Volvo XC90 (2019) Launch Review

Refreshed Volvo XC90 Inscription T8 Twin Engine

The premium SUV that started a product revolution for Gothenburg-based Volvo Cars has received a mid-model-life update. We spent some time getting to grips with the XC90's new bits in Cape Town.

What’s new?

I’ve seen some light facelifts in my time, but the XC90 may just take the cake in terms of "a mild visual update". The new, concave grille is just about the only noticeable change and, if you spec an R-Design derivative, that changes to a flatter, blackened, honeycomb-style version.

The new concave style grille on the front of the XC90.

Inside, the XC90 can now be specced in 6-seater and 7-seater configurations and a few more items have been included in the specification list. A connectivity app and the Volvo On Call system are now included in South Africa, but more on that later.

Aside from those changes, there are new wheel designs and colour options to choose from to top off the 2019 model year car.

Engine range?

Volvo continues with its 2.0-litre 4-cylinder line-up, which powers the Swedish marque's entire vehicle portfolio. In the XC90 range, there’s a choice of 3 petrol offerings and a single turbodiesel. The petrol range starts with the T5 (187 kW/350 Nm, with a claimed fuel consumption of 7.6L/100 km), followed by the T6 (235 kW/400 Nm and 8.0 L/100 km). The final petrol version takes the form of the T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid unit, which is turbocharged, supercharged and electrically charged to punch out a maximum of 300 kW (235 kW + 65 kWe) and 640 Nm (400 Nm + 240 Nm).

The XC90 still feels like one of the stand out premium models in the segment.

The updated single-turbo diesel unit is probably the pick of the range, delivering smooth low range torque and considerable surge thanks to 173 kW and 480 Nm of torque (up from 165 kW and 470 Nm). Fuel consumption is claimed at 5.7 L/100 km, making it a smart blend of power and efficiency.

Overall, the X90 delivers unfussy performance by virtue of its 8-speed automatic transmission. The derivatives never deliver rates of acceleration that could be classified performance-oriented, but every XC90 delivers comfortable and capable progress. Volvo clearly knows its market – the XC90 is not meant for people who want to be pushed into the backs of their seats when they have to use all of the throttle-pedal travel.

Interior quality?

Virtually every Volvo model's interior is a tier above those of its rivals, the German ones in particular. The XC90's leather feels like real leather, the touchpoints are soft and the lack of plastic surfacing gives the cabin a vastly more premium ambience and sense of occasion. If you option it, you can have an Orrefors cut-crystal transmission lever (see below), which looks utterly classy compared to the BMW X5’s blingy Swarovski shifter.

The Orrefors crystal gear lever option.

In 6-seater guise, Volvo removes the middle seat to create more loading space for items such as a cooler box, but your kids can still bring their friends along thanks to the spacious 3rd-row seats. It will be interesting to see the take-up on the 6-seater as, aside from the BMW X7, it’s quite a rare option in the premium SUV segment.

Loading space is ample thanks to the square load bay and with, all the seats folded down, 1 856 litres of utility space is available. Even with all seats up, 312 litres of load space is availed, which is more than fair.

Tech updates?

As I mentioned earlier, Volvo On Call has now been installed: if you press the On Call button above the rear-view mirror, you can ask for anything from directions to emergency assistance. The call centre is based in South Africa and our test callout was quickly answered and directions plugged into the on-board navigation system. The system can also detect if you’ve been in an accident and automatically call emergency services for you.

The 6-seater setup now available in the XC90.

As with many premium models, there is a downloadable smartphone app that allows you to remotely connect to the car’s functions, such as remote start, flash the headlights and sound the hooter, so you can find your car in a parking lot and send navigation directly from your phone to the car.

Ride quality

All the units we drove were shod with 20-inch wheels and fitted with air suspension. When the XC90 was launched in SA back in 2015, we praised its smooth ride and pliant suspension. Since then, many newer competitors have entered the market and moved the game on (notably the Land Rover Discovery and BMW X5). That’s not to say the XC90's ride is lumpy, it just doesn’t match the others for composure over mixed surfaces.


The XC90 has won multiple awards globally but the competition has caught up now.

While the facelifted XC90 hasn’t had much in the way of significant updates, Volvo has focused on incremental improvements. The tech updates are welcome, the luxury finishes and materials in the cabin are top quality and the XC90 still feels refreshingly different from other premium SUVs.

While the Swedish range's engines are quite capable (in terms of performance) and on par when it comes to fuel efficiency, the Volvo cannot match the ride quality of some of its competitors anymore. Then again, the price of the XC90 hasn’t increased stratospherically. In the 7-seater segment, the Audi Q7 is set to be renewed quite soon and the equivalent Discovery is more expensive, but admittedly offers more off-road capability.

Volvo XC90 (2019) Price in South Africa

The facelifted Volvo XC90 is sold in South Africa with a 5 year / 100 000km warranty and maintenance plan (Volvo Plan), 5 years/ unlimited mileage Roadside Assistance, as well as DataDot application.

T5 AWD Momentum R1 029 200  
D5 AWD Momentum R1 073 600 
T6 AWD Momentum R1 076 700 
T5 AWD Inscription  R1 078 200 
T5 AWD R-Design R1 094 700  
D5 AWD Inscription R1 122 600
T6 AWD Inscription R1 125 700  
D5 AWD R-Design R1 139 100 
T6 AWD R-Design  R1 142 200 
T8 Twin Engine AWD Inscription R1 276 200
T8 Twin Engine AWD R-Design R1 291 200
T8 Twin Engine AWD Excellence R1 668 500

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