Softroader Test : Volvo XC90

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Words and Images Andrew Middleton

While stereotypes are condemned by many, it’s often the case that they are born of truth; and a case in point is the new XC90. While we’re not sure if this Swedish softroader prefers a diet of pickled fish and death metal music, it’s certainly moving in the right direction.

When, in 2010, Ford decided