The Swedes don’t know luxury in the American sense.Well, to put in a better way it is basically dependent on the culture and the upbringing environment. The idea of luxury may differ from Country to Country and Culture to Culture and it is pretty understandable. Scandinavian culture shuns overt displays of wealth and indulgent lifestyles. The impressions of their ‘ down to earth’ and humble attitude is so prevalent that you can almost come across it in day to day interactions, regular path crossing, language used, products so on and so forth. To encapsulate, Swedes would be nothing but for their selfless attitude and omnipotent benevolence. The notion of modesty and humility is so engrained in Swedish society that there’s a word, Jantelagen, to describe the scorn reserved for those who flaunt personal success. Of course, a $55,000, seven-passenger luxury crossover is hardly the people’s car. But relative to the status and image that come standard with a German SUV, the self-conscious Swedish influence makes the 2016 Volvo XC90 as humble as they come in this segment.
If nothing else, the Swedish way of thinking creates a luxury crossover that’s pleasingly, intriguingly different from anything the German competition sells. the Volkswagen’s, Audi’s, BMW’s and all the major powerhouses of the automotive industry come along with the similar kind of brochures. There is not much difference in what they would have to offer in terms of technology, style and performance. They could be easily gauged into a single cast. However, when we talk about Volvo, it brings along with it an entire new dimension and a sense of freshness. The offerings they have in sections like style and technology are vastly different from the regular off the shelf attributes. Is it for the better or is it for the worse, that is totally dependent on the end user and the consumer. All we can say is that it is definitely novel. The XC90’s engine fires to life with the twist of a knob rather than the press of a button. Volvo’s new Sensus infotainment system eschews an iDrive-like control knob for a vertically oriented touch screen that’s as close as it gets to factory-installing an iPad in the dashboard without being sued by Apple (or buying a Tesla Model S). There’s an Off-Road setting in the drive selector, but Volvo buyers are more likely to be interested in the company’s “Run-off Road Protection” crash test, which highlights the new “Safe Positioning” function by pulling the vehicle down into a drainage ditch before launching it airborne off the embankment of an intersecting driveway.
Volvo’s new Drive-E engine family tops out with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which isn’t much motor when you consider that the XC90 weighs between 4600 and 5200 pounds. To make two liters feel like three and a half, a turbocharger and a supercharger inflate the so-called T6 engine’s peak power and low-end responsiveness for a total output of 316 horsepower and a zero-to-60 run in the low six seconds. Married to a polished eight-speed automatic and standard all-wheel drive, the T6 delivers the no-drama, easygoing authority that you’d expect from a brand that’s more closely aligned with comfort than sport.
The only shortcomings are the same ones that plague all modern, boost-dependent engines with an abundance of gear ratios. There’s no in-gear passing power, so even modest acceleration starts with a pause as the gearbox shifts down and boost builds. Pressure chargers also make for thirsty engines, and the indicated 17-mpg average seen during our test drive is likely closer to an owner’s reality than Volvo’s claim that the XC90 will deliver best-in-class fuel economy when the EPA numbers come in.
The uplevel T8 Twin Engine is the no-compromise upgrade that allows you to have your fuel and burn it, too, assuming the estimated $5000 premium doesn’t compromise your ability to make the payments. This plug-in hybrid makes 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque and earns a 59-MPGe combined rating from the EPA.
The T8 uses the same dual-boost four-cylinder as the T6 but removes the driveshaft connecting the front and rear axles so the central tunnel can accommodate a 9.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. An 80-hp electric motor at the rear returns all-wheel-drive capability, while a smaller electric machine between the transmission and the block starts the engine, captures electricity during braking, and provides additional power during acceleration. A full battery charge should deliver about 20 miles of pure electric driving range. In our hands, the XC90 T8 reported an average of 27 mpg over a 90-mile drive that began with a full battery.
The electric motors smooth power delivery and enliven off-idle response compared with the gas-only T6. The T8 offers extra dollops of everything you want in a range-topping engine: refinement, power, and efficiency. The downside of this through-the-road hybrid system is that the engine’s 295 lb-ft of torque (plus that of the small front motor) is routed entirely through the front wheels. Goosing the throttle from a standstill invokes a slight wiggle of torque steer and a subtle scramble for traction that’s evocative of a front-wheel-drive vehicle.
The XC90 offers our first taste of Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) that will ultimately underpin everything from the next S60 mid-size sedan to a possible flagship sedan above the S80. Development of SPA began in the days of Ford ownership, so it’s not surprising that the XC90 employs a multilink rear suspension with an integral link similar to the designs used in the Ford Fusion and Mustang, the Jaguar XE, and the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Volvo’s design differs in that it uses a single composite leaf spring transversely spanning the two control arms instead of a pair of coil springs.
Unfortunately, we can’t comment on how that setup rides or handles because our test cars were fitted with $1800 worth of air springs and adaptive dampers that eliminate the rear leaf spring. Thus equipped, the XC90 delivers a compliant ride with competent handling. The selectable Dynamic mode cinches down a slight side-to-side rocking we experienced with no noticeable effect on ride quality, while accurate, nicely weighted steering makes the XC90 drive smaller than it is. Our only grievance with the chassis is a slight metallic clatter over big inputs such as speed bumps that suggests too much compliance in some of the bushings.
The Sensus infotainment system is quite clever, in part because millions of Americans will be familiar with the basic controls before ever using it. Also , one more interesting feature given out of the box is this; there’s an Apple-like home button just below the 9.0-inch touch screen, and below that is a volume knob and just seven buttons, three of which are required by law. On the map, you can pinch or double tap to zoom. From the home screen you swipe left for a panel of vehicle settings or swipe right to cycle through the audio sources and open apps such as weather or an efficiency monitor. Furthermore, the home screen is specifically designed to display four informational tabs—navigation, audio, phone, and the most recently used app—that expand for full functionality when tapped. Climate controls occupy the lower edge of the display regardless of which screen you’re viewing.
Yet the smartest aspect of Sensus is not the user interface, but the hardware. By providing enough processing power to keep up with your swipes and taps, Volvo excels where several have failed. This was tired and tested by many other automotive giants but the results did not occur as expected. The implementation techniques, with the thorough detailing of niches and intricacies, Volvo grabs the top spot leaving behind many a big name. Special message : Pay attention, Cadillac.
This was all about our experience and primary interactions with the giant Swede variant of Volvo. To sum up there are a few highlights and underlinings. Based upon these observations we could certainly come up with some solid conclusions. Perhaps the most significant distinguishing trait between the Volvo XC90 and the German competition is that the Swedes apparently missed the memo on bilking customers with a laundry list of options. (We recently spec’d a particularly sporty and desirable XC90 R-Design with just a few add-ons for $59,755.) Starting at $49,895, the XC90 includes a panoramic sunroof, passive entry, four-zone automatic climate control, lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert, and rear park assist as standard equipment. All cars are also equipped with the complete Sensus system and divinely comfortable 10-way power-adjustable front seats wrapped in real leather. So while the Volvo XC90 isn’t the best way to tell your neighbors that you’ve made it, it might be the best way to reward yourself sensibly if you have.