Heralds a new beginning for Volvo Cars.
When Volvo introduced the first XC90 in 2002, it was, oddly, a successful product for the Swedish company that found interest among middle-aged customers. Volvo's famous focus on occupant safety and tough Scandinavian build quality, coupled with the XC90's great practicality made it a compelling choice for its target audience.
Fast forward ten years later, and Volvo were still selling the first generation XC90, albeit in its mildly facelifted guise introduced in 2007. However, in a segment that was dominated by more refined and well-equipped options like the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes GL, the Volvo XC90 started to feel long in the tooth.
Geely's acquisition of Volvo from Ford proved to be a blessing for the Swedish company, rather than a bane as many people would have thought. The fresh investments that came from the Chinese company got Volvo to work on an all new platform and engine family from scratch.
And the first model to benefit from Volvo's latest innovations is the second generation 2015 Volvo XC90. It represents a new beginning for Volvo Cars; debuting new innovations in design, safety and technology.
On paper, the new XC90 has what it takes to redefine the luxury and safety standards in its segment. So we travelled to the picturesque village of Shillim, Pune to find out whether it actually does...
Exterior Design and Features
The new Volvo XC90 debuts the company's latest design language that will influence all next generation Volvos. It was first previewed by the Volvo Coupe Concept in 2013, followed by few other concepts, before it filtered down to the 2015 XC90.
To put it briefly, the exterior design of the 2015 Volvo XC90 is sublime.
It represents a revolutionary step ahead from the aged and uninspiring design of the previous XC90, and has a commanding road presence that is unseen in any Volvos of the past. While the older model appeared like a normal family SUV with a costly price tag, the new XC90 looks much more expensive than it actually is.
The 2015 XC90 measures 4950 mm in length, 2008 mm in width and 1,776 mm in height and has a wheelbase of 2984 mm. Putting the old and new models together, it's instantly clear that the 2015 XC90 has grown in size, which complements its presence and interior space.
One of the few major highlights of the front-end are its headlights, which is fitted with Volvo's LED Lighting and a "Hammer of Thor" LED DRLs. They look uniquely cool, and its beam illumination offers great visibility ahead, instilling confidence when driving over unlit roads during a pitch black night.
The headlights flank a large grille that features contrasting silver vertical slats and the iconic ironmark. Beneath the grille is a sporty-looking bumper with a silver skid plate, and a pair of fog lamps tucked in the lower portion. The bumper has a good angle of approach, leaving it unscathed while traversing over off-road trails.
The XC90 Inscription rides on standard multi-spoke 20 inch alloy wheels shod with 275/40 R20 tires, which are the largest set of wheels one can get for its price in the segment. Running across the lower portion of the side profile is a bold chrome bar with "Inscription" embossed.
Characteristic of Volvo's modern design language is the muscular shoulder line that contributes to the XC90's strong road presence. It also has a relatively large greenhouse for an airy cabin feel. The ORVMs are big enough for a good view behind, and has turn indicators integrated into them.
Rounding up the exterior of the new Volvo XC90 is its rear-end. The tall vertical taillights look nearly similar to its predecessor, but is more angular and has a nice LED cluster design in it. It loses the split tailgate design of the previous XC90 for a single and well-sculpted piece, with the "Volvo" lettering neatly arranged across.
The lower fascia sports a contrasting silver bumper guard with dual exhaust outlets that hide a quartet of tailpipes.
Interior Design and Build Quality
Although Volvo's older interior designs aren't pleasing to the eye, their tough Scandinavian build quality cannot be faulted with. Almost every model that I have experienced, right from the compact Volvo S40 to the latest Volvo XC60, had interiors that were well screwed together and felt solid, but weren't so great to look at.
For the 2015 Volvo XC90, the company decided to trash their interior design reference guide to come up with a new one that raises the standards to levels uncharted by Volvo.
Upon first glance, the interior looks nowhere near close to the dreary, button-infested dashboard of the previous XC90 (or any Volvo as such). It debuts the company's latest interior design that focuses on opulent luxury for each occupant across all three rows.
Since most of the interior functions are integrated in the large touchscreen display, designers have kept the dashboard clean and simple. However, for the audio system and other important features, they have retained a set of buttons, which are diamond-cut and neatly arranged underneath the display.
As for build quality, it's so good that I would actually look forward to touching the interior every time I step into the car. The Inscription trim comes with real wood veneer on the dashboard, center console and door panels which, combined with the two-tone Nappa leather upholstery and silver accents, offers an interior that can rival super luxury SUVs costing crores.
Volvo has also incorporated many little details in the interior that can be acknowledged by the most discerning of customers. One such instance is the seatbelt buckle clip, which has "Since 1959" embossed. For readers who aren't aware of what that stands for, it's the year Volvo invented the 3-point seat belt - a passive safety feature that is now mandatory on all vehicles. Another little detail is on the driver's seat, which has a tiny Swedish flag to highlight the brand's proud country of origin.
