Fleet News

Volvo XC90 d5 185 S Geartronic



WE were full of praise for Volvo’s XC90 when we last road tested one, way back in 2003.

Since then, little has changed in the range and the XC90 has continued to win friends, especially among well-heeled drivers with a growing brood of children to transport around. It even impressed us enough to name it the Best SUV at the 2004 Fleet News Awards.

It’s only now that any serious changes have been made to the model since it arrived back in 2002.

There is now the choice of a new diesel engine, offering 185bhp and badged as D5 (unlike the previous D5 which only offered 163bhp).

This focus on diesel is understandable as 60% of XC90s sold are diesel-powered, and such is the size and weight of these type of cars that it’s the only viable fuel unless you really want to enjoy economy in the teens with a petrol model.

But it’s not just economy that is in diesel’s favour here. The mid-range torque really suits these cars, giving them enough urge to accelerate hard in the middle gears and shift along the bulk of a four-wheel drive SUV.

And with the new D5 engine, torque has risen from 250lb-ft to nearly 300 – a useful boost in the mid-range which answers one of our previous criticisms of the car – it just wasn’t powerful enough. Now it’s far lighter on its toes, if that’s possible for a near two-tonne car.

With the new D5 engine under its bonnet, the XC90 now accelerates from 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds – more than a second quicker than before.

This extra performance off the line is also helped by a revised four-wheel drive system which incorporates something called ‘Instant Traction’, which does exactly what it says on the tin and provides instant traction by apportioning drive to the wheels with the most grip.

There’s also a new six-speed manual transmission, which we’ve tried before in the new S60 D5, but for this type of car the six-speed Geartronic box is the one to go for, offering the ideal companion to the XC90’s power delivery.

There are a couple of downsides to this extra performance though. The first thing you notice is how noisy the engine is, settling into a loud idle and not getting much more subdued when on the move.

The ride is nothing to write home about either. The XC90 has a stiff set-up in a bid to tighten up road holding, but this means there’s little give in the suspension and a hard ride is the result. Ultimately, the XC90 cannot compete with the new Mercedes-Benz M-class and BMW X5 in terms of handling and refinement.

But it does offer seven seats, a quality interior and, more importantly, it also undercuts the two German models massively on price.

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £33,417
CO2 emissions (g/km): 239
BIK % of P11D in 2005: 34%
Graduated VED rate: £170
Insurance group: 15
Combined mpg: 31.4
CAP Monitor residual value: £14,875/45%
Depreciation 30.90 pence per mile x 60,000: £18,540
Maintenance 4.16 pence per mile x 60,000: £2,496
Fuel 13.68 pence per mile x 60,000: £8,208
Wholelife cost 48.74 pence per mile x 60,000: £29,244
Typical contract hire rate: £648
All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles.
Rental quote from HSBC Vehicle Finance

At a glance

  • Competitive price
  • Powerful engine
  • Lowest BIK bills

  • Noisy engine
  • X5 is better on the road
  • Hard ride

    Three rivals to consider

  • BMW X5 3.0d SE auto
  • Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI Tip
  • Range Rover Sport TDV6 S

    PH11 price

    THERE is a wide gap between the cheapest and most expensive cars here, despite all being entry-level models. The BMW doesn’t come with an automatic gearbox as standard, so selecting this option pushes its price up to nearly £38,000 – £4,400 more than the Volvo.

    The XC90 is the least expensive, undercutting the Range Rover Sport by £1,300 and the new Mercedes-Benz M-class, which has risen substantially in price over the old version, by £3,000.

    Volvo: £33,417
    Range Rover: £34,792
    Mercedes-Benz: £36,507
    BMW : £37,887

    SMR costs

    BMW’S X5 is the only one of our four to drop below the four pence per mile mark for servicing, maintenance and repair costs. Over three years/60,000 miles it will cost a fleet £2,100 in garage bills. Second place goes to the Volvo, which will cost just under £2,500. There is then quite a step back to the Range Rover Sport, with a likely bill of £2,874 over the same period, and the new Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI which just scrapes in below £3,000.

    BMW: 3.50ppm
    Volvo: 4.16ppm
    Range Rover: 4.79ppm
    Mercedes-Benz: 4.95ppm

    Fuel costs

    THE Volvo with its new 185bhp common rail diesel engine is the most economical of our quartet, with a claimed combined fuel economy figure of 31.4mpg, compared with 30.1mpg for the BMW and Mercedes-Benz and 27.6mpg for the Range Rover Sport. It will take the most light-footed driver to match these figures, but if they do it will cost a fleet just over £8,200 in fuel for the Volvo, £8,500 for the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI and more than £9,300 for the most thirsty model, the Range Rover Sport.

    Volvo: 13.68ppm
    BMW: 14.27ppm
    Mercedes-Benz: 14.27ppm
    Range Rover: 15.56ppm

    Depreciation costs

    WITH the highest residual value forecast and the second lowest front-end price, the Range Rover easily wins this section. CAP estimates it will retain 51% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles – putting it 2.4ppm ahead of the Volvo. Although the XC90 has the joint lowest RV prediction of 45% with the Mercedes-Benz, it’s low price helps it claw back some lost ground. The BMW has a very strong RV of 50%, but it costs a lot more than the others to buy.

    Range Rover: 28.48ppm
    Volvo: 30.90ppm
    BMW: 31.27ppm
    Mercedes-Benz: 33.38ppm

    Wholelife costs

    THERE is barely anything between the Volvo and the Range Rover in wholelife costs. The two Ford-family cars are well matched, with the Volvo just sneaking the win thanks to strong performances in fuel costs and depreciation. The Rangie would have won if its fuel economy was better. This leaves the BMW and Mercedes-Benz – both cars hampered by their high front-end price tags.

    Volvo: 48.74ppm
    Range Rover: 48.83ppm
    BMW: 49.04ppm
    Mercedes-Benz: 52.60ppm

    Emissions and BIK tax rates

    THE Volvo is the only one of the four to fall below the maximum company car tax band. As it also has the lowest front-end price, the XC90 is the cheapest for company car tax, costing a 40% taxpayer £378 a month. Its closest challenger is the Range Rover Sport, which will cost £405 a month. The higher P11d values of the two German models means they can’t compete – the new M-class will cost £425 a month while the BMW X5 will cost the same taxpayer £442.

    Volvo: 239g/km/34%
    BMW: 250g/km/35
    Mercedes-Benz: 260g/km/35%
    Range Rover: 271g/km/35%


    WITH a new and more powerful engine, Volvo has answered our main criticism of the XC90 – its lack of power. The new D5 engine has plenty of power, although it is a noisy unit. While it can’t rival the on-road composure of the BMW and Mercedes-Benz, it is much cheaper for a fleet to run and for a driver in benefit-in-kind tax. As an all-round package, the Volvo does little wrong and takes the victory.

  • WINNER: Volvo XC90 D5 185 S Geartronic
  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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