Test Drive: 2009 Volvo XC90 V8 R Design volvo car test drives
2009 Volvo XC90 R-Design. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Volvo XC90

Second opinion by Peter Bleakney

Oshawa, Ontario – Introduced for 2003, the Volvo XC90 is getting ready for its close-up. It won’t undergo a complete redesign for 2010 – that program has apparently been set back, probably to 2012 – but it will get a freshening-up next model year. My 2009 tester, then, marks the last of this particular incarnation. And so it’s only fitting that I went out right on top, with the seven-seater V8 model, further enhanced with the sportier R-Design package.

It’s a handsome beast, especially with its 20-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust and one of the prettiest instrument clusters on the market, but I have to admit full disclosure: I don’t care for the XC90. It’s odd, really, because there are several things that I do like; they’re just not enough to overcome the fact that it’s bland to drive, it’s thirsty, and it just isn’t a vehicle that turns my crank.

The XC90 comes with a choice of two powerplants: a 3.2-litre inline six-cylinder, and my tester’s 4.4-litre V8, both mated to a six-speed automatic with manual shift mode. There’s a “Winter” button that starts off in third gear to prevent wheel spin, too. Producing 311 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, the V8 is a delightfully smooth engine. It’s also better-mated to the vehicle; the six-cylinder needs to think about it when it’s asked for hard acceleration, but the V8 soldiers on, no matter what the circumstances.

Test Drive: 2009 Volvo XC90 V8 R Design volvo car test drives
2009 Volvo XC90 R-Design. Click image to enlarge

Against a published rating of 16.2 L/100 km in the city and 10.6 on the highway, I averaged 15.8. Given its upscale nameplate, I was pleasantly surprised to find that while premium is recommended for maximum performance, the engine’s quite happy to be fed 87-octane gasoline. That’s at least a small comfort when you’re packing that much fuel into the filler neck.

The six-cylinder is available in front-wheel drive in the U.S., but in Canada, all models come with an all-wheel system that’s up to 95 per cent front-biased under normal driving conditions. It swaps up to 50 per cent torque to the rear when necessary, and does a good job of it; that, and the Bridgestone Blizzaks wrapped around the rims made for excellent traction when I drove into a fierce and unexpected snowstorm.