Interior and Tech
Where do we start? Quite how Volvo has gone from making pleasant but vaguely dull interiors to this magnificent cabin in one giant leap is incredible. If we’re being hyper-picky, there’s little in the way of soft-touch surfaces within, but nevertheless, everything you prod and poke feels of the utmost quality. Volvo's seats are also among the comfiest in the business – you feel at home almost instantly, rather than having to fiddle with electric adjustment controls for the first hundred miles to find a suitable seating position.
The wood trim is proper wood – right down to the individual slats on the sliding lid for the transmission tunnel compartment – the huge TFT display for the driver, and the associated head-up display, are equipped with clear and thoroughly modern graphics, and the beautiful huge control screen for the infotainment works as intuitively as any smartphone - not surprising, since it uses Apple CarPlay.
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Its portrait-style display is unusual, but works surprisingly well. Like the screen on a Tesla Model S, it allows functions to be divided into easily-accessible layers - and for mapping systems, a portrait screen arguably makes more sense than a landscape one. Swiping left or right accesses different menu functions, while commonly-used controls for audio, navigation or heating and ventilation are all within a finger's prod away.
One of our favourite details is the small, knurled knob you twist to start the car – considerably more tactile than the nasty buttons that seem to pervade most vehicles. If you go for the T8, you also get an Orrefors glass gear lever that’s a work of art. Audi, eat your heart out – this is the new benchmark for mainstream cabin quality.
Of course, all XC90s are seven-seaters, even the T8, because the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) chassis on which this car is based was designed from the outset to accept electrification without any compromise. Volvo says the rear-most two seats can accommodate people of five-foot seven and we see no reason to doubt that, as it looks very spacious back there. Despite the layout, there's also a modicum of boot space behind the rearmost row - or they can be flipped down for an enormous load space.
Also worth mentioning when it comes to tech in the XC90 is the stellar Bowers & Wilkins sound system developed for the car. Not only does it compliment the already impress interior cabin design, but offers some of the absolute best levels of in-car audio in the business. In fact short of Bentley's ultra-expensive Naim systems, it is probably the best. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class Burmester system does come close, but is too bass heavy.
Last but by no means least is the safety technology that Volvo has added to the XC90. The car has special energy-absorbent seats, Volvo's City Safety auto braking technology and even the ability to park itself. Amazingly, the Volvo even has a run-off road system which senses if you've veered off the road and 'prepares' the car for an accident.
Then there's seven airbags, ESP, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and a Queue assist function. All in all, making the XC90 an extremely safe place to be.