The Nappa leather seats feel supple and well-contoured to support the back and side of your body. For a precise seating position, the front passenger and driver seats are power adjustable, including a separate setting for altering the lumbar support and body-hugging bolsters.
The second row seats are relatively comfortable for adults and has generous headroom/legroom, thanks to the manual sliding and reclining functions. A unique feature in the XC90 is the middle seat, which is integrated with a child booster cushion, so that kids can also sit high for a better view outside.
The seats recline front, and slide for access to the third row. The two foldable seats at the back are equally comfortable and can accommodate passengers below the height of 170 cm.
Folding the third row seats flat leave a cavernous 671 liters of usable boot volume. If that's not enough, fold down the second row seats for access to 1950 liters of storage volume. Safe to say that Volvo hasn't skimped on practicality - an aspect that made the first XC90 successful.
To complement its simple interior design and superior build quality, Volvo has equipped the XC90 with a brimming list of equipment, as you shall see right below.
Like most luxury SUVs in the segment, the XC90 comes with keyless entry and an interesting start mechanism. Unlike the regular start/stop button on the dashboard, the Volvo XC90 comes with a twisting Start/stop dial on the floor console, which is a unique and hassle-free approach to the traditional twisting key start.
Also unique to the XC90 is its key fob. It is wrapped in the same leather as its seats, and has chrome-finished buttons integrated on the side. While it does resemble a premium cigarette lighter, the XC90's key fob looks quite attractive when placed on a table, and imparts the impression that you're driving something expensive.
The highlight of the interior is Volvo's 9 inch Sensus infotainment touchscreen, which takes up most of the space in the center console. It is angled towards the driver, and can have tech geeks swoon with what it has to offer. This is the first time that Volvo has equipped a touchscreen display, and we reckon it's their best attempt at an infotainment system so far.
The display is designed nearly like an iPad mini, where you have a large high resolution touchcreen with a home button in the lower portion. The Sensus software is easy to navigate around, and has minimal lags when jumping from one feature to the other; making it one of the best infotainment systems we have ever tested.
The four-zone automatic HVAC (Heating,ventilation and air conditioning) system is now controlled through the touch display, while the second row seats have a separate touch-sensitive display on the floor console. In my opinion, the integration of the HVAC system in the display lends a cleaner look to the center console, although it may take a while to get used to adjusting the AC while driving.
One of the new XC90's headline features is its astounding 1400W Bowers and Wilkins audio system. Available only in the Inscription trim, it comes with 14 speakers placed across the entire cabin. Playing one of Hans Zimmer's soundtracks through the system was a treat to the ears, and its playback can be adjusted via the onboard equalizer with an array of pre-set modes.
The driver is greeted with a 12 inch anti-glare instrument screen that displays normal instrument dials as well as fuel efficiency data, vehicle warnings and a section of the map route in cool 3D graphics. Driver's can select between a variety of themes for personalization, such as "Glass", "Performance" and "Chrome Rings".
Also fitted in the Inscription variant is the Head Up Display, which projects the speed and map directions in the driver's field of view. In our experience, the Head Up Display didn't obstruct road visibility, although its use never came in handy.
The roof has a large panoramic glass roof that further contributes to the airy feeling inside the XC90. However, should you wish to reduce the intensity of sunlight entering the rear cabin, the second row windows come with manual sun-blinds on the upper door panels.
Another interesting feature that the XC90 comes equipped with is a unique kneeling mechanism for the tailgate. With the air suspension system, it tilts the rear-end towards the ground, so that its easier to load heavy items into the boot volume. Who would've thought of that?!
Engine, Gearbox and Driving Characteristics
In an interesting experiment, I asked several of my friends to guess what type of engine could be powering the new XC90. While more than half of the people guessed it to be a V6 engine, few of them bravely stated "V8". It's not surprising, given that the XC90's sizing hints at a big engine under the hood.
But you'll be surprised to know that the only range of engines available are Volvo's new 2.0-liter four cylinder Drive-E options.
Yes, you read that right!
Before you start berating Volvo's choice of engine from behind the screen, do note that the T6 AWD produces 316 hp at 5700 rpm and 400 Nm between 2200 - 5400 rpm from a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter engine. For comparison sake, it is slightly more powerful than the BMW X5 xDrive 35i with a twin turbo inline-six.
If that's not enough, the range topping T8 "Twin Engine" Hybrid is also available, delivering 407 hp and 640 Nm of torque. It offers the performance of a much bigger engine, while being as fuel efficient as a four-cylinder engine. This was what Volvo had in mind when they decided on the engine lineup.
Sadly, the Indian market will not be getting any of the above petrol variants. Being a country that is biased towards diesel-powered cars, Volvo decided to only introduce the D5 diesel variant in India.
The XC90 D5 packs a 2.0-liter four cylinder twin turbo engine, which produces 225 hp at 4250 rpm and 470 Nm of torque between 1,750 - 2,500 rpm. It is paired to an 8-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
The engine has a smooth torque delivery across the rev range, and has minimal turbo lag at the lower-end. Thanks to its impressive serving weight of 2005 kg, the engine doesn't feel strained when your foot is mashed on the pedal.
