Monsoons are usually a good and a bad time for drives. While the locations are scenic as they can get, shooting is where the challenge lies. So when we were told that we would be driving the new XC90 amidst heavy rains we were happy and anxious at the same time. Coming to the vehicle, the XC90 since its inception hasn’t really been the perfect subject to be in front of the camera thanks to its squarish slab sided design which was functional at best but pretty boring to look at. While the informed bunch knew what they were getting into before buying a Volvo, the herd mentality bunch (which make up for the bulk of buyers) headed towards the more fancy looking competition.
Volvo has decided to change that. While its other products like the S60 and the XC60 have revolutionised the way Volvo’s looks, it was now the XC90’s turn.
The new design is something that Volvo has got spot on. Usually sharing a cars image on any social media platforms evokes mixed reactions, the XC90 got all positive responses. That pretty much explains how hard Volvo has worked on the design.
The new car carries the company’s new more prominent iron mark, which has the iconic arrow elegantly aligned with the diagonal slash across the grille. Together with the T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” DRL lights, the iron mark introduces an entirely new, distinctive and confident face.
The XC90’s larger bonnet with its new topography, the beltline and the sharpened shoulders connecting with the tattoo-like, new rear lights are other important design signatures that really stand out.
The 20-inch 10-spoke silver diamond cut alloys look fabulous too and really add to the look of the car. As far as the design is concerned, the sinister looking XC90 has been renamed by us as the Sexy90, yes we really loved the way it looks!
The good bits don’t just end on the outside. Volvo has carried it to the insides as well. The first thing you notice is the tablet-like touch screen control console, which forms the heart of an all-new in-car control system. This system is virtually button free and represents an entirely new way for drivers to control their car and access a range of Internet-based products and services. The home screen is horizontally divided into four zones: Navigation, Music, Phone and Sound Experience. Each of these tabs can be expanded by simply touching it. It also helps create an interior that is modern, spacious and uncluttered.
And needless to say, everything reeks top notch quality. For example, the gear lever is made of crystal glass from Orrefors, the famous Swedish glassmaker, and diamond-cut controls for the start/stop button and volume control.
Space has been taken care of as well. The XC90 calls itself a genuine 7-seater thanks to the innovatively designed seats that also free up interior space for passengers both in the second and third seat rows. The third row offers class-leading comfort for two passengers up to 170 cm tall.
Another thing that Volvo was really proud of was the audio system. Volvo Cars audio experts joined forces with their counterparts at the renowned British audio equipment company Bowers & Wilkins and came up with a 1,400 Watt Class D amplifier and 19 Bowers & Wilkins speakers. It also includes one of the first air-ventilated subwoofers in a car. While that might read great, but frankly we found the unit to be good and not as mind-blowing as the specs reveal. What we were also surprised to see was a manual adjustment for the steering wheel in this segment and cost.
Other than that, you probably won’t find anything lacking the new XC90. The leather feels great, you have a huge panoramic roof, and the car even lowers itself as much as 50mm when you open the boot to load the luggage. Pretty neat!
One cannot not talk about safety when you are talking about a Volvo. The new XC90 apart from the standard airbags and stuff also comes with two world first safety technologies: a run-off road protection package and auto brake at intersection capability.
In a run-off road scenario, the all-new Volvo XC90 detects what is happening and the front safety belts are tightened to keep the occupants in position. To help prevent spine injuries, energy-absorbing functionality between the seat and seat frame cushions the vertical forces that can arise when the car encounters a hard landing in the terrain.
The XC90 is the first car in the world with technology that features automatic braking if the driver turns in front of an oncoming car. This is a common scenario at busy city crossings as well as on highways, where the speed limits are higher.
Volvo has decided not to plonk in the bid daddy V8’s and surprisingly not even a V6. The XC90 instead is powered by a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder diesel unit that pushes out 225 PS and 470 Nm of torque. Now this might look impressive on its own. But when you compare it to its direct competition the Audi Q7 35 TDI which belts out over 240 PS and a humongous 550 Nm, of torque , it does seem to fall a tad short on numbers. What is impressive though is that the Audi is a V6 and the XC90 figures are quite decent for a 4 pot engine.
On the road, the XC90 feels quite adept at in-town speeds or cruising at 3 digit speeds. What it does not like though is the throttle used with urgency. The 8-speed gearbox is decently quick to react but the 2 tonne vehicle does not feel as brisk as the competition. While the XC90 is not slow in anyway especially since most of the driving will be handled by chauffer’s, we could have done with a tad more grunt. The 4-cylinder mill also felt slightly noisier especially when we were driving around the ghats of lonavla in the lower gears. A full review will tell us how close or far the XC90 really is when you pit it against the competition.
We have loved the way Volvo’s ride and did not expect anything lesser from the new XC90. The new car comes with air suspension on all four wheels and along with various electronic assists constantly adjusts to changing road conditions. With 4 modes to choose from you can pretty much use the XC90 is every possible condition.
In comfort mode which is also the default mode, the suspension is tuned for maximum comport, eco mode optimises settings for low fuel conditions. Dynamic mode lowers the car by 20mm at higher speeds thereby aiding aerodynamics. Off-road mode on the other hand raises the car by a whopping 40 mm to tackle off-beat terrains.
While we did not get to try all the modes, we did use comfort and off-road mode. Talking about ride quality is comfort mode, it’s not exactly plush and the Volvo is sprung slightly on the stiffer side. While smooth undulations are taken care off without a bother, the sharp ones do make you cringe should you decide to not slow down and just rumble over them. This could be thanks to the 20 inch 45 profile tyres. We think the 19 inch tyres with a slightly higher profile will soak in bumps a lot better.
Handling was something we were quite impressed with. The XC90 even when thrown a set of corners goes quite flat around it without scaring you with huge amounts of body roll which can be expected from these behemoths. Dynamic mode will give you even more confidence should you really be in a mood to flog the XC90. The AWD system along with those massive tyres really grip the road inspiring you to push harder than you normally would.
The new XC90 is leagues ahead of what its predecessor was and now aims to be ahead of the competition as well. It’s got the looks, it’s got the presence and it’s got luxury that’s right up there with the best and dare we say, it’s even better in some areas. The Volvo will go head on against the likes of the Audi Q7, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the BMW X5. While it has the goods to well against its established rivals, what we would like to see is more Volvo showrooms and service centres. A luxury brand needs to be known and more importantly be seen to tell customers what it’s all about. Volvo has been playing the silent game for far too long now and now that it has the products to boast its needs to get a little more aggressive. At 77.9 lakh ex-showroom for the fully loaded D5 Inscription variant that you see here, the Volvo is priced pretty much on par with the competition. What remains to be seen is how Volvo can make the XC90 a winner in sales, considering it’s already a winner as a product!