Better automatic box makes the most of improved engine. Still no rocketship but quicker than before.

Stopped at a T-junction, waiting to join a busy main road was possibly the worst place you could be in a 2004 diesel XC90, especially if, like most people, you’d opted for automatic transmission. Put bluntly the XC90 D5 suffered from dismal step-off, at times bordering on dangerous.

Since then Volvo has boosted the D5’s performance with a revised turbo adding an extra 22bhp and 44lbft, while also reducing lag. We tested the revised engine back in June and came away impressed by the increase in pace. Now comes a new six-speed automatic box, which unlike its five-speed predecessor can handle the engine’s full torque even in the lower gears. Together, the revised powertrain shaves 0.7sec off the 0-60mph dash, and makes the XC90 a far more relaxing vehicle to drive. The initial step-off is still far from sharp, and there remains a small hesitation before it starts to gather momentum, but overall it’s far swifter.

Once moving the new ‘box works sweetly; full throttle upshifts are slick and downchanges well judged, often relying on the engine’s torque for smoother progress. As before, a manual mode allows each gear to be held right through to the rev limiter.

The changes for 2006 are subtle but improve greatly on the already appealing XC90. Still not as refined or as fast as its six cylinder rivals, especially the new Mercedes ML, but better value and with more versatile space.

Jamie Corstorphine

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