2015 Volvo XC90 First Drive: XCstasy Feel
Predictably, whenever anyone talks or writes about Volvo cars, the word ‘safety’ features in the first two or three lines as the Scandinavian car maker seems to know it all on how to take care of all the occupants in the best way possible. In addition, they are working on a mission to completely negate any serious injuries to someone travelling in a Volvo car, and the resultant of these efforts is already seen in their modern offerings.
Now that they have already mastered the art of protection, and have also taught a lesson or two to their rivals, Volvo wants to show you the other side of the brand wherein they have brought a new soul under the sheet metal of the outside and an aura of premium luxury to leave you spoilt with options and features. And to display all of it perfectly, they have chosen the all new generation XC90.
The new Volvo XC90 was not simply conceived in an engineering centre but was purely inspired by the dreamy exotica of the world. Also, it might take more space in the parking compared to the earlier but at the same time weighs 180Kgs lesser. And there is more... We explain it all in our first drive report.
In my last para of the introduction, you must have thought that I was stretching it a bit by going overboard with my description of the XC90’s design but it holds absolutely true as Volvo has chosen not to drape its new generation automobile with gimmicky lines of the modern; to make it look like one more in its segment, as they have inculcated the traditional elements with an inspiration from the future.
As elegant as it looks, the brand new upright grille, with satin finished vertical slats tied with the brand logo, leaves an amazing impact. Inspired by the Thor’s hammer, the LED day time running lamps fall short of nothing to look as futuristic as possible. The sleek outline of the lights gets a mild stretch around its corners to initiate the shoulder line on the side. The lower section of the bumper gets scoops and pockets to hold the mesh and bring a feel of macho meets elegant with subtle aggression.
The almost flattish bonnet has character lines on both sides which travel from the windshield to the end and then turn back to connect to the front pillars. The Inscription Luxury variant gets roof smeared rails in a contrasting combination. The body sits on a taller platform and giving it the needed muscle are the strong shoulder lines. In fact, the grille and the shoulder lines are the two dominating attributes of the Volvo XC90’s design.
Sitting on the brand new 20-inch wheels, again a top spec variant feature, are the flared wheel arches. The window area gets a neat chrome surround with blackened pillars giving it a laid back profile. The rocker moulding, along the length, gets the variant name etched on it. Doors, with their enormous size, make it easy to get inside and venture out without much of an effort. If you see the silhouette, the overall demeanour is very relaxed and that has been done intentionally to give it a royal look and also to chuck the redundant aggression; perhaps a shot against the Germans. The shorter overhang in the front with the longer travel of the front hood look interesting when paired with the longer rear overhang and relaxed roofline descending gradually in the form of rear tail lights.
Unlike normal, the lines of the side do not wrap around to the rear and instead end with the tail lights. The signature arrangement, as seen on the earlier gen, has been revisited with new tall crystalline LED tail lights occupying only the outline of the tail door. A roof spoiler sits above the compact rear glass with the tail door getting two horizontal crease lines. The rear bumper gets bottom protection which also extends to the side, housing the quad exhaust openings. One more thing that you can’t afford to ignore is the wide rear tyres, which at 275 / 45 R20 are the widest in its category.
If you have ever ventured inside a Volvo before, there are strong chances of you not being taken aback except for those human shaped air-con buttons which were my favourite. Well sadly, those buttons have been given a miss and intentionally so. Wonder what inspired the trim designers to make not just a well put layout but one that looks in league with the benchmark of the above segment.
Settling inside should not be a problem with the convenient rise and decent of ride height and then the seats make sure you are snuggled in the best way possible. The rich nappa leather seats are lavish to the extreme with options and controls to adjust various supports located at different points. Just twist a knob and screen on the centre displays various seat options. Extend the under seat support, adjust the lumbar or do the mundane recline and shift, everything by a mere touch.
The optional charcoal colour scheme will find takers in the form of enthusiasts while the rich beige will be picked up by the luxury seeking kinds. The second and third row seats too offer similar levels of comfort. Also, the XC90 is not a desperate attempt at making a three row SUV as the last row indeed has enough space for average sized adults. The theatre style seating gives all the occupants a proper visibility of the outside.
