Xc90 MPG challenge front

Volvo XC90. 49.6 mpg you say?! Baloney, I tells ye


Danni Bagnall put Volvo’s flagship SUV model through its paces in a varied road trip from Ware, Hertfordshire, all the way up to Stoke on Trent to see just how accurate the official figures were with a car full of people.

Now, I love a challenge as much as the next man/woman, and when the boss man emailed me to ask if I’d be up for an mpg challenge featuring a Volvo XC90, I jumped at the chance. Why?! I hear you ask. Well, the terms were; the lower the average mpg, the more money I’d get.

After confirming my willingness to participate, I got to organising the trip. Despite the chancellor’s recent call in the autumn Budget to freeze fuel duty, costs still sit pretty high and with inflation continuing its steady rise we want to get more for our money, especially in a family car such as the Volvo XC90. If you’re unfamiliar with the XC90, it’s a seven seater. As our families have gotten bigger, so have the cars and it’s one of the most comfortable seven seaters on the market. So, to make the challenge even harder, I rounded up some of the family for a road trip.

As a car buyer; if you’re purchasing a seven seater, there’s obviously a reason for that and more often than not it’s because you have a large family where you need the seats. So, what better way to test the mpg of this particular model than with a car full of people.

Stoke on Trent probably isn’t a ‘holiday’ or road trip destination for many, but for me it’s home, so I took six of my boyfriend’s family members up to meet my family in Stoke on Trent. On paper, the Volvo XC90 is the perfect companion for the job.

XC90 mpg challenge

The test model was the R-Design Volvo XC90 D5 Powerpulse AWD (235hp), with 8-speed automatic transmission. This particular model has a claimed mpg of 49.6 (52.3 extra urban and 44.8 urban) and starts at £51,855 on the road. With these figures, I thought I was on to a winner. The return test route featured 316 miles (66 ‘urban’ and 250 ‘extra urban’). So, in theory, total fuel use (gallons) would be 1.47 urban and 4.78 extra urban, resulting in a total of 6.25 gallons for the entire round trip. According to www.petrolprices.com, the average price for a litre of diesel in the UK £1.231 or £5.60 per gallon, meaning I had a fuel allowance of exactly £35.00. Whatever I managed under that I got to keep. Nice thought, no?!

We left Ware at 5am on a Friday morning, ready for a night in Stoke. The first 40 minutes of said drive incorporated uninterrupted urban roads and the A414. Once we were on the motorway, though (the M1) we were flying (70mph, of course) on cruise control. I wanted to do everything I could to ensure a profit here. Cruise controlled driving is often a challenge in itself, but in actual fact it was a huge success; I’d barely touched the brake pedal for the whole 60mile+ run.

xc90 rdesign

I tried to keep a watchful eye on the mpg figures on the dashboard to see how I was doing in urban areas and analysing whether it went up a lot on the motorway. Upon the vehicle being delivered, it sat at 30.4mpg. A figure I certainly felt was a little low, mentally putting it down to a delivery driver’s heavy right foot, however, upon getting on the road, not a whole lot changed. I barely used my right foot on the motorway and on cruise control for the full 60-mile jaunt only returned a somewhat measly-in-comparison 31mpg – of course, that’s with an additional ‘combined’ weight of ‘around’ 60 stone – but I expect more since claimed figures are much higher. We’ve not tested any direct competitors for the XC90 in the same way, so we can’t say that all seven-seat manufacturers aren’t over exaggerating economy figures a little, but I can’t help but think the exaggeration here is going too far.

That said, though; I love it! Having driven it for a few hundred miles, I’m totally in love. As poster child to what is new Volvo; the XC90 really does optimise the premium quality that the Swedish brand now aspires to. I recently tested the V40 and the XC90 is worlds apart from its sister model. Without going into too much detail about the hatchback, its centre console and display fell massively short of today’s standards, while the XC90 far surpassed it. The display is ahead of its time. We bang on about Tesla being ahead of its time, but the Volvo XC90 – minus the electronic running gear, of course – holds up well against it. The portrait display is super easy to use and resembles an iPad in the fact that it swipes and uses touchscreen rather than having any physical buttons.

I left the car in Comfort mode for the whole duration of the drive. Sitting in between Dynamic – which just doesn’t feel right in this car – and Eco, I felt it was the right mode for the test. And comfort is what it gives and with someone (aka Boyfriend) nominated as DJ and entertainer for the trip, it’s one of the best road trips I’ve ever had and I do believe that’s partly down to the car. Even in traffic, it’s automatic gearbox made light work of crawling paces, without any driver frustration. Yes, being in traffic was almost pleasant! The £1500 Intellisafe Pro pack option added adaptive cruise control, along with a number of other autonomous functions such as lane keep assist; all of which can be turned off if you don’t use them or find them annoying. Just swipe left on the pad and you’ll see all the functions displayed. Very clever indeed.

Xc90 MPG challenge front

Along with comfort; for such a big vehicle, it pulls ruddy well! I’ve seen some people snub at the sound of a 2.0-litre engine in such a large vehicle, but I’d urge them not to. A larger engine clearly isn’t needed! This model, in particular, features a twin-turbodiesel 4-cylinder lump, producing 232bhp at 4000rpm and 354lb ft. of torque at 1750-2250rpm! They say (whoever they are) “there’s no replacement for displacement” … well, I’d argue that there is. And it’s called a turbo! Not only that, for what is essentially a bit of a barge, it was well poised on the twistiest of roads on my route.

Despite the over-egging of economy figures, the Volvo XC90 is just wonderful. It’s a wonderful tool for family life. £70 took us all to Stoke and back – a wee bit more than the £35 allowance, but there’s not a more economical car I’d choose over it. Its comfort levels coupled with the sheer ease to drive mean stressful road trips are a thing of the past.

It’s no surprise the market loves this car.