All-new XC90 heralds a new beginning for Volvo

BY Jonathan Lim

Gothenburg's maiden SUV finally gets a replacement, and it's much more important to the company than you might think

The XC90 was a landmark car for Volvo. The company's first SUV, and first seven-seater since the 1940s, the car was an instant hit with families the world over and lasted an incredible 12 years in production, far exceeding the industry standard's 7-8 year model cycles.  In fact the XC90 was so well suited to family duties that Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson actually had three of them! Time stands still for no man (or car) though, so good as it was, a new XC90 had to be developed; and here it is, finally on our local shores.

The term "all-new" is probably overused in marketing and advertising circles, often slapped on to any and all new products being launched; but in this case, the XC90 truly is all-new, sharing zero parts with the old model. The biggest news is the debut of Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) on which the XC90 is built. Similar in concept to Volkswagen's MQB, SPA is a modular chassis architecture that can underpin any model from the S60 up, and will massively boost production efficiency as it allows for several different models to be built on the same production line.

Due to the way SPA was designed, all engine variants will be four-cylinders with a combination of forced induction and hybrid systems thrown in. For Singapore, two diesel and two petrol engines will be imported: D4 (turbodiesel, 190bhp, 400Nm), D5 (twin turbodiesel, 225bhp, 470Nm), T5 (turbo petrol, 254bhp, 350Nm) and T6 (turbo and supercharged petrol, 320bhp, 400Nm). There is also a range-topping T8 "Twin Engine" plug-in hybrid variant, with 400bhp, 640Nm and the ability to be charged from a standard household power outlet; it's unconfirmed for Singapore for now, but distributor Wearnes Automotive is in talks with Volvo Cars to bring it in. All variants put the power to the road via an 8-speed auto gearbox.

The other big new trick in the XC90's arsenal of features is Volvo's new Sensus in-car user interface, which replaces an interior's usual array of knobs and buttons with a single tablet-like touchscreen console. Not only does it clean up the look of the dashboard and reduce the button count to just 8, its operation is also extremely intuitive and responsive, very similar to a Samsung or Apple tablet; no more frustrating hunting through menus and sub-menus here! Apart from controlling the air-con and GPS systems, Sensus also allows for the usage of Internet radio, music streaming, and even the ability to mirror your Apple or Android smartphone in the display.

Apart from Sensus, the rest of the interior also represents a big leap forward in luxury for Volvo. Nappa leather and matte wood inserts are present in abundance, while the gearlever, engine start button and volume control knob are made of crystal glass. There is also an optional 1400 watt, 19 speaker audio system by Bowers & Wilkins with a subwoofer integrated into the car's chassis, for those wanting the full 'concert hall on wheels' experience.

Not forgetting its duties as family transport, the XC90's middle and rear seats have been worked on too. All 2nd and 3rd row seats are individually adjustable, and can slide back and forth to free up more legroom or fold away completely to form a totally flat load area. The 3rd row seats are also slightly raised, theatre-style, for a better view ahead, and according to Volvo, can comfortably accommodate people up to 170cm in height.

Finally, what would a Volvo be without its safety features? In line with the company's corporate goal of preventing death or serious injury in a new Volvo car by 2020, the XC90 features two groundbreaking new safety technologies, Run-off Road Protection and Auto-braking at intersections. The former is able to detect if you are headed off the tarmac and will tighten the seat belts to keep you in place, while impact-absorbing cushions in the seats help prevent spinal injuries from hard landings; the latter is able to sense if you've turned into oncoming traffic and will automatically hit the brakes to prevent a collision. In addition, there is also Queue Assist, which is able to speed up, brake and steer the car automatically at low speeds such as in jams or queues. If there was ever any sign that driverless cars would soon replace human drivers, this would probably be it.

The new XC90 is currently priced at $330,000, inclusive of COE, for the Momentum trim level. The Inscription model, with full-length sunroof and other extra features, is priced at $360,000. Both trim levels are available with a choice of D5 or T6 engines.