Ride and handling
Handling is possibly the one area where the XC90 doesn’t meet evo requirements, given that Dr Peter Mertens, the senior vice president for R&D at Volvo, told his chassis team during development work that the brief was for a ‘driving experience you might call Relaxed Confidence’. This means the XC90 is not the sharpest SUV in the box.
However, as the laws of physics dictate that any high-riding, heavy vehicle in this class is unlikely to drive like a sports car, and also accepting that the only two rivals that offer an arguably sharper drive are the Cayenne and X5, the Volvo remains a pleasing thing to steer.
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Body control is particularly impressive considering how pliant the damping is. The XC90 manages to limit roll and offer up a good reduction of excessive weight transfer, particularly impressive given the chassis is setup for comfort rather than dynamics.
As an option, the XC90 can be specced with 20-inch 275 section rubber, this brings with it ample grip and actually makes it a challenge to elicit understeer in the car in the dry.
Steering isn't exactly bristling with feedback, but it does at least feel crisp and clean. It responds directly to driver inputs and has a nice linear and metred feel. The hybrid model suffers from grabby brakes, but for the rest of the range, performance and feel is good. The XC90 corners not unlike a Range Rover Evoque, with a neutral stance that helps disguise its large size.
The pay-off for perhaps eight-out-of-ten dynamics is a ride that is faultless. No, honestly – you would have to be seriously crabby and sensitive to pick holes in the way the XC90 floats along any road surface, soaking up imperfections and frittering them into nothingness long before they can upset the car’s occupants.
The whole process is aided by the noises of the drivetrain, wind and tyres dissipating into near-silence when settling back to a more relaxed pace. Cruising in the XC90 is an utterly serene affair and, while not many people actually go cross-continental in a car any more, it is not hard to envisage doing hundreds and hundreds of miles in one hit in the Volvo. It rides like a slightly taller Bentley Continental GT.