When Volvo XC90 was first launched in 2002, of the three best selling premium seven seater SUVs in the world today (BMW X5, Mercedes GL Class, and Audi Q7), only the BMW X5 was on offer (since 1999). The other two came later in 2006 and 2005, respectively.
With larger reach, newer design and features on offer, Volvo XC90’s rivals flourished in several markets across the globe. But somehow, the same was not true for XC90. Not that first gen XC90 was an unsuccessful product, but it did not even come close to matching the laurels achieved by its German rivals.
Fast forward to 2014, Volvo Cars are now a subsidiary of China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. The new investments made in Volvo Cars has started showing results in the form of new engines and platforms. After launching the new V40 hatchback in 2012, their most affordable and smallest car till date, Volvo launched the completely new XC90, their most advanced and expensive car till date.
We head to the quaint little village of Shillim, on the outskirts of Lonavala, to test drive the new Volvo SUV, which the company claims to be the most advanced, safest and environmentally friendly product in the segment today.
The old XC90 was badly in need of a makeover. Not only it looked outdated, but it also failed to have a premium appeal. But, that was the old gen. The new Volvo XC90 not only looks more premium, but also looks much younger and SUV-ish.
Second gen XC90 carries a new design language which will also be embodied on the entire Volvo line-up in the coming years.
Highlighting the front design is the new chrome grille with multiple vertical slats and a huge Volvo logo at the centre. Accentuating the grille, on the sides are Thor’s hammer shaped LED headlamps. This gives the SUV an impressive road presence.
As Volvo puts it, the car is designed for those who don’t want to shout about their arrival, but still get noticed – the XC90 does that perfectly well.
Adding to the tall stance of XC90 in the front are rectangular air dams on either side with chrome surrounds and a well contoured lower bumper. Moving to the side, you notice the 20 inch 10 spoke alloys wrapped around Michelin rubber well-housed under bold wheel arches. The shoulder line emerging from the bonnet and extending all the way to the tail lamps gives the XC90 a strong character.
At the rear, roof spoiler with integrated stop light, large windscreen, trademark taillight design, horizontal flown lines on the tailgate, silver skid plates and twin exhausts complement the XC90’s premium SUV looks. Overall, the new XC90 is a visually well balanced luxury SUV.
Compared to the old XC90, the interiors of new XC90 are completely different. The dashboard for example, there is no way you can relate the new XC90’s dashboard to the old one, if it wasn’t for the Volvo badge on the steering wheel. Right from the steering wheel design to seats, everything inside the new XC90 is new.
Volvo XC90 interiors have been completely designed keeping in mind the needs of its occupants. The dashboard is no longer infested with buttons as was the case in old XC90. This has been done because today’s generation is more used to a touchscreen, and thus there is a 9 inch touchscreen.
From this screen, you can control almost every feature of the car.
The dashboard is upholstered in leather, and so are the seats and doors. To keep the interiors classy, there is actual wood veneer on the dashboard and door panels.
Speaking about seats and headrests, these are designed by doctors, and not engineers. Why doctors? Volvo says that they know better than others what is the right seating posture – while giving utmost comfort and safety. So the seats on-board XC90 are not only plush and premium to look at, but also have contours and cushioning at the right places to offer you safety as well as comfort.
There is enough space inside the cabin. The first and second row seats get enough room, allowing you to travel in luxury. The third row gets two independent seats. Though they can easily accommodate two tall passengers, it is a bit difficult for them to travel in same style and luxury as the passengers in front two rows.
Air vents on all three rows help the cabin acclimatize in fastest possible time to the desired temperature. Second row passengers have touchscreen controlled air vents, while the third row passengers get no controls to their vents. Apart from air vents, all three rows get 12V charging ports, while all seven passengers get their own individual cup holders.
Volvo XC90 offers a decent 451 liters of boot space with all seven seats up. Folding one of the rear seats, increases boot volume to 671 liters. Fold the entire third row, and boot space increases to 1,102 litres. Fold the second row, to have a space of 1,951 liters. Under the boot floor, you will also find a temporary spare tyre, tools and first-aid kit.
Overall, we did find the cabin a very luxurious and comfortable. The front seats somehow were a little robotic and failed to offer as much comfort as the second row seats.
The highlight of the long list of features on board the new XC90 is its Bowers and Wilkins music system. This system has been developed specially for the XC90. It features a 12-channel amplifier, 1400W output, 19 speakers placed ergonomically inside the cabin. Without any doubt, it provides the best music experience we have had inside a car. Unfortunately, the Bowers and Wilkins system is on offer only with the Inscription trim, which is priced at INR 77.9 lakh, ex-showroom.
