Review: Volvo XC90 R-Design 2016
Our Large SUV of the Year gains a new dimension with the new R-Design trim, adding sportier design touches and a striking red paint job. Is it worth the extra outlay though?
Volvo took its sweet time working out the second generation XC90 and by all accounts, it was worth the 13-year wait. You’ll rarely find anyone with a bad word to say about it and the awards have been flooding in.
It narrowly missed out on winning UK Car of the Year and European Car of the Year recently, coming second in both, but we liked it enough to name it our Large SUV of 2015 and at time of writing, it could still bag World Luxury Car in the World Car Awards.
What do you get?
Previously, the XC90 was available in two trim levels: Momentum and the bells and whistles Inscription. Now though, there’s the R-Design which bridges the two with some exclusive styling and a sportier look.
Our test model retailed at £49,285, £3,535 more than the Momentum entry model, and in the leasing arena that means average business deals ring in at £597 a month, rather than £557 (£707 instead of £653 for personal users). So what does that extra outlay get you?
It can barrel up to 62mph in 7.8 seconds, which, in a two-tonne car never fails to impress.
The base XC90 is already well equipped, coming on 19-inch ten-spoke turbine alloy wheels, with electric windows all-round, powered tailgate, cruise control, hill start assist and hill descent control, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, Bluetooth and DAB radio while the brilliant nine-inch touchscreen ties together the slick interior.
The R-Design comes with all those goodies but ups the wheels to 20-inch five-spoke alloys and adds tinted windows in the back, leather/nubuck contour sports seats, sports floor mats and pedals, an integrated dual exhaust, while the driver gets a perforated leather steering wheel and gear knob, gear shift paddles, and digital dials with a 12.3-inch driver display.
Granted, almost of these upgrades are cosmetic but that’s what the R-Design trim has always been about, injecting that fuzzy feeling of sport-laced exclusivity.
That bright red paint job is only available on R-Design models and for those in the know, makes it instantly recognisable just like the ‘rebel blue’ V60 Polestar.
Inside though, Volvo adopts a lighter approach and you need to know where to look for the R-Design touches. The trim emblem appears on the bottom of the steering wheel and ‘R-Design’ is embossed into the back of the front seats.
Because the interior is so roomy, you’re always conscious of the SUV’s bulky exterior.
It’s subtle but the restrained approach is much more tasteful to tacking red trim and R-Design logos all over the shop.
The dark floor mats are actually preferable the Inscription’s stain-prone cream mats, which you’ll be sending to dry cleaners every week.
One glaring sacrifice in our test model though was the all-round camera, which gives the driver a bird’s eye view of the car. Not even the range-topping models get that as standard though; it’s part of the £2,000 Xenium pack, which also adds a panoramic sunroof and the self-parking Park Assist Pilot system.
Sure, audible parking sensors are useful but they’re too sensitive, beeping like mad when you’re a good few inches away from anything. For a car this size, the top-down camera is more than just a luxury, it’s essential in places like supermarket car parks and at £2k, the pack is a bargain.
How does it drive?
The R-Design trim is available on the diesel, petrol and plug-in hybrid XC90 and it’s the diesel version we’re driving here. Using a 222bhp two-litre engine, linked to an eight speed automatic transmission, it can barrel up to 62mph in 7.8 seconds with a 137mph top speed, which, in a two-tonne car never fails to impress.
Because the interior is so roomy, you’re always conscious of the SUV’s bulky exterior but with that much shove under the bonnet, the XC90 never feels lardy and while it’s no sports car, it is deceptively nimble, wriggling through bends much better than you’d expect.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is also so refined that you’ll only want to get involved with the manual gear paddles when the urge to get involved surfaces. Combine that with its relaxed ride and well-isolated cabin and the XC90 is one of the comprehensive tools for completing long journeys with minimum hassle.
You’ll remember that the nine-inch touchscreen was described earlier as ‘brilliant’ and it really is one of the best infotainment systems available right now. Its slick responsiveness is as sharp as the screen’s HD resolution and quickly be flying through the menus and finetuning the car to your liking.
The XC90 was already of the best Volvos ever and the R-Design trim gifts the SUV with some welcome variation and added youth appeal.
XC90 R-Design at a glance:
Boot space: 314 / 1868 litres
Engine: D5 1969cc 222bhp, eight speed auto
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Top speed: 137mph
Fuel economy: 49.6mpg combined
Torque: 470Nm at 1750rpm