Long-term test (Introduction): Volvo XC90 D5 AWD Inscription Geartronic

Out with the old and in with the new. Not only has our Volvo V60 Cross Country D4 long-termer been replaced with an XC90 D5, but the swap also represents a generational shift for the Swedish brand. The V60 platform is now seven years old, whereas this XC90 was the opening salvo of both the company’s new Scalable Product Architecture platform and its head of design, Thomas Ingenlath. This big SUV laid out the design DNA we’ve seen in the S90 and V90, as well as the new XC60 and upcoming XC40.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the XC90, if by nothing more than its size. It’s a big and imposing granite-jawed SUV with an intimidating pair of “Thor’s hammer” signature daytime-running LEDs to remind fellow road users of its Valhalla genes.

The XC90 range is well known to the CAR team, having tested the T6 (September 2015), the D5 in a comparative with the equivalent BMW X5 and Audi Q7 turbodiesels (November 2015), and the T8 hybrid (June 2016).

Our Electric Silver long-termer is the high-spec Inscription derivative of the D5 and with it comes a number of standard features, the highlights of which are Nappa leather seats; the nine-inch Sensus Connect infotainment system; adaptive cruise control; Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving up to 130 km/h; Drive Mode selector; and a powered tailgate.

Added to this D5 Inscription’s base price of R995 800 is a Premium Pack (R68 000) that includes heated seats with power adjustable sides, head-up display, park assist with 360-degree camera and a Bowers & Wilkins audio system. Air suspension, a sunroof, metallic paint and those 20-inch alloys are also options that push up the total price to an eye-watering R1 142 800.

While the XC90’s interior is one of the best in its segment, the XC90’s 2,0-litre engine is yet to win us over. In that comparative test mentioned earlier, we described the 165 kW/470 N.m D5 as “outgunned on paper and on the road”. Up against the Germans’ 3,0-litre turbodiesels, the Swede was third-best in both performance and refinement.

Since then, though, the D5 has been tweaked to deliver more power (173 kW/480 N.m) and benefits from the addition of PowerPulse tech that attempts to mitigate lag by using compressed air to spool up the turbocharger.

First impressions? There’s a small improvement in punch and I’m keen to see if I can match the fuel index of 8,7 L/100 km. Then again, considering the XC90’s luxurious interior and sumptuous spec, will any small powertrain deficiencies even bother me?

After 1 month
Current mileage:
1 009
Average fuel consumption: 8,54 L/100 km
We like: spacious cabin; standard spec
We don’t like: ride comfort of Sport model

Long-term test (Update): Volvo XC90 D5 AWD Inscription Geartronic

This XC90 is starting to become a little annoying. Not because there’s something wrong, or that it’s perfect; no, the annoying bit is that it’s so damn consistent that I’m running out of things to tell you. There have been no surprises, quirks or foibles

that would make for a colourful monthly update. Instead, this Electric Silver D5 has delivered exactly what we had anticipated.

From our first test of this derivative in November 2015 against the Audi Q7 3,0 TDI and BMW X5 xDrive30d, we had our misgivings about the engine. Despite being lighter than its main rivals, the D5’s 2,0-litre twinturbodiesel engine was outgunned in that company.

And so it remains. Even with the addition of Volvo’s Power-Pulse anti-turbo lag tech – something the 163 kW D5 in that test didn’t have – the 173 kW D5 still doesn’t match the Q7 and X5.

On the flipside, its striking good looks haven’t aged. It’s a vehicle that blends elegance and pragmatism with some distinctive touches; those Thor’s hammer daytime-running lights and the big, bold curved rear lamps being the standouts. It remains one of the most striking big SUVs on the road.

Its main attribute – again identified right from the start – is that beautiful and spacious interior. Telling you it’s begun to squeak and rattle would give me something to sink my teeth into.

However, top-notch build quality means there’s nothing new to report. Despite a number of family getaways packed to the rafters with luggage, the Nappa leather upholstery, brushed aluminium trim and thick carpets have required little more than a wipedown and vacuum to once again appear brand-new. See what I mean? Bloody annoying.

After 11 months
Current mileage:
18 415 km
Average fuel consumption: 9,84 L/100 km
We like: interior space; qaulity
We don’t like: fuel consumption could be even better