More doesn't mean better

At a stroke, the new Volvo XC90 Executive redresses the biggest mistake the firm made when it launched its class-leading seven-seat SUV. They’ve made it more expensive. A lot more expensive.

With waiting times still around 12 months’ long, used cars changing hands for well over list price and punters spending more on options for their XCs than on any previous Volvo, the Swedes have realised that they could have set list prices much higher and still sold every car they could build.

So now they have. At £44,388, the 163bhp D5 Executive – also available as a 272bhp petrol – is £10,655 more than an SE-trim car with the same engine and auto gearbox. The Executive has almost all of Volvo’s long list of gadgets as standard, including a DVD player with screens in the rear headrests, sat-nav, integrated phone, premium sound system with mini-disc player and subwoofer, metallic paint and xenon lamps. But to add all this to an SE would cost you ‘just’ £7985, leaving you paying £2670 for the stuff you can only have on the Exec.

So what do you get? A better grade of leather upholstery, which is very nice, and walnut wood trim, which is neither nice nor optional. Oddly, the rearmost seats are still trimmed in the SE’s standard leather. There are a few other minor interior upgrades and a fridge in the centre console, though this and the DVD player mounted with it mean you’re denied the big, central storage box. You can also no longer lift out this box to slide the integrated child seat in the middle row all the way forward – one of the XC90’s best features.

Outside, the alloy skid plate and roof rails, body-coloured door handles and rubbing strips and new design of 18in wheels make the XC look a bit smarter, but not two-and-half-grand smarter.

Will it sell? Undoubtedly, to the legions of well-heeled buyers the XC has recruited to the Volvo brand, who just want the best model money can buy and find ticking all those option boxes on an SE a terrible chore. But our XC of choice is still the SE, with more tasteful alloy or piano-black interior trim and only the gadgets you really want or need. The XC is still the best SUV, but the Executive isn’t the best XC.

Ben Oliver

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