Launch Report: 2015 Volvo XC90

The great future

Volvo is known for building safe, reliable family cars and their big seven-seater XC90 SUV has always typified this. While the outgoing model was still a great car, a wave of fresh design and new technology is sweeping through the Swedish manufacturer with this brand-new XC90 at the pointy end.

This new model, introduced internationally last year, arrives at South African showrooms on 1 August and brings a host of firsts with it. Firstly, it points towards Volvo’s future design language with new signature “Thor’s Hammer” headlights and a more confident radiator grill with prominent Iron Mark logo.

Another first is the use of four-cylinder turbo-charged petrol or diesel “Drive-E” engines, making XC90’s the cleanest and most powerful seven-seater SUV’s. This range is also the first to be based upon Volvo’s SPA platform (scalable product architecture) which will play host to future models.

The next innovation is IntelliSafe, a system which automatically brakes for unseen intersection traffic and also detects if the car has left the road; at which point it goes into full passenger protection mode. This is on top of City Safety Auto Brake with vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist detection.

As part of Volvo’s Vision 2020 – that nobody should die or be seriously injured in a Volvo by that year – XC90’s also offer lane keeping assistance, driver alert systems, whiplash protection, cross traffic alert, rear crash lessening, road sign detection, pre-tensioners in all seats, blind spot assist and active roll stability control.

Should a roll-over be imminent, inflatable curtain airbags will momentarily shield all three rows. You could also make use of the autonomous Queue Assist (for creeping forward in slow traffic), Park Assist Pilot (which will park the car for you) or the 360° camera which give you a bird’s eye view of the vehicle.

Inside the new XC90, the novelties just keep coming. SENSUS is what the Swedes call their new user interface which looks and reacts like a medium-sized tablet. Set vertically in the center dashboard, it not only unclutters the surrounding areas but also adds many new convenience features.

Depending on model, a sound experience module by Dirac Research allows you to set the intensity and surround levels of your audio source. You can also fiddle with the focus point (driver, all, rear), tone levels and preset acoustic sceneries including Gothenburg Concert Hall, stage or studio.

All this can be connected to the optional 19-speaker Bowers&Wilkins sound system driven by a 12-channel 1,400W Harman Class D amplifier. These top-drawer British loudspeakers use (visibile) Kevlar mid-range cones, a central tweeter on the dashboard and a chassis-mounted, air-ventilated subwoofer. Another first.

Volvo most certainly achieved its brief of “Relaxed Confidence” from a ride and comfort point of view. Optional air suspension and five drive modes allow you to exploit the new SPA platform’s capabilities, while a diagonal compound leaf spring at the back reduces clutter and improves interior space.

After a few drives at the local launch, I can vouch for the new XC90’s exceptional ride, handling, space, power, efficiency and comfort but my favourite was the exquisite interior. The quality of materials and fit of all elements are superb, wood looks like wood, metal feels like metal and the instruments are fully digital.

As with all Volvos, the seats are extremely comfortable and there are tasty details hidden around the cabin. XC90’s can be had with diamond-pattern knobs, three interior colours and various trim items, 11 exterior colours, 19 to 21-inch wheels, Xenon or LED headlights and an Orrefors glass gear selector in the T8.

Typing of which, Volvo currently offers the D5 (from N$853,200) and T6 (from N$867,000) with D4 and T5 arriving later this year. The Twin Engine, 300kW, petrol-electric T8 makes its local debut next year. All XC90’s feature an intelligent All-Wheel-Drive system; except the front-wheel-drive D4 models.

The XC90 has always been a great 7-seater SUV, this new version adds buckets of innovative features while pushing the boundaries of technology and efficiency. Forgive me if I’m about to sound like a sales person but if you’re in the market for a big SUV, you’d be silly to ignore the new Volvo XC90.

Click here to view our Facebook Gallery from the recent Volvo XC90 launch.