The XC90 is Volvo’s new full-sized seven seater luxury SUV. An all-new version of what was once a bestseller for the brand globally, this new XC90 is also the first car off its new Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) and the first since the takeover by the Chinese company Geely. This new SPA platform uses a high content of hot-formed Boron steel which is stronger and lighter than other forms of steel. At 2,171kg, the SUV is lighter than its rivals.
Its styling is unmistakably Volvo; there is very little visual drama, and the XC90 looks like it has been carved out of a single big block. But this is not to say that the styling is bland, there are elements like the large grille with vertical slats that stand out, the new Iron Mark badge is larger and the ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED daytime running lights, yes that’s what Volvo calls it, give it plenty of presence. The 20-inch alloy wheels offset the bulk of the SUV neatly and the traditionally stacked tail-lamps, now shaped like an inverted question mark, lend the otherwise sedate rear some character.
Step inside and you see the judicious use of unveneered wood, leather and the uncluttered dashboard looks super impressive. The dash is designed in waves and looks just brilliant with deftly places bits of chrome. The infotainment system with the large nine-inch touchscreen has clear fonts and sharp graphics making it great to use – there are swipe and pinch functions just like on a smartphone! The luxury feel is further enhanced by the 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system that provides incredibly detailed and clear sound; one of the best systems we’ve experienced in a car, so far. There are certain areas like the sides of the centre console that could have been finished better, and there are no paddles for the gearbox, but the cabin is well made on the whole.
Visibility all-around is brilliant, and the cabin feels airy with the panoramic sunroof, large windscreen and windows. The large well-bolstered seats have been designed with help from orthopedic surgeons, and offer good support for passengers with large frames as well. The middle row seats are also comfortable but there might be a few grumbles, as the cushioning is a bit too firm, but its versatile 40:20:40 split will draw praise. We managed to sit an adult in the third row and it is perhaps one of the most usable third row in its segment with its tall roofline liberating sufficient headroom. But climbing into the back is a pain. However, the limited legroom limits, so it is best for short rides.
Volvo’s commitment to safety, however, is evident with the levels of safety equipment offered – there is a whole raft of it. There’s curtain airbag even for the third row. It has cleared the Euro NCAP test with full marks, pity, that some of the radar-based safety features have been taken off the list as it is banned in India. Nevertheless, it is still one of the safest cars money can buy.
What's it like to drive?
The D5 variant that we drove had a twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel motor producing 222bhp and 47.9kgm of torque; one of the modern engines from Volvo. There’s some diesel clatter heard inside the cabin at start up, but what impresses is the way this engine responds. It is very quick off the mark for a diesel motor and smoothens out as the revs rise. Volvo seems to have got the twin-turbo combination right as both the turbos work in perfect symphony to deliver the power without any hiccup. While a 2.0-litre diesel motor might seem a little less for a vehicle of this size, it is one of the most impressive four-cylinder diesel engines we have driven. It accelerates in a linear way, as the gearbox serves up power smoothly, but slam the pedal hard and the gearbox takes a pause before selecting the right gear for that moment. You can choose between four driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Off-Road and Dynamic. In Eco and Comfort, the engine maps are more suited to relaxed cruising, Off-Road mode raises the car by 40mm and also activates Hill Descent Control. Press Dynamic and the car lowers itself and the engine maps are aggressive with the gearshifts happening much later near the 4,600rpm redline. The Volvo on its air suspension also rides decently. There is a nice level of suppleness as you get up to speed and this works well for the most part.
However, what we didn’t like is the firm ride at low speeds, as the suspension crashes through some sharp-edged potholes. While some of this firmness might be because of the 20-inch wheels, the suspension in particular feels a bit tight-kneed. The handling is quite safe and predictable, body control is good in Dynamic mode and there is less of float that you would expect in a vehicle so big.
Should I buy it?
The XC90 is already off to a good start. Volvo’s Gothenburg plant in Sweden is running a third shift to cater to global demand and The brand has seen plenty of success here too. Volvo says it already has 266 pre-delivery bookings in India. The Swedish carmaker seems to have finally got it right with the XC90. As a package it is brilliant, and is competitively priced as well at Rs 77.90 lakh for the top-spec inscription trim.
As things stand, the XC90 offers a lot of bang for your buck, and as an overall package it seems to hold a lot of promise. The diesel engine is a delight, the interiors are probably the best seen on any luxury SUV, also the car is nice, easy and effortless to drive. The cabin has a modern air to it and the Inscription version offers quite a decent value too; especially considering the equipment on offer.
Yes, the ride is a bit stiff-kneed at low speeds, the gearbox can be slow and getting in and out of the third row needs plenty of contortions, but the new Volvo XC90 is a breath of fresh air and a hugely capable luxury SUV you should seriously consider, if you are in the market for one.