2019 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design Polestar Review – why buy?


See that little blue square on our 2018-built Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design? It’s the Polestar badge. I first got acquainted with it 3 years ago, also in a XC90. Back then, the Polestar tune was a dealer fitted option that was tagged on to the engine’s ECU.

Now with Polestar set to be unleashed as a standalone brand to take on AMG and M as Volvo’s full-blown performance offering, the engine optimisation is done straight from the factory and is standard on all R-Design XC90s.

As before, the stats have not changed. That means an increase of 11kW and 40Nm to a potent 246kW and 440Nm of torque from the XC90 T6’s 2.0-litre supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine.

While it used to costs $1,858.05 plus 3 hours of labour, the Polestar ‘optimised’ T6 XC90 now starts from $104,900 plus on-road costs – $3,050 more than before.

That’s fair, if you asked me, because the slight increase in price not only nets you the extra kilowatts, things like keyless entry, power tailgate and heated front seats – which together used to cost $4,433 – are now standard.

What’s changed since its launch in 2015?

Not much. You still get the same muscular 2.0-litre twin-charge four-cylinder engine cloaked in a handsome sheet metal that has withstood the test of time. Its now familiar corporate face has been adopted by the rest of the Volvo range and is highlighted by their ‘Thor hammer’ daytime running lights and upright Volvo grille.

The R-Design trim further enhances the XC90’s aesthetics with a gloss-black grille, sportier front bumper with front spoiler, matte silver finished roof rails and mirror caps, as well as 20-inch R-Design 5-spoke matte black diamond cut alloy wheels.

Step inside and the modern, minimalist interior doesn’t feel a day older than when it first debuted. Its portrait style infotainment screen is still one of the most responsive in the business, although the relatively dull graphics aren’t the most exciting. And while it may look massive (at 9.0-inch) 4 years ago, Tesla’s jumbo screen has quickly overshadowed it.

The R-Design spec also means you get a spattering of goodies such as soft Nappa perforated leather seats, sporty alloy pedals, R-Design carpet, carbon-fibre door inlays and an illuminated gearshift knob.

Its semi-autonomous Pilot Assist is still one of the best not just in its class but also in the industry (except – again – for Tesla, of course). Once engaged, it will take over the steering, throttle and brakes while following the vehicle ahead in stop/start traffic or on roads with clearly painted lines.

What else do I get for my money?

Quite a lot actually.

Besides the 9.0-inch portrait-style touchscreen, you also get a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a head-up display, satellite navigation with voice control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, internet connectivity, a 10-speaker 330W sound system, 360-degree parking camera, power and heated front seats, four-zone climate control and Volvo’s trademark integrated child booster seat at the back.

Our tester also comes equipped with another $8,000 worth of options, bringing an even snazzier 19-speakers Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system, heated rear seats (outboards), sunblinds for the rear doors, active chassis with rear air suspension, and dashboard and door tops with colour-coordinated seams.

The striking ‘Bursting Blue’ exterior paint you see here is another $1,900.

On the safety front, the XC90 is brimming with safety technologies. This includes the brand’s City Safety consists of vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist mitigation and auto braking, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, rear collision warning, lane departure warning, road sign recognition, understeer control, stability control, as well as trailer stability assist to mitigate fish-tailing.

How practical is it?

The XC90 is a genuine 7 seater with room for small adults in the 3rd row. Entry and egress to the last row is always going to be rather awkward for a five-door SUV compared to a people mover with practical sliding doors but the large rear doors in conjunction with the slide-able 2nd-row means it’s easier than it looks.

Once inside, the airy cabin ensures all passengers feel comfortable with aircon vents for all three rows powered by a four-zone climate control system. Headroom is excellent in the first two rows, while adequate in the 3rd. It’s the same story for legroom even for taller passengers.

However, for such a vast cabin, storage options could be better. While there are cupholders for all occupants (except for the centre occupant in the middle-row), the door pockets are relatively small especially in the 2nd-row.

Up front, the glove box and centre storage under the armrest are also on the smaller side, but you do get two USB ports within it. There are three 12-volt power outlets throughout the cabin – one in front, which doubles as a cigarette lighter, one in the 2nd-row and another in the boot.

On the subject of the boot, it’s huge. There’s 314-litres with all seats up and 1,019-litres in 5-seats configuration. Dropping the middle-row will yield a whopping 1,868-litres.

