Many times, the phrase ‘all-new’ tends to lend itself to current cars that we’d normally call refreshed or updated – new face, old body. This is not one of those times.
Rather, this is the truly all-new 2015 Volvo XC90 – the product of 3 years of development, $11 billion invested, and the striking new direction for Sweden’s heritage automaker. The result is monumental.
Inside and out, the car screams luxury, despite a rather reasonable price of $48,000 for well-equipped models. Sure, that’s not Honda Civic money, but you’re getting quite the bang for your buck. Summed up into four Scandinavian pillars, the XC90 debuts an all-new backbone, state-of-the-art powertrains, world-leading safety, and a unique luxury experience.
The XC90 heralds Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), a chassis design destined to underpin the glut of the Volvo range, which has been engineered for lower development costs, high user functionality, and versatility under different models. Thanks to SPA and clever packaging by Volvo wizards in Gothenburg, Sweden, the new car weighs in at 200 pounds less than its predecessor and is claimed to be 440 pounds lighter than its German counterparts (X5 and Q7).
Powered by Volvo’s new Drive-E family of 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, the XC90 is capable of putting out high horsepower while retaining a light carbon footprint. The base T6 gasoline mill features a combination of supercharging and turbocharging to output 316-horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and can be optioned in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, as fed through an eight-speed automatic.
Volvo’s high-flying T8 trim does one better by adding an 80hp electric motor to the rear axle, creating the world’s first plug-in seven-seat hybrid SUV, one that casually produces around 400-horsepower nonetheless. Best of all, the Twin Engine T8 can scoot around on electric drive for 24 miles, perfect for keeping city-driving emission free. Peter Mertens, Volvo’s Senior Vice President of Research & Development takes great pride in the engine the company has developed.
“We have done a lot of sound engineering on the car to create a four-cylinder that has a proud sound and isn’t pretending to be something else," he said. "Yes, there will be V8 enthusiasts who will never buy anything less than a V8. That’s fine, we can live with that. They just won’t become our customers.”
That same sense of purpose and direction emanates from Volvo’s traditional selling point – safety. The new XC90 pioneers a swathe of innovative active and protective safety features such as vehicle run-off protection (reduces spine injuries in road-deviating crashes by one third), auto-braking systems that detect oncoming objects of all sizes (even in turns), as well as belt tensioners and side-curtain airbags at every seat.
You say overkill? Volvo says “nej!” By 2020, Volvo hopes to record zero fatalities in its new lineup of vehicles, hardly a small task. But performance and safety would be nothing if the XC90 weren’t a place you wanted to sit. It is. Up front, the XC90 wears a redesigned Volvo iron mark, complemented by the searing ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights. Toward the back, the SUV’s firm body lines lead to a rather sculptural rear haunch.
From sitting in the driver’s seat of a display car, the leather seats felt familiarly Volvo-soft. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the ornate crystal gear stick and a new infotainment system that is surrounded by fine wood trimming. No sacrifices indeed. The slick new Sensus touchscreen system, which is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, feels uncluttered and intuitive to operate. Everything is in its right place.
In speaking with Mertens once again, the onus of the XC90 was clear.
“We started from scratch, he said. "It’s a new architecture, it’s a new vehicle, it’s a new powertrain, it’s a new electrical system, it’s got new infotainment, and it’s built in a new plant. It is so important that it leads the new Volvo. It is the new Volvo.”
From vision to product, the 2015 XC90 is truly the car that Volvo has wanted and needed to build for years. It’s one of those rare cars – from a design and function point of view – that takes on every single battle and seemingly prevails on all fronts. Your move Germans.