Comparison: Volvo XC90 vs everyone else

Why is it always the poor Volvos we compare to other vehicles? We at NamWheels believe that they offer such refreshing alternatives to those regular market dominators that direct comparisons are absolutely necessary.

Volvo XC90

D5 AWD Inscription

Large luxury SUV’s have done well for themselves and the king of the lot is… umm, we don’t know, actually. They’re a bit rare and expensive so a glance into our regional sales charts reveals no more than a bit of brand loyalty and early adoption of new models. All the more reasons to champion this Volvo!

It’s big, it’s beautiful and it’s not parked on every private school pavement. What also endears this large Swede to us time-and-again is its tactile quality, understated design and refined road manners. There is a hint of bounce or detachment from the air suspension but we’ve always maintained that it belongs in large luxo-landyachts.

The big boy from Gothenburg is powered by Volvo’s Drive-E generation of modular four-cylinder engines, in this case a turbo-diesel with pressurised air assistance (“Power Pulse”) to eliminate turbo-lag or flatten power gaps between its eight smooth gears. Seven seats and big alloys complete the package for a shade under 1.2 million.


Q7 45 TDI Quattro

The big brute from Ingolstadt comes with a hundredweight of refinement and cabin quality but it’s our humble opinion that – at least inside their press fleet tenure – the Volvo can go eye-to-eye with this German rival. The Swedish cabin is equally elegant and even seems less cluttered because it has one vertical touch-screen instead of the Audi’s two horizontal ones.

The Q7’s 3-litre V6 boasts with slightly more power and substantially greater torque output but it will also chow more fuel than our Swedish hero. The Audi has a performance advantage but with higher CO2 emissions while a comparable trim level costs slightly more. The Volvo’s warranty is much longer while the Audi has a massive cargo area.


X5 xDrive30d

Umm, this is a tough one because we should probably take the new X7 for this comparison. Except that it’s way more expensive than all of these and we haven’t tested one yet. With that in mind, we chose the mild turbo-diesel X5 which we tested complete with quasi off-road tyres from the local press launch.

Bizarrely, this X5 is still more expensive than Volvo’s XC90 D5. And not by a few bucks, but rather to the tune of 100,000 plus. Perhaps that won’t make a difference in your fleet budget’s bottom line (or a pre-owned purchase) but we had to mention the substantial difference. This 3L turbo-diesel straight six also has more power than the XC90.

Cargo room is slightly less than the others but its tank holds a more generous 80L, sending the range of any careful driver beyond the magic 1000km mark. By the way, Volvo claims a similar feat as its D5 model alleges average diesel use of around 5.7L/100km from a 71L fuel reservoir.

Land Rover

Range Rover Velar D300

If you thought the Beemer was badly priced, wait till you see what the Brits charge for their wares. In the (current) absence of the updated Discovery, we’ve had to pick the next model up the ranks and that happens to be the stylish Range Rover Velar. It’s probably the only competitor which can hold a candle to the XC90 in terms of design and elegance.

We shy away from including “exclusivity” in this comparison because both of these are fairly regular sights in the school or mall parking lots of our home town. And for the record, Land Rover charges almost 1.5 million Rand for a base-model Velar with fancier or sportier derivatives adding another 100 or 150 kay to the invoice.

The Velar’s 3-litre unit offers a colossal 221kW which towers above the others but also decimates the contents of a smaller, 66L tank. Performance is on par with the BMW while its warranty equals that of the Volvo. This Landy’s sexy shape means that it has less room than the others but it can probably get further off-road.


GLE300d 4Matic

The GLE from Mercedes, formerly known as an ML or M-Class, is much like the BMW. Rather expensive and actually a notch too small because its big brother (in this case, the GLS) has priced itself completely out of any real-world comparisons. We picked a GLE300d for this exercise but hasten to add that we haven’t tested one yet.

Power figures are similar to the XC90 D5 because this Mercedes also uses a highly-agitated 2.0 turbo-diesel four pot to the tune of about 180kW and 500Nm. With a slightly bigger thirst (and tank), the Merc has a similarly excellent range to the Volvo’s. One word of warning goes towards the German’s often expensive options list.


Also: Bentley, Ferrari, Aston Martin, etc., etc.

No. Just, no.


Land Cruiser 200 4.5 D-4D V8 GX-R

Although we haven’t tested one yet, we thought we’d throw the large Land Cruiser 200 into this rivalry. What it lacks in understatement or refinement, it makes up for in size and unstoppable off-roading ability. Its lack of performance or economy is balanced by legendary local status and what appears to be a mild case of immortality.

Power outputs are comparable yet consumption isn’t. Which is probably why Toyota fits two tanks for a total diesel content of almost 140L. And hey presto, it posts similar range to most of the others. The Toyota is much heavier, dirtier and cumbersome than the others while the prices of its two models straddle each end of our direct comparison: 1.1 to 1.5 million Rand.


Touareg V6 TDI Luxury

Interested in a Q7 but with a more discreet badge? The Touareg is your answer although I managed to pick lots of fights with the flawed ergonomics of a recent press car. No matter, this 3L turbo-diesel V6 has great power outputs and refinement levels are also top class. This luxury SUV boasts with a massive 90L fuel tank.

Road holding and passenger room are all on par but (on paper) the Touareg offers a larger boot than most of the others. Again, beware of costly optional extras, although this car’s base model is among the cheapest on this list. The German manufacturer’s superior dealer count will surely be a deciding factor for some buyers.


When most vehicle attributes are considered, the stylish Volvo with its diminutive engine suddenly doesn’t seem that expensive while its generous dimensions count in its favour. If you live in or near a busy metropole with a semi-active lifestyle, the Volvo XC90 D5 is certainly worthy of a place on your shortlist!

 Audi Q7 45 TDIBMW X5 xDrive30dRR Velar D300 SM-Benz GLE300dToyota L-C 200 GX-RVW TouaregVolvo XC90 D5
Engine3.0 V6 TD3.0 i6 TD3.0 V6 TD2.0 i4 TD4.5 V8 TD3.0 V6 TD2.0 i4 TD
Tank size7580668093+459071
Boot vol.865/2050650/1870675/1730630/2055259/1276810/1800692/1947

Hanjo Stier

February 2021

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