There’s a new generation of lighter and more fuel-efficient 4x4s, and the Volvo XC90 is one of the best of them. It makes a very fine tow car, too.
At the legal limit we found the XC90 stable and secure, but there was a little more movement when we pushed on to 70mph.
In the lane-change test, the Volvo took charge for the first two runs, but on the third and fastest attempt it was unable to control the caravan which collected one of the traffic cones marking out the manoeuvre.
The hill start was more to the Volvo’s liking. With 354lb ft of torque the XC90’s 2.0-litre engine has less muscle than some of the big 4x4s tested, but it proved enough to comfortably haul over the 1-in-6 slope.
Compared with the six-cylinder engines in most rivals, the Volvo’s four-cylinder unit doesn’t sound as cultured and smooth. However, it delivers exceptional economy and emissions figures for a big 4×4, returning 49.6mpg and putting out 149g/km of carbon dioxide.
Inside, the Volvo is beautifully made with a clean, uncluttered and thoroughly modern design, with the dashboard dominated by a huge touchscreen.
It’s practical as well as good looking, with genuine space for seven rather than a cramped third row of seats. With five seats upright, our practicality testers found room for a full load of holiday luggage, and the handy reversing camera and fitment of trailer stability control picked up more marks.