All-new Volvo XC90 revealed
Twelve years is an eternity is automotive terms, but that's when the world first saw Volvo's XC90 - a model that would give the Scandinavian firm a whole new audience. Since 2002 it has proven to be quite a winning formula for Volvo so any reluctance to alter or change it was understandable, but now the time has come for an all-new XC90 to take over.
In many ways the new XC90 is every bit as striking in appearance as any of its German rivals yet the design team has managed to retain much of that 'Volvo-ness' that makes the brand's models almost instantly recognisable. The front end is dominated by a bold grille that confidently wears a restyled Volvo badge and almost dwarves the sleek, elegant LED headlight units. Higher-spec models will gain a metallic finish on the grille as well as additional fog lights in the lower corners of the front bumper. Despite some subtle contouring across the bonnet, the front design is a very simple, almost minimalistic affair.
This clean design work continues along the flanks of the XC90, which, aside from some chrome trim around the generous glass areas, is remarkably, well, plain. Not that this is a bad thing; in the overall design it works well. The C-pillar at the rear is relatively slender in comparison to other SUVs' on the market, made possible thanks to the high strength steel used in the construction of the chassis, and it should add to the widened field of vision. Following the contours of that C-pillar is a new interpretation of Volvo's highly recognisable rear lights.
At the rear of the new XC90 is a tailgate that features a wide aperture and a loading height that will ensure plenty of practicality in the real world. Its handle is discreetly hidden underneath a section just below the rear window, which once again ensures an uncluttered look for the new Volvo.
As nice as the exterior design of the new XV90 is, it is inside where Volvo has really excelled. It is concept-car-like in its appearance, mainly thanks to the apparent lack of buttons, which have given way to a large touchscreen system Volvo calls Sensus. In addition to the usual functionality it will offer Apple CarPlay enabling owners of iPhones (and iPads and iPods) to sync directly with the car and get a user interface that will be instantly familiar. Not to leave Android users out in the cold, Volvo will also integrate Android Auto with the Sensus system, which will provide access to a host of Google services including Google Search, Maps, and Play Music along with other apps such as Spotify.
The portrait layout of the screen effectively makes it the entire centre console and it is flanked on either side by the main air vents. One strip of controls are located below it while the gear selector is located between the front seats, as is the drive mode selection switch and the starter button, all of which are neatly designed and highly tactile. In fact, tactility was clearly one of the buzzwords when it came to designing the interior - the choice and quality of materials used throughout are top notch.
Space has also been thoroughly maximised in the new Volvo, which can now genuinely call itself a true seven-seater. The second row features three individually adjustable reclining seats, which also slide independently to give further legroom to the two rear-most seats in the third row. Although still designed more so as extra seats for shorter trips, the third row does fold flat into the boot floor and can also be specified to be operated electrically.
Under the bonnet
From an engineering perspective the big news comes in the form of the XC90 being the first application of Volvo's new SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform. Like many manufacturers now, this is a platform that will allow the firm to create a multitude of vehicles using a variety of different engines and powertrains.
The most popular engine is likely to be the D4 turbocharged diesel unit, which produces 190hp and 400Nm of torque while returning a quoted 56mpg on the combined cycle. For those wanting a little more performance, Volvo will also make the D5 engine available in the XC90. It puts out 225hp and 470Nm and despite the added performance still returns 47mpg. Some markets will get XC90s with engines capable of up to 400hp and 640Nm, but we'd expect those to be very much special order only here in Ireland.
What could prove more interesting is the 'T8' model that forms part of the Twin Engine range and consists of a two-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine that is both turbocharged and supercharged and powers the front wheels, while an 80hp electric motor drives the rear wheels. It is not yet clear if this PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) model will be available in Ireland.
Being a Volvo, naturally there is also a host of sophisticated safety systems on board this new XC90. Many of the new systems that will be available in the new model have been developed in places like the recently-opened AstaZero facility in Gothenburg and include technology that can automatically brake should the driver pull out of a junction towards an oncoming car. This falls under the 'City Safety' umbrella, which includes many collision avoidance systems as standard.
Other features include a pre-crash system that utilises rear facing radar that can detect if an impact is about to happen and instantaneously tightens the seat belts, applies the brakes and activates the rear lights in order to alert the driver behind.
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