Volvo has given every reason for potential XC90 buyers to talk themselves into its more affordable relation as much of the larger car’s aesthetic appeal, usability and material quality has been ushered into the latest offering.

The pair are closely related enough that even seasoned commentators were forced to find the differences in side-by-side comparison.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
The XC60 R-Design’s sporty seats felt thin and gave me an ache in my upper back. Good under-thigh support, though

The differences, then, are subtle: vents have been remodelled and switchgear swapped out, but essentially all the important fixtures are transferred, including the portrait-orientated infotainment screen that dominates the dashboard.

This is to the smaller car’s benefit; we rightly lauded the XC90’s take on an SUV cabin, and its downsizing has done nothing to dilute the impression of sitting in a well-thought-out space.

The larger’s XC90’s cabin ambience, which manages to seem vaguely Scandinavian without lapsing into the appearance of an IKEA kitchen, is well translated, as is the high-quality fit-and-finish of predominantly premium materials.

The R-Design model on test had an eight-inch digital instrument cluster which, when combined with the nine-inch touchscreen, evokes the sort of technologically advanced ambience that Audi is currently thriving on.

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On the subject of the Sensus infotainment system, there’s a deviation in opinion here.

Its operation is based around a tablet-style set of touchscreen menus, and for some it represents the future of such things; for others, the touchscreen’s arrangement is a less-than-perfect solution – prominently kicked into touch by rivals which have persevered with separate controllers.

Much of that is down to personal taste, although considering the manufacturer’s mania for safety, it is somewhat ironic that it still indulges the idea of prodding a very small keypad at motorway speeds.

Objectively, the system is generally fine – it could do with a faster refresh rate and better sensitivity – but that applies to virtually every on-screen setup which isn’t contained within a Tesla. Nothing of the common or garden variety task (connecting a smartphone, for example) is likely to prove taxing, and the standard nav software is serviceable.

Ditto the stereo system. Our test car also feature the cost-option of a CD player; sadly, with no loft or time machine immediately available, no CD could be found to test it.

You sit obligingly high in the car, on leather-upholstered seats that offer a decent enough compromise between comfort and support, and without any doubt that the surrounding space is of a capacious sort.

The rear quarters follow suit: they’re usefully more roomy than those of the model being replaced, though nothing exceptionally spacious for the class, but adults of all sizes should find themselves being made comfortable.

The focus on the passenger contentment has penalised boot space a wee bit, though: the XC60’s 505 litres capacity is respectable but not quite on par with the amount offered by most of its big-name rivals.

That’s a mild deficiency each buyer will have to rate for themselves; for us, the impressively square, flat loadspace seemed ready for most big family tasks. 

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