2005 Volvo XC90Posted on August 15th, 2004
By Nina Russin
For years, the Volvo brand has been synonymous with safety engineering and smart Scandinavian design. But a lack of power under the hood has kept the Swedish automaker from gaining widespread appeal among American buyers. Volvo has been working to change this with a new generation of high-performance models, beginning with the “R” cars introduced last January.
For 2005, Volvo engineers are giving the popular XC90 sport-utility vehicle a power jolt with an all-new V8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The new 311 horsepower engine should give the XC90 the muscle it needs to compete against other high-performance crossover vehicles such as the BMW X5, Infiniti FX45, and the Mercedes-Benz ML500.
Volvo gave automotive journalists a chance to put the pedal to the metal on the new XC90 during a sneak preview in Gothenburg, Sweden this past August. A 400-kilometer route on city streets, highways and rural roads offered ample opportunity to test Volvo’s newest version of all-wheel drive, that includes a feature called “instant traction.”
The system virtually eliminates the small amount of wheel spin that typically occurs on wet surfaces. As a result, the drive wheels have maximum power right away, helping the driver to maintain directional control with no loss of power.
Midway through the test drive, a brief rainstorm soaked the narrow two-lane roads outside the city. The new all-wheel drive system made driving at speed and passing a non-issue. The new six-speed transmission provided a buttery-smooth ride with imperceptible gear shifts.
The XC90 V8 incorporates Volvo’s roll-stability control system, which made the five- and six-cylinder versions of the car a hit among off-road driving enthusiasts. The system uses gyroscopic sensors to determine the car’s roll speed and roll angle. If there is a high risk of rollover, an onboard computer reduces engine power and applies braking at one or more of the wheels until stability is regained.
On a short off-road course, the XC90 maintained good traction at all four wheels, allowing the vehicle to move forward with ease. While the XC90 does not have a two-speed transfer case for serious off-roading, it can safely navigate unimproved roads or trails.
As with all members of the Volvo family, passenger safety is a priority. The compact design of the new engine allows for large deformation spaces in the front of the vehicle to protect passengers in full-frontal crashes up to 35 miles-per-hour, and offset crashes up to 40 miles-per-hour.
Other standard safety features include inflatable side curtain airbags that protect all three rows of passengers, an integrated sliding center booster cushion that allows parents to move the center second-row seat closer to the front in order to monitor small children, and seat belt pretensioners for all seven seating positions. The center console is removable to provide adequate foot room for a child in the center booster seat.
The XC90 is designed to be crash compatible with passenger cars, and also takes into account the personal safety of pedestrians and cyclists, with larger hood deformation zones.
Although Volvo no longer maintains its marketing affiliation with Cannondale, designers have maintained their focus on people with active lifestyles. The second- and third-row seats of the XC90 fold flat, making it easy to slide a mountain bike into the cargo area with the front wheel on. Both rows of seats fold flat without removing the headrests.
Volvo is making a variety of bike racks available through its accessories catalogue, including two roof-mounted racks. One rack features a hoist that attaches to the handlebars to lift the bikes up, while a second fork-mount rack has a more traditional design.
The split rear tailgate supports up to 500 pounds, so a person can stand on it while lifting bikes or cargo onto the roof. Roof rails are standard equipment on the XC90; crossbars are available as an option.
An internal fork-mount rack for the cargo area holds one bicycle, and protects rear passengers against injury from the bike in the event of a rear-impact collision. The cargo area has plenty of cargo hooks, and storage pockets on either side to hold smaller items in place.
The front seats are well-designed from an ergonomic stance, with excellent lower back support. Leather upholstery is standard for the V-8 model, as is a power glass moonroof.
Other standard comfort features include an in-dash 6-disc CD changer, and air conditioning with separate controls for the third-row seats. Standard rear audio headphone outlets and controls accommodate an available DVD entertainment system.
Front map pockets have built-in bottle holders, and there are plenty of cupholders throughout the vehicle. The instrument panel includes a 12-volt power outlet (there is an additional outlet in the cargo area), as well as a nice storage cubby for a cell phone or PDA.
The new engine is environmentally friendly: the world’s first ULEV (ultra low-emissions vehicle) certified gasoline-powered V-8. Weight reduction measures in the engine design coupled with the six-speed automatic transmission maximize fuel economy. Despite its powerful zero-to-sixty acceleration, the new model averages 18 miles-per-gallon on city and highway driving.
The new XC90 rolls into American dealerships at the beginning of next year. Pricing begins at $45,395, plus a $685destination charge.
Base price: $45,395
Price as tested: $47,155
Horsepower: 311@ 6000 rpm
Torque: 325 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
0 to 60: 7.0 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: N/A
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