The other impressive feature on-board the XC90 is the touchscreen. Powered by an ultra-fast processor and an equally impressive software, this touchscreen lets you access the multiple features of the car with ease.
The home-screen is divided into four – on the top is Navigation, below it is Media/Radio, then is your connected Phone, and last is Sound System controls. At the bottom of this, is AC controls.
Other features include panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, 12 inch head-up display, four zone climate control, Bluetooth or WiFi tethering, AUX- and USB-ports, steering mounted controls with voice command, CleanZone interior air quality system, Park Assist Pilot to automatically park the car (perpendicular or parallel), and much more.
Volvo envisions that no individual travelling inside their car should die, or get seriously injured by 2020. While they continuously have been working towards making this vision a reality, their work done till date in this direction can be seen already on board the new XC90.
Known for making safest passenger cars, Volvo has equipped the XC90 with the most advanced of safety features. It’s built on an intelligent structure, which is not only light, but also rigid. Inside the cabin, you not only feel cocooned in luxury, but also in a shell which will keep you away from any harm.
Safety features on offer include airbags, ESC, ABS, Roll Stability Control, Driver Alert Control, Road Sign Information, Speed Limiter, Safety cage, Safety belts with reminders and pretensioners for all seats, Prepared front safety belts, Run-off road protection, Brake pedal release, Whiplash Injury Protection System.
There are also innovative safety features which requires using RADAR. As the government of India banned the usage of RADAR frequencies in passenger vehicles, these features are deactivated for now. Now that the government has de-licensed select ultra low frequency bands, we could see Volvo introduce them in the future. Below is a brief video, explaining one of the new innovative feature on offer with the XC90.
Engine, Transmission, and Mileage
Surprisingly, for a huge seven seater luxury SUV, the only engine option on offer is a 2.0 liter diesel turbocharged four cylinder engine. Though small, this engine packs enough punch to move the over-two-tonne mammoth around quite comfortably, even when fully loaded.
The 1969 cc engine on board the Volvo XC90 on offer in India delivers 225 hp at 4250 rpm and a peak torque of 470 Nm in the range of 1750 – 2500 rpm. Via an automatic 8 speed gearbox, this power is transmitted to all four wheels by Volvo’s smart AWD system.
Depending on the drive mode you are in, the engine, gearbox, steering wheel, and suspensions tune itself. For eg, if you are in the Comfort mode, the air suspensions on all four wheels are in a relaxed position, so are the other three. This mode is best suited when you are being chauffeured around, or are on a relaxed outing.
In the Dynamic mode, your ground clearance gets lowered by 20mm, suspension setup gets stiffened, steering becomes more responsive and heavy, and throttle responses are sharper. You will also notice that the engine idling rpm also increases in this mode. This mode is best suited when you are in the mood to take on the smooth tarmac and twisties.
The off-road mode prepares the car by raising ground clearance by 40 mm, tunes the suspension and steering accordingly, and in addition, also prepares the AWD system to send more torque to the wheel which has the most traction.
Claiming to deliver 15 kmpl, we managed to extract a decent 11 kmpl during our test drive of over 300 kms in the new XC90. In regular driving conditions, the car should deliver 12-13 kmpl which is impressive given its size and weight.
Drive and Handling
Though the engine is quite punchy and responsive, when it comes to power delivery, it does not feel effortless. It delivers, but feels overworked. This we guess is mostly due to the small 2.0 liter motor.
While overtaking, or when you need that sudden boost in power, you do wish that there were paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. Even in Dynamic mode, the downshifts are not as fast as you would want them to be.
But, that could be because we are made to feel that way. The car does pick-up speed well and in no time you have crossed the three digit mark on the speedo.
The large front and rear track in addition to the 218 mm ground clearance, helps XC90 gobble surprisingly large bumps and potholes with ease.
The ride quality, be it bad roads, no roads, or smooth tarmac, is fantastic. The airmatic suspension units work in tandem to offer you the best comfort on board a seven seater which is on offer in India currently.
When taking on the twisties, the XC90 comfortably holds its ground, and the traction is hardly lost. Even with this size and structure, the body roll is minimum. The new steering system on-board the XC90 makes the car feel very nimble to drive.
When we were driving the car, it was pouring. Noise due to bad roads coupled with sound of raindrops splashing didn’t upset the XC90’s calm cabin.
Sold only as CBU, Volvo XC90 is priced rather aggressively for the amount of features it is loaded with. This, coupled with best in class package of safety, comfort, and luxury, makes the XC90 a step ahead of rivals on many fronts.
If you are looking to buy a luxury seven seater SUV, Volvo XC90 should be at the top of your list.