The rich wooden veneers which are nicely layered over the dashboard, around the central area and also on the console leave an amazing impression that none of its closest rivals can even think of. The feeling of comfort is uniform on all three rows as there are independent zones of cooling that can be controlled from the screen on the first row. There are vents mounted on the pillar, planted between the first row seats as well as on the last row to maintain a uniform temperature.
So they have upped the conventional standards of a typical Volvo interior by going uber niche with the use of rich quality leather, wood and other things but that’s clearly not all. Volvo has a brand new Sensus infotainment system to do the entire in car chores. And it does much more than the standard phone pairing and music playing. It has an exhaustively long list which can also be featured as a standalone article as it can enable park assist, display vehicle information, edit heads up display position, change driving modes, adjust suspension height, change colours of ambience light, has wiper settings, language settings, settings to enable electric parking brake, driver alert control, lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring system, calibration of tyre pressure and many many other options.
This system makes used of a 9.0-inch high resolution touch screen, positioned vertically. It is by far the largest ever in its segment and grander than that seen in the Range Rover. It essentially mimics the iPad with a similar interface and is compatible with Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android auto. In case you forget your hand held, the XC90 won’t let you regret it for sure.
The advantage of a larger screen was also felt while using the navigation system as in case of smaller screens; the display is not clear but with a screen size this grand, you can’t afford to miss anything on the route. The same info is available on the heads up as well as the 12.3-inch instrumental cluster. The other advantage of this screen was to minimize the number of buttons to 8 and to avoid distractions for the driver as well as make a clean and tidy cabin.
They have also made sure that practicality remains an important and relevant aspect as the storage options along with charging points are well spread along the cabin. The luggage space can swallow a great deal of bags and with the third row folded down; you can even take off for a few weeks. The convenient electric button to get the tail door down is there and doesn’t earn much vow which the two buttons to lower and raise the rear suspension height for easy mounting of luggage earn.
An SUV which apes a mammoth and at the same time has a presence of a chic Skyscraper needs a motor with a super large displacement. Look at the Audi Q7 and you shall find meaning in my lines but Volvo wants to rubbish all of that. Instead, they have got a 2-litre four cylinder engine hauling the 2-tonne XC90. Really?
Yes, that’s right. They have decided to completely warp the common myth regarding bigger engines by providing a smaller and smarter solution. Also, before forming an opinion against it, this motor makes 225 bhp of power and 470 Nm of torque which is highly impressive. This unit comes paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and also comes with a drive mode selector which allows the driver to tinkle around suspension, throttle response and gear shift patterns.
Using their new Drive-E technology, which focuses on performance as well as efficiency along with driving pleasure, the 2.0-litre unit is a lightweight and low-friction engine making use of a dual stage turbocharger which then is whipped by an all new 8-speed Geartronic transmission. That might sound too complicated but then drive around in it and you shall understand its relevance.
Arty interiors is one thing but intricate detailing done to tantalise the senses is completely another. Do not find a pocket or button to get the engine revving as there is a very special way of doing it. Just move your hand on the diamond finished and knurled button on the centre and twist it a bit, the diesel heart gets moving with a gentle purr. It is only when you look at the tachometer, you realise the momentum.
The TFT instrumental cluster displays a slight rise of the digital needle at a smudge below 1000 rpm, which is the idling point. Get it moving and the demerits of a typical small displacement motor on paper diminishes completely as the engine gathers speed. There is a drive mode selector placed on the centre which lets you tweak the suspension, throttle response and shifts according to the need.
The XC90, at least in this setup, is clearly not for the hot blooded enthusiasts and they can happily take a step behind. But where it will really find recognition is among the connoisseurs and aristocrats who would prefer lazing in a cocoon of luxury. Perhaps the same reason, it doesn’t have paddle shifters tucked on the steering column. But, if you are still in a hurry, shift it to dynamic mode which lowers the suspension and gets the throttle marginally peppy. Push the throttlel hard, and 225 horses shift in to a prancing mode.
