability to go off the beaten track.

Price: from $89,990

What we like

  • Versatile
  • Great stereo
  • Great safety
  • Good interior storage and layout

What we don’t like

  • Heated seats not standard in this model
  • Suspension is a bit soft
  • If you’re short, getting in and out isn’t easy, and blind spots become a problem



Naturally Aspirated Inline Six Petrol Engine
Cubic Capacity 3192
Cylinders/Valves per Cylinder 6/4
Kilowatts/Horsepower 175/238
Torque (Nm/rpm) 320/3200
Acceleration (0-100km/h) 9.5
Top Speed (km/h) 210
Drive Train: Haldex Electronic AWD
6-Speed Adaptive & Geartronic Automatic
Nivomat Self-Levelling Suspension
Front Suspension: MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension: Multilink
17″ Ventilated Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Fuel Consumption Combined (L/100km) 12.0
Fuel Capacity (L) 80
Weight (kg) 2060
Trailer Weight: Braked/Unbraked (kg) 2250/750


Length (cm) 4807
Width (cm) 1898
Height (mm) 1784
Cargo Area Volume to Seat Height (ISO V213): With 7 Seated (L) 249
Cargo Area Volume to Seat Height (ISO V211): With 5 Seated (L) 615
Cargo Area Volume to Seat Height (ISO V212): With 2 Seated (L) 914
Cargo Area Volume to Roof Height (ISO V214): With 2 Seated (L) 1837


Rear Park Assist
RSC: Roll-over Stability Control System
DSTC: Dynamic Stability & Traction Control
EBA: Electronic Brake Assistance
ABS with EBD: Electronic Brake Distribution
Front Airbags with Progressive Activation
SIPS: Side Impact Protection System
IC: Door-Mounted Inflatable Curtains
WHIPS: Whiplash Protection System
Three-point Seat Belts with Pretensioners
Force Limiters on Front Seat Belts
Seat Belt Reminder
Integrated Child Safety Booster Cushion
Child Seat Anchorage
ISOFIX Child Seat Attachment
Luggage Net
Speed Sensitive Steering: Optional
Roadside Warning Triangle


Select Leather Seats
Electric Driver’s Seat with Memory
Adjustable Lumbar Support, Driver and Passenger
Heated Front Seats: Optional
Moveable Second Row Middle Child Seat
Folding Second Row Seat 40/20/40 Split
Forward Facing Easy Fold-away Third Row Seats
Aluminium Inlays and Leather Steering Wheel
Leather Gear Lever
Electric Windows
Automatically Dimmed Rear View Mirror: Optional
Illuminated Vanity Mirrors
Cruise Control
Information Centre
Textile Floor Mats


Alloy Wheels 17″ Neptune
Tyre Size 235/65 R17
Tyre Brand Michelin Diamaris
Spare T155/85 R18
Halogen Headlights with Level Adjustment
High Pressure Headlight Washer: Optional
Fog Lights in Front Spoiler
Colour Co-ordinated Wheel Arches: Optional
Roof Rails
Silver Roof Rails: Optional
Roof Spoiler
Rear Windscreen Wiper
Rain Sensor: Optional
Laminated Glass, Side Doors: Optional
Water Repellant Glass, Side Doors: Optional
Remote Boot Lid Opener
Electric, Heated, Water Repellent, Retractable Door Mirrors with Memory
Protective Plate Under Engine
Rear Mudflaps


Volvo Guard Alarm
Electronic Engine Immobiliser
Rotating Cylinder Locks
Central Locking with Coded Remote
Remote Panic Button
Centrally Operated Child Locks
Retractable Cargo Cover
Homesafe & Approach/Puddle Lights


ECC: Electronic Climate Control Air Conditioning
AQS: Air Quality System with Pollen, Dust & Exhaust Particle Filter
B-Pillar Air Ventilation
3rd Row Air Conditioning: C-Pillar Vent & Floor Vents
Zone Tinted Windscreen


Integrated GSM Digital Telephone: Optional
High Performance Radio: AUX & MP3, 4x40W, 8 Speakers
Single CD In-Dash Stacker
Six Disc CD In-Dash Stacker: Optional
Premium Sound by Dynaudio: Radio, AUX & MP3, Dolby Surround, 5x130W, 12 Speakers: Optional

Rear Headphone Audio Sockets
Auxiliary Input for iPod/MP3 player
Audio Controls on Steering Wheel
Phone Controls on Steering Wheel: Optional


Euro IV Emissions Compliant
Three-way Catalytic Converter Exhaust System
Allergy Free Certified Interior Materials


Volvo Three Year/Unlimited Kilometres
Volvo Three Year Roadside Assistance
Volvo Seven Year Anti-corrosion

Words Darren Cottingham, photos Dan Wakelin

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