While it can hit triple-digit speeds without breaking a sweat, you do get an impression that the XC90 doesn't like to be driven hard. Selecting "Dynamic" in the Drive Mode does help to a certain extent, which keeps the revs high and tunes the throttle response to a slightly sharper setting.
Yet, the XC90 is still not an exciting SUV to drive.
However, it was never meant to register quick acceleration figures or plunder a race track. It appeals to customers who simply ought to get from one place to another in the most comfortable and least theatrical way possible, in which the XC90 exceeds brilliantly.
Besides, if the engine note is not sweet to the ears, you have the amazing Bowers and Wilkins sound system to cover that up.
Ride Quality, Steering and Braking
The 2015 Volvo XC90 features an air suspension system as standard with Four-C Chassis. Selecting "Comfort" in the Drive Mode selector tunes the air suspension to its most comfortable setting. After driving a considerable number of kilometers in Comfort mode, I found the ride quality to be pleasant over smooth roads.
However, the large 20 inch rims slightly hampered its ride quality when driven over badly paved roads. Small thuds can be felt inside the cabin, which had me constantly check whether it was in its most comfortable setting or not. That being said, the XC90's suspension system does dampen most of the jerks, and offers a forgivable ride quality over bad roads.
If the roads start to get worse, the XC90 offers an "Off-Road mode" for the first time, which raises the ground clearance by 40 mm. It also activates Hill Descent, and tunes the system to send more torque to the desired wheel. I found the XC90 to be a capable off-roader over wet mud and rocky trails, although the latter can be a bit unnerving with the 20 inch rims.
As for handling, the XC90 aces in this department. Setting into the Dynamic mode lowers the SUV by 20 mm and stiffens the suspension system. When being thrown around a corner, the XC90 exhibits very minimal roll, which is quite remarkable for something that weighs just over 2 tonnes. Thanks to the AWD system with sophisticated stability and traction controls, the XC90 always keeps itself in line around the nastiest of curves.
The electric steering system feels light to turn in slow-moving traffic, although there is barely any steering feedback around corners. In Dynamic mode, the system adds slightly more weight to the steering wheel, although it still feels a bit too artificial. Like the XC90's powertrain, the steering is also tuned for smooth and effortless drivability.
Stopping power comes from a sizeable pair of ventilated disc brakes in all four corners, which are supplemented by the onboard ABS with EBD (electronic brake force distribution). The brake pedal feel is spot on; as the pedal is applied, it linearly distributes brake force to all four discs, making it predictable and adds confidence to push the car harder.
This is an aspect where Volvo always trumps its rivals. However, since the Indian government has banned the usage of radar operating in certain frequencies, some of the innovative active safety features have been temporarily deactivated until the ban is lifted.
Regardless, the XC90 offers a bevy of safety features, including the world's first "Run-off Road protection". When you lose control in the XC90 (which is quite hard to do so), and fall into a rough off road terrain, it keeps the occupant in an upright posture by tightening the seat belt in an hundredth of a second.
To prevent spinal injuries, the impact of crashing down the rough surface is absorbed by an element between the seat and seat frame. It gets deformed, and can be replaced with a new one at the service center.
Standard safety features offered for Indian-spec models include, 7 airbags, whiplash protection for the front seats, seat belt pre-tensioners for front and rear seats, and ABS with EBD.
The 2015 Volvo XC90 was launched in May 12, 2015, at the following prices (ex-Showroom, Mumbai, pre-Octroi):
- 2015 Volvo XC90 Momentum Luxury: INR 64.9 lakhs
- 2015 Volvo XC90 Inscription Luxury: INR 77.9 lakhs
For a car that is imported into the country via the CBU route, the Volvo XC90's pricing is, surprisingly, close to its locally assembled rivals.
Volvo has recently announced that they have received 266 pre-orders for the new XC90, of which all are for the top-end XC90 Inscription variant. That's an impressive feat for the company, given that most of them have not seen the new model, let alone test drive one.
The Volvo XC90 was one of the few SUVs that I was looking forward to drive, ever since we covered the first spyshots and reports. With fresh investment backing from Geely, the new XC90 heralds a new beginning for Volvo Cars.
To put it briefly, the 2015 XC90 is an impressive SUV that puts Volvo in the right direction. Sure, it may not be a fun thing to drive, but that's not what the XC90 was designed for. Besides, if it's outright performance that you're after, lookout for the XC90 Polestar variant, which could arrive in 2016.
The all new Volvo XC90 has the looks to turn heads, the interior to impress, the features to swoon at, and a refined chassis for a luxurious and smooth drive. I would recommend the new XC90 to people looking for a good, chauffeur-driven SUV, which can also serve as a great getaway car for the entire family, thanks to its robust practicality.
I see why customers who pre-ordered the 2015 XC90 decided to take the plunge...