On air suspension-equipped models such as ours, the XC90 will lower itself at the touch of a button to make loading easier.

How does it drive?

Rather effortlessly.

The twin charge means there is hardly any dead spot low down in the rev range. The XC90 is spritely from the get go and continues to muscle through all eight gears smoothly.

With 246kW of power from 6,000rpm and a stout 440Nm from 2,200-5,400rpm, the full-sized SUV is also more powerful than the X5 xDrive 35i and Jaguar F-Pace 30t, too.

While the R-Design is the sportiest of the range, the XC90 isn’t the most athletic large SUV on the market. For that, you’ll have to look at the Audi Q7 or BMW X5.

However, the optional air suspension does bring a level of agility to the big Volvo compared to the standard Touring suspension that I tested in the 2016 model. It feels more planted and slightly less floaty in Sport mode, yet looses none of its pothole ironing ability and ride comfort.

As before, its steering is still remote, especially on-centre but is relatively quick and direct for a large behemoth.

The cabin is well insulated from most of the outside world, making the XC90 Polestar a great long distance cruiser.

What are the running costs?

The XC90 is covered by a 3-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is comparable to other premium marques except for Lexus with its 4-year/100,000 warranty.

It needs a visit to the dealer every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.

Volvo offers two services programmes for the XC90, which has to be purchased prior to the first scheduled service:


  • $2,225 for three years or 45,000km
  • $3,500 for four years or 60,000km
  • $4,230 for five years or 75,000km

SmartCare Plus’:

  • $3,050 for three years or 45,000km
  • $5,350 for four years or 60,000km
  • $6,540 for five years or 75,000km

Volvo says the T6 Polestar should use just 8.5L/100km of fuel in a mix of urban and open roads but my average after around 400km of mainly city and suburban runs saw the trip computer reporting 14.0L/100km.


Design & Comfort


Performance & Handling






Equipment & Features




Our Score: 3.9/5

+ Plus

  • Still looks good inside and out
  • Excellent built quality
  • Potent and effortless twin-charged petrol
  • Genuine 7-seater


  • Small storage compartments
  • Remote steering


The Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design Polestar remains an excellent choice even after all these years. Its combination of styling, performance, comfort and safety is still as relevant today as it was when it first debuted.

With an even stronger value proposition now than before, the XC90 should be on the shopping list of those looking for a full-sized premium SUV.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design Polestar pricing and specification

Price (Excl. on-road costs):From: $104,900
As tested: $114,800
Tested options:

  • Premium Pack: Sunblind rear side doors, Bowers & Wilkins audio system, Headed rear seat, Active chassis with rear air suspension, Tailored dashboard and door top panels with colour-coordinated seams – $8,000
  • Metallic paint – $1,900
Warranty:3 years/unlimited kilometers
Warranty Customer Service:3 years roadside assist
Country of Origin:Sweden
Service Intervals:12 months/15,000km
Engine:2.0-litre supercharged and turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder direct-injected petrol:

246kW @ 6,000rpm, 440Nm @ 2,200-5,400rpm

Transmission:8-speed automatic
Drivetrain:All-wheel drive
Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):120.4
0-100km/h (seconds):Claimed: 6.4
Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):Claimed: 8.5 / Tested: 14.0
RON Rating:95
Fuel Capacity (L):71
Body:5-door SUV, 7 seats
  • 5-star ANCAP
  • 7 airbags
  • City Safety
  • Roll Stability Control
  • Understeer Control
  • Corner Traction Control
  • Trailer Stability Assist
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Hill Start Assist
  • Front and rear parking sensors with automatic parking
  • Reverse camera
  • Electronic Brake Light with flashing hazard warning
  • Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Collision Warning
  • Driver Alert Control
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Road Sign Information
  • Adaptive Cruis Control
  • Pilot Assist
  • Run-off road protection
  • Space saver spare wheel
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:4,950/2,008/1,776/2,984
Turning Circle Between Kerbs:11.8
Ground Clearance:238
Front overhang:887
Rear overhang:1,079
Tare Mass (kg):2,043
Boot Space (min/max) (L):314/1,868
Towing Capacity (kg):Braked: 2,400/Unbraked: 750
  • 9-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and voice control
  • 19-speakers, 1,400W, 12 channel, Class D amplifier Bowers & Wilkins sound system
  • AM/FM/DAB+
  • MP3
  • Bluetooth with audio streaming
  • 2x USB
  • AUX
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Competitors: Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lexus RX 450hL

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