Hold on to that wheel and corner it to the max, it just refuses to lose tarmac. No matter how hard you drive, the wide section tyres holds on to the surface with great herculean confidence. Surely, more enthusiasm from the motor would have been a delight but the existing setup wasn’t disappointing either. Enter a corner, push the brakes and you would feel the strong bite on all wheels making you feel secure.
While all manufacturers make sure their vehicles can take care of the frontal and side collisions, Volvo has gone ahead and introduced protection against the vertical forces as well. Thus, in a scenario where the vehicle loses contact from the tarmac, the front seat belts tighten and the effects of the force are absorbed by a linkage positioned underneath the seat joint which collapses after an impact.
So it looks swanky and drives well on nice roads but an SUV has to more than that. It has to swallow potholes and drive over uneven surfaces like a king and so does the XC90. Just before venturing into the wild outdoor, shift it to off-road mode and the suspension height rises by a complete 40mm. Start climbing surfaces, craters and what not and the occupants inside won’t even feel it and that is because of the air-suspension that makes use of electrically controlled damper system. Rest of the modes like comfort and eco concentrate on making the ride cushy and mapping the engine for an efficient delivery.
|Power in Bhp/RPM||225 / 4250|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||470 / 1750|
|Wheel base mm||2984|
|Kerb Weight in Kg||2962|
|Ground clearance mm||238|
|Fuel tank capacity L||71|
|Tyre Spec||275 / 45 R20|
|Features - Volvo XC90||Inscription Luxury|
|Nappa Leather Seats, Ventilated||Yes|
|Power Adjustable Frotn Seats||Yes|
|2 Step Airbag for Front Occupants||Yes|
|SIPS airbags and inflatable curtains||Yes|
|Whiplash protection front seats||Yes|
|Anti-Lock Braking System||Yes|
|Bowers and Wilkins Sound System with 19-Speakers||Yes|
|USB, AUX-IN and CD Entertainment Options||Yes|
|Car Play Preparation||Yes|
|Tyre Pressure Monitoring System||Yes|
|Park Assist Camera||Yes|
|Hill Start Assist + Hill Descent Control||Yes|
|Graphic Heads Up Display||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||Inscription Luxury||Technology Edition||HSE|
|Power in Bhp/RPM||225 / 4250||335 / 4000||245 / 4000|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||470 / 1750||800 / 1750||600 / 2000|
|Wheel base mm||2984||3002||2885|
|Kerb Weight in Kg||2962||2485||2583|
|Ground clearance mm||238||240||NA|
|Fuel tank capacity L||71||100||NA|
|Tyre Spec||275 / 45 R20||255 / 55 R18||NA|
With the new XC90, Volvo has not just taken minor steps but a giant leap from their very own comfort zone. The detailing inside is simply marvellous with the use of rich quality leather and wood. Then comes the entertainment system; a complete treat for the ears and mind as the XC90 comes with a Bowers and Wilkins surround system which delivers an amazing audio output via its 19 speakers that can make 1400 watts.
Just to make sure this premium line hardware can be put to good use, the sound engineers at Volvo devised a Concert Hall mode which replicates the exact acoustic setting as the Gothenburg Konserthuset Hall in Sweden, calibrated by real time 800 individual measurements and end result needs to be experienced as it can’t be described in mere words.
Even in terms of technology that has gone under its skin, the super light 2.0-litre engine makes use i-ART direct fuel injection system which gauges the exact pressure and fuel metering happening inside every cylinder monitored with the help of separate microchips.
Volvo’s safety design primarily concentrate on the happenings around the occupants and thus end up making one of the safest out there. In the XC90, they have increased the use of high-strength steel resulting in a considerable drop of weight and also more focussed crumple zones throughout the body. Considering the want to protect other motorists, it is also compatible with smaller cars’ crumple zone.
You can be an art critic eying the outside and at the same time transform into a meditating monk with the calm of inside or be a tycoon who just wants an excuse to step out in front of all with style and panache, choose any side and you shall relish its world of XCtasy for real.