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Volvo XC90 3.2 AWD SE Lux

Date: 14 June 2006

Category: Luxury 4x4 Price: £32,820-£53,965
Delivery: 14-16 weeks Key rival: BMW X5

Volvo has a reputation for building discreet cars and its update of the XC90 is typically reserved, until you look under the bonnet. Gone are the 2.5- and 2.9-litre petrol engines, replaced by 3.2- and 4.4-litre engines.

That's some step up in capacity for the XC's petrol units, especially as that 4.4-litre unit is a 315PS V8 that takes the XC90 into uncharted territory in the UK against top spec BMWs and Mercs. The V8 may grab the headlines with its 0-62mph time of 6.9 seconds and list prices starting at £44,225, but it's the 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine that will be of interest to company drivers.

The 3.2 does without the turbocharger of the old 2.5 unit, but its 238PS is a 26PS up on its predecessor. Mid-rev shove remains the same as the old engine, but the 3.2 does not have to wait for the turbo to come into effect and serves up instant response. It's the same at higher speeds, where the 3.2 feels stronger in any of the six-speed automatic gearbox's ratios.


If you crave potent performance in a large 4x4, the XC90 V8 could be what you're after. As well as its raw acceleration from rest, it keeps piling on the speed way with a sonorous bark from the exhaust as it changes up a gear. The only problem here is that the V8 shows up the XC's handling set-up errs much more towards comfort than cornering ability. That's no bad thing, as all of the revised XC90 models deal with lumpy roads every bit as well as we've come to expect of this Volvo 4x4.

Other things that have not changed are the supremely comfortable seats, the brilliantly versatile seven-seat cabin that still provides some boot space, and excellent refinement. Volvo has improved some of the cabin materials, but this is more for appearance than any quality issues, and the stereo is now compatible with MP3 players. The new SE Lux trim sits just below the all singing Executive spec and is tipped to be the best seller and it includes heated leather seats, six-disc CD player, and 18in alloy wheels. This trim is available on all models, but only the turbodiesel D5 model is on offer in the entry-level S spec.

On the outside, the changes are essentially Volvo and subtle. The door handles and side strips are colour-coded, the door mirrors are a little larger, and the front and rear skid plates are a shade bigger.

Much more noticeable is the size of the price increase for the petrol models, which means much steeper charges for company drivers. Both of the new petrols attract the full 35% BIK charge, so there's no change there from the previous petrol option, but the list price of the cheapest petrol XC90 has jumped from £31,235 to £36,328, so you can expect company car charges to rise by around 15% for petrol models.

The new petrol engines have also brought a drop in combined fuel economy. The 3.2 registers 23.9mpg, which is 1.3mpg less than the previous 2.5, while the V8 only manages 20.9mpg to the old T6 model's 22.2mpg.

The dip in economy is worth it for the added performance and refinement of the new 3.2-litre and V8 engines, but the considerable increase in price means the turbodiesel XC90 D5 remains the one to go for.