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2023 Volvo XC90 Ultimate B6 Dark review (video)

In what has become a flagship luxury SUV, the final Volvo XC90 is here for one last showdown. In the second half of 2024, the nameplate will be replaced with the EX90 all-electric SUV. So, if you like pistons firing their tune, the clock is ticking.

The XC90 is the largest SUV from the Swedish manufacturer, consistently evolving since its launch in 2003. It has lifted itself from being a safe and boxy SUV, to a safe, suave and luxurious one. In its final rendition, there are four specifications to choose from; the Plus B5, Ultimate B6 Bright, Ultimate B6 Dark, and Ultimate T8 Plug-in Hybrid.

2023 Volvo XC90 Ultimate B6 Dark: Specifications

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo/e-charger four-cylinder mild-hybrid
Output: 220kW@5400rpm / 420Nm@2100-4800rpm
Gearbox: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 22×9.0, 275/35
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 2090kg
Power-to-weight: 9.50:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 8.2L/100km
Our consumption: 8.8L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 71L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 26.82kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.60 seconds*
0-100km/h: 7.54 seconds*
60-110km/h: 5.18 seconds*
1/4 mile: 15.47 seconds at 150.7km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.696g*
100-0km/h braking: 37.86 metres at 3.01 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.270g*
Decibel at idle: 40*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 79*
Starting price: $107,990

*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different

2023 Volvo XC90 Ultimate B6 Dark: How much does it cost?

Prices kick off from $95,990 for the base B5. Here, we’re testing the Ultimate B6 Dark, which retails for $107,990 (excluding on-road costs). Against the main European rivals, the XC90 is one of the more affordable options.

All models are fitted with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed auto, and electric power assistance to some extent. The ‘B’ lines get a 48-volt mild-hybrid mix with an electric generator that produces 10kW and 40Nm to support take-off and engine starting.

The B5’s combined outputs are 184kW and 350Nm. The B6 boosts outputs to 220kW and 420Nm thanks to an electronic supercharger. Then the headlining T8 adds an 18.8kWh lithium-ion battery and e-boost to increase combined power to an enormous 340kW.

2023 Volvo XC90 Ultimate B6 Dark: Interior & packaging

The external design language of the XC90 is distinctly Volvo. Not a great deal has changed since this current generation was launched in 2016 but it still looks beautifully stylish. The front end is rounded, smooth and sophisticated; topped off with dazzling LED lights and the prominent Volvo logo in the grille.

‘Light’ models pick up more chrome for those who like an elegant look, and ‘Dark’ models strut more aggression and sportiness with black elements. Huge wheel arches and contrasting black and chrome coloured 22-inch wheels on this spec give the XC90 a powerful stance. And the rear holds onto the legacy of vertical taillights that end the prominent shoulder contour that flows from the front.

High quality, timeless Scandic elegance is how we would describe the interior. There are so many premium touches that make you feel like a royal when you sit back and immerse yourself. Bright glows of LED lighting, symmetrically crafted walnut woodgrain, a gear shifter made of Orrefors crystal, and soft-lined door pockets; these are just some of the ways Volvo makes the XC90 feel luxurious.

But it’s not just the extra touches themselves; it’s the way they’re executed. All materials feel top shelf in quality. Craftsmanship is first class. There are no creaks or inferior materials in sight. The XC90 that Australians get are built in Sweden. Other Volvo models are increasingly sourced from China.

It’s also a practical space inside. The uncluttered, minimalist layout that surrounds you is a breeze to grasp. You get huge door pockets, plenty of centre console storage, and every seat feels comfortable. In fact, the ergonomic feel of the front seats is among the best we have felt in the industry. They offer more adjustments than you’ll ever use.

Being the largest SUV, space is generous in every row. All passengers are looked after with loads of leg, head, shoulder, and hip room. The second row is on rails, allowing the versatility of increasing space further where you need it most. Especially handy if you have the third row in use.

Further back, and the boot is also mammoth, offering 680 litres of space or 1868 litres if you fold the second row down. The third row tucks away flush into the floor and sets up with ease. There is adequate room for young kids or short journeys right up the back. We love the thoughtful panel that folds up from the floor so you can hook your shopping onto it to prevent your groceries from rolling around in such a big space.

In terms of interior technology, Volvo now uses Google’s own Android Automotive interface, where apps like Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play Store are directly installed and licenced for four years. This also means you can customise the interface more like your phone and download more apps. However, everything important to the function of the car is now moved into the settings menu.

Some items should be pulled out of that deeper menu and made more quickly accessible with fewer touches. For example, drive mode selections. Another annoyance we discovered is that some settings are not remembered when the car is turned off unless you have a user profile set up and saved. For instance, sound settings are lost with each power down.

The 9.0-inch portrait-oriented centre touch-screen used has been a high-quality setup for a number of years now. But its size is starting to fall behind compared with other luxury SUVs on the market. We’re also not fans of the lack of physical buttons for functions to quickly access; driver focus is taken off the road if you need to look and click through various menus. Some manufacturers offer digital and analogue buttons in parallel.

Further to the right, the 12-inch fully digital instrument cluster has a notably high-quality crispness about it, making items very easy to read. Though, when the sat-nav is not in use, there is too much blank space between the speedo and tacho. It may be a minimalist approach, but seems to be a waste of valuable real estate when the gauges are pushed over to the very edges of the screen.

Mentionable items standard in the Ultimate B6 Dark include four-zone climate control with an air purifier, humidity sensor and after-run parking air flow; rear door sun curtains, a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, pilot drive assistance, front, rear and side park assist, oncoming lane collision mitigation, rear collision warning, and  head-up display.

The Ultimate B6 Dark also comes with leather upholstery, heated front and second row seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless charging capability, and a 10-speaker 220-watt premium sound system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and digital radio.

Unfortunately, it misses out on wireless Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. You can option it up for air suspension, a more premium sound system, and a panoramic sunroof.

2023 Volvo XC90 Ultimate B6 Dark: Powertrain & handling

In preparation for the impending all-electric Volvos, the XC90 mild-hybrid engine brings us one step closer. Power is sourced from a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, and a 48-volt electric motor that helps with take-off and keeping systems running when stopped. Electric power alone produces 10kW and 40Nm. Together, they give the B6 a healthy 220kW and 420Nm of torque. This translates to an official 0-100km/h time of 6.7 seconds. Our tests revealed 7.54 seconds.

In practice, we appreciate how the mild-hybrid brings an instant engine start. There is no starter-motor engine keel over process. So, when you take off at the lights, there is very little delay in take-off when the start/stop feature is activated. For a 2.0-litre engine, there is an inspiring amount of punch available.

Initial boost from the electric side helps to get the XC90 moving from stop, and then the electronic supercharger and turbo take the baton with a positive surge soon after. The electric side is not strong enough to move the car solely. There is a battery level indicator in the dash, but we never saw it fall from a full charge over our 700km of driving. Perhaps the battery could be utilised more?

When it comes to fuel use, the XC90 B6 officially drinks 8.2L/100km. Not too bad for an SUV that weighs 2090kg and produces strong power. Our average over 700km of mixed highway and city trips gave 8.8L/100km. We do have reservations about the accuracy and reliability of the fuel range figure displayed.

Over just 10km of driving, the fuel range estimate altered by 180km during our test. The petrol tank holds 71 litres but it will struggle to cover 700km without needing a refill. It requires a minimum of 95 RON fuel, which will increase running costs.

If you’re explicitly in the market for an SUV with a decent towing capacity, there are better choices out there. But at 2400kg, braked, it is still capable of towing something small to mid-size.

If you’re also wanting to go off-road in a grand way, the XC90 is all-wheel drive and has an off-road driving mode. But with humungous 22-inch wheels and very low profile wheels measuring 275/35, you won’t want to go too rough.

Without adaptive air suspension, it’s a tricky task to achieve a luxurious ride and sporty dynamics at the same time (our test vehicle was not fitted with optional air suspension). We found the ride to be fittingly smooth and cushioned for a pampering drive, but not too much to make it feel ‘boaty’ and sloppy.

In fact, it has an agile feel around bends for its size. Body roll is well-controlled. Only when parking or balancing in the lane, its size starts to show. Having such large 22-inch wheels makes the suspension work harder to spring out jagged bumps. The initial jolt of sharper bumps travels into the cabin as a result.

2023 Volvo XC90 Ultimate B6 Dark: Key attractions/reasons to buy

Just before Volvo reigns in the inevitable all-electric EX90, the XC90 is still a gorgeous large SUV to experience. It is still relevant. The Swedish external design ages well, and the lavish touches, comfort levels, and high-quality workmanship inside are class-leading in many ways. It executes all that without impeding on practicality, thanks to loads of room, storage, and a minimalist feel.

While it lasts, the 2.0-litre petrol engine produces strong performance credentials without guzzling too much fuel. And the mild-hybrid technology is a good first step in the electrification journey as it provides a little boost on take-off and ultra-smooth engine start/stop operation. And this is without the need to alter your lifestyle or rely on EV infrastructure.

All Volvos come with a generous five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and five years of complimentary roadside assistance. Servicing is required every 15,000km or 12-months (whichever occurs first). The Swedish manufacturer offers prepaid services for three years for $1750 or five years for $3,000. Keep an eye out for free scheduled service campaigns as they are often running.

2023 Volvo XC90 Ultimate B6 Dark: Key considerations before you buy

If you’re in the market for a fully electric luxury SUV, hold out for the XC90’s electric replacement, the EX90, expected in 2024.

A niggly annoyance we found during our time with this XC90 was an inaccurate fuel range estimate, and some multimedia settings that are not remembered after turning off the engine unless you set up a user profile.

The centre touch-screen is becoming a little small compared with the competition. Especially now that there are fewer physical buttons as they are integrated into the touch-screen. This diverts driver attention away from the road ahead in our opinion. Add to that, there is no wireless Android Auto or wireless Apple CarPlay.

2023 Volvo XC90 Ultimate B6 Dark: Video

How does it rate against its rivals?
  • Price
  • Quality look & feel
  • Interior tech
  • Powertrain performance
  • Handling
  • X factor (does it stand out in its class?)

Final word

Just before Volvo brings in the all-electric EX90, we think the XC90 is still a brilliantly elegant large SUV that is backed up by strong performance, decent fuel economy, proper lavish touches inside, and good practicality. The mild-hybrid tech is a good stepping stone while our EV infrastructure catches up.

Mark Davis

Mark's fascination with cars originated long before he was allowed to get behind the wheel himself. To him, cars are more than just a mode of transport; especially the ones that adopt purposeful innovations while preserving the joy of driving. With a master's degree in IT, he brings a tech-savvy perspective to our car reviews, particularly as the automotive industry embraces digital advancements. Mark joins Driving Enthusiast as a road tester after more than a decade at PerformanceDrive.
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