THE large, luxury SUV segment has really been turned up a notch of late. The BMW X5 is superb, Land Rover's Discovery 4 is sublime and the upcoming Audi Q7 looks promising. But one large SUV that has certainly captured the imagination of the motoring realm over the past year or so is the new Volvo XC90. We travelled to the Cape to check out this new model, which is the first Volvo for quite some time to be developed entirely by Volvo, using a Volvo platform, engines and technology.
Photographs of this car really don’t do it justice. I spent some time walking around the XC90 and I have to concede, it is a marvellous piece of design. The exterior has a duality about it; on the one hand it is quite imposing with a large front grille and chunky side profile and massive wheels.
On the other hand, there is another side to the beast - a suave side, with smatterings of brushed aluminium up front, signature Volvo rear lights that extend to the rear spoiler and an overall silhouette that comes across as quite sophisticated.
Inside the Swede
Inside is what I might image it would be like to visit a premium Vodka bar in Sweden. There are many soft-touch materials, a great deal of natural light entering the cabin and not a bad quality surface to be seen or felt.
The layout is simple. There are as few buttons as possible with most of your attention being directed towards the nine-inch portrait-mounted centre infotainment screen, which features navigation, media, and Internet/application, Bluetooth, radio and climate control functionality. The rest of the fit and finish is superb with great build quality, seriously comfortable seats and a very modern fascia.
Under the skin
Volvo is introducing its new Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) with this vehicle, meaning that all larger Volvo models will use this same platform, which can be modified to suit a number of vehicles and can even include electric power, without compromising interior space.
Powering the new model is a range of four-cylinder engines. The two - which I sampled at launch - are the 2.0-litre diesel in the 165kW/470Nm D5 and the 235kW/400Nm turbo/supercharged 2.0-litre T6 models, which made up the range at launch. What about other derivatives? In the coming months, Volvo will introduce two models, namely the 140kW diesel D4 with claimed consumption of 4.9 litres/100km and the T5, which is a petrol derivative with 187kW and claimed consumption figures of 7.0 litres/100km. There will also be a new flagship model in the range next year, the T8, which makes use of the same turbo/supercharged motor as the T6 only with a 65kW electric motor aiding performance and consumption for a combined output of 300kW/640Nm.
This wouldn’t be much of a Volvo without some pioneering safety items. The brand has introduced two new safety goodies in the new model, which includes auto braking, should you pull out in front of an oncoming car at an intersection. It also features road departure detection, where the car prepares for an incident when it detects that the vehicle has moved off the road.
It was a breath of fresh air driving the new XC90; it is truly a proper rival to the German/British brigade. It is well made, looks great and has efficient engines that also perform well. It rides admirably, all while maintaining that unique character that the brand is renowned for.