Volvo's diesel XC90 feels stronger and more edgy than its petrol-driven T6 sibling
Scandinavian bruiser Despite its heft, the Volvo XC90 surprises with its ability to plug holes in traffic.PHOTO: JEREMY CHUA

Volvo's latest XC90 is irrefutable proof that the Swedish carmaker has moved itself upmarket. The seven-seater sport utility vehicle is not only larger and more spacious than its predecessor, it is also better equipped and more luxurious.

However, given that the XC90 is nearly 5m long and weighs a hefty 2.1 tonnes, Life was sceptical as to whether the 2-litre power plant in the T6 variant would prove adequate for the car. But with 320bhp and 400Nm on tap, the engine surprised by moving this hulking SUV at a decent pace.

Nevertheless, vehicles that are this huge are often better when they are powered by a diesel motor, such as the one in the D5 variant. The D5's 2-litre turbodiesel might pack only 225bhp, but its substantial availability of torque - 470Nm from 1,750pm - really counts. The T6, on the other hand, churns out 400Nm at 2,200rpm.

The D5's greater low-end torque is what makes it feel more effortless and driveable than the T6. Keener drivers will enjoy putting their foot down and waiting for the turbo to kick in, for the resulting surge makes you feel as if this SUV is being carried on the crest of a wave.

Keep your foot on the accelerator and the D5 will hit 100kmh in 7.8 seconds. That is pretty respectable, considering how much Swedish sheet-metal is being pulled along.

Handling-wise, both the D5 and T6 variants feel the same. There is lean around corners, but grip provided by the all-wheel-drive system lets you push harder than expected.

Behind the wheel, the D5 feels even more ready to take on whatever you throw at it.

On expressways, its meaty mid-range makes overtaking a breeze. At city speeds, this enormous SUV surprises other motorists with its ability to plug holes in traffic - a manoeuvre usually associated with nimbler compact hatchbacks.

The D5 is not just adept at plugging gaps - it is also good for parting traffic. With its monolithic front end and intimidating size, it helps dissuade rude motorists from changing lanes without indicating first.

The roar of the diesel power plant probably has something to do with this too.

Surprisingly, very little of the diesel clatter reaches the wellinsulated cabin. But if you were to stand beside the car with your eyes closed, it sounds like a taxi idling.

The less-than-desirable noise, however, is a minor issue within the larger picture. The XC90 D5 might be a Scandinavian bruiser, but it also has a heart for the environment. Volvo claims a combined economy figure of 5.8 litres per 100km for the former, or 1.9 litres less per 100km compared to the XC90 T6.

So you get more bang for your buck and you leave a smaller dent in the stratosphere.