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An XC-lent all-rounder; Volvo's 4x4 offers great practicality for families with refined car-like performance and comfort, reports PATRICK JAMES.

Byline: PATRICK JAMES

BIG 4x4s may still not be the flavour of the month in certain quarters but Volvo have bucked the trend with the XC90.

The Swedish firm's most popular model has been selling like hot cakes since its introduction in 1992.

While mostly designed for the tarmac and few will probably ever go off-road, the all-wheel-drive Haldex system means this is a more than capable dirt tracker when required.

There is no doubt manufacturers are making huge strides towards making 4x4s more practical, fuel efficient and carbon friendly.

This makes them more attractive to bigger families and, say Volvo, in the case of the XC90, to female customers.

Despite its seven seats, it is quite a compact vehicle and features a revised front grille and a shorter roof section.

It is a good example of gradual evolution, with a new, more powerful, 2.4-litre, diesel, five-cylinder engine that you would think normally drinks the fuel while hauling along a two-ton hunk of metal on wheels.

But with some careful driving, the on-board computer was registering nearly 36mpg, something like 10mpg more than I was expecting - and that was with motorway driving.

The latest upgrade to the engine management system on the D5 engine boosts power from 185ps to 200ps, with a maximum torque figure of 420Nm giving optimum towing power.

The Euro 5-compliant unit shows a reduction in CO2 figures from 224g/km to 219g/km. It won't save the world, but every bit helps, certainly with sales.

The engine is mated to the six-speed Geartronic gearbox as standard and will accelerate the vehicle from 0-62mph in 10.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 127mph.

The economy is a big bonus but the main attraction is the practicality and the seven seats.

As well as the three rear seats, there are a further two that fold into the floor of the boot.

Although this pair would be uncomfortable for adults over any distance, for shorter journeys they are more than adequate and no problem at all for children.

The seven seats means there are 64 possible configurations. The middle seat in the centre row also has an integrated child booster cushion and also slides forwards so it can be positioned directly between the two front seats.

The vehicle features a split tailgate and, even with the seven seats in situ, boot space is large at 249 litres, rising to a cavernous 1837 litres with the seats down.

The interior is well laid out and well equipped, even at entry level.

The car feels well screwed together and the materials hard-wearing and practical.

Instrumentation is neat and logical and the cabin has a light and airy feel, with good all-round vision.

Volvo say the XC90 was designed to be as car-like as possible and it is pretty good.

The ride feels on the soft side for comfort on the flat and it is a refined motorway cruiser.

The XC90 with the new D5 costs from pounds 34,795 on the road for the Active model to pounds 44,230 on the road for the top-range Executive, with the SE Premium I drove in the middle at pounds 39,595.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 22, 2011
Words:533
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