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Volvo XC90 T6 R Design Review



Beautiful, luxurious and powerful, the Volvo XC90 T6 R Design makes for an excellent prestige SUV, but it isn’t perfect.

The second-generation Volvo XC90 has been heralded as the first product in Volvo’s transformation plan, where the brand is transitioning from a manufacturer of premium but left of centre vehicles to a full blown prestige outfit capable of competing with the Germans.

The XC90 has been on sale for around 12 months now in Momentum and Inscription trim levels, but Volvo has more recently added a sporty XC90 R Design to the XC90 range, and we’re putting an XC90 T6 R Design with Polestar optimisation through its paces to see if it truly is the sporty prestige SUV that Volvo promises.

What we like:

  • Striking design on the outside, gorgeous and quality design on the inside
  • Cavernous cabin
  • Punchy twin charged turbo and supercharged four-cylinder engine
  • Equipment levels

 Not so much:

  • Temperamental infotainment system and satellite navigation
  • Stop/start system can be frustrating
  • Engine has a raspy note, but isn’t as economical as one would hope
  • Equipment such as heated seats should be standard


“Gorgeous” and “stunning” would be two words to summarise the Volvo XC90’s interior. It’s modern, beautifully built and truly luxurious. Everything is fashioned from fine materials, and the carbon fibre inlays along with badging on the steering wheel and embossing on the seats signal to passengers that they’re in the XC90 R Design.

The seats are standard Volvo fare – fabulously comfortable – and the front and outermost middle row seats are heated, the interior architecture as per Volvo’s intentions is revolutionary, yet those who are accustomed Volvo interiors of late will find the XC90’s cabin strangely familiar with some switchgear carrying over from other models.

The centrepiece of the XC90 cabin is the new Sensus touchscreen infotainment system and digital instrument cluster, that truly are the new technologies to Volvo. While we didn’t have any complaints with the instrument cluster and we were a fan of the integration of the satellite navigation display between the two gauges along with a number steering wheel operated shortcuts for the nav, phone connectivity and media, we found the touchscreen itself to be less exemplary.

The Sensus system’s graphics were clearly and beautifully presented, but the menus were fussy and difficult to fathom, which could potentially be distracting whilst driving. Thankfully, the voice control system is obedient and can even adjust the cabin temperature should you require.

The satellite navigation system is rather impressive, with large, clear maps, but the system is temperamental and the system was unable to correctly identify the car’s geographical position for around three days during the test week. The system then self corrected, and was functioning as intended.

The car tested was fitted with the optional Bowers & Wilkins sound system, which adds a whopping $4,500 to the bottom line. Whilst the system certainly looked impressive, sound quality was a little underwhelming, and we felt it lacked some aural richness and depth. Granted, the sound was far from shoddy.

The heads up display was a welcome option.

Legroom for centre row passengers is excellent as is seating comfort. Those seated in the middle row also have access to their own climate control panel, mounted on the back of the centre console.

Access to the third row is simple enough – pull a lever and the middle row tumbles forward – and the two rear seats rise up out of the floor with the tug of another lever. However, at this price point, we would like to see the seats rising and lowering electrically.

Passengers in the third row have a moderate amount of legroom and should be able to accommodate two adults with some ease. Longer journeys may push the friendship though.

The XC90’s cargo area can only be described as “enormous” with the last row of seats folded flat, and you’ll even manage to fit a few suitcases with all seven seats upright, a feat most seven seat SUVs struggle to accomplish.

Under the Bonnet

The Volvo XC90 T6 is powered by Volvo’s new 2.0 litre turbo charged and supercharged petrol engine. In standard form the engine develops 235kW @ 5700rpm and 400Nm @ 2200-5400rpm.

However, our test car had been optimised by the boffins at Polestar, and those performance figures rose to 248kW @ 6,000rpm and 440Nm @ 4500rpm. These figures translate to a 0 to 100 sprint time of 6.2 seconds, unfathomably quick for a full SUV, especially one fitted a four-cylinder engine.

Plant the accelerator towards the plush grey carpet and that sprint time becomes completely believable. The Polestar tuned XC90 T6 is genuinely brisk, with the turbo and supercharger working harmoniously to deliver an addictive surge of power and torque.

This performance makes the XC90 T6 R Design quite fun to drive, and it should easily compete with rivals that have engines with more cylinders and bigger displacements.

There’s also a variety of different driving modes to suit different situations and driver needs, however we found that the standard Comfort setting was the best compromise.

That twin charged four makes a nice, growling exhaust note too, but we found real world fuel economy a little disappointing at around 12 litres per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle.

Volvo T6 engine

On the Road

Despite the Volvo XC90 T6 R Design’s enormous size, it is rather pleasant to drive. Steering is communicative for something this size and on the open road it makes for a very relaxed and very luxurious cruiser and the adaptive cruise takes the monotony out of lengthy journeys.

Tackle the city streets, though, and you’re always aware of said size and it doesn’t feel particularly nimble at times. The 360 camera and parking systems are of great assistance, especially in inner city situations, though.

The stop/start functionality was the Achilles heel of the driving experience, being overly zealous to stop the engine and in some cases, it did so unexpectedly.

Ride quality from the optional 22 inch wheels ($3,850) was supple but surprisingly pleasant, and we always felt well insulated from road imperfections.


The Volvo XC90s is backed by a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

Name: Volvo XC90 T6 R Design Polestar
Engine: 2.0 litre turbo and supercharged four-cylinder engine, 248kW @ 6,000rpm and 440Nm @ 4500rpm, eight-speed automatic and four-wheel drive
Price: $101,670 plus on road costs
Options: Driver Support Pack ($4,000), heated front seats ($650), sunroof ($3,000), 22” 5 Double Spoke Diamond Cut Matt Tech Black Alloy Wheels ($3,850), Sensus Premium Sound by Bowers & Wilkins ($4,500), Heated Rear Seat ($400), Keyless Entry with Handsfree Tailgate ($975), Metallic paint ($1,900)
Price as tested: $121,225
Country of Origin: Sweden


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    Plush, powerful, technology laden and handsome the Volvo XC90 T6 R Design should definitely be considered by those in the market for a prestige SUV.
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The founding father of The Motoring Guru, Matt has been a lifelong car enthusiast and a passionate writer. Back in 2013 when The Motoring Guru was first launched, Matt wanted to combine his two passions whilst offering readers sound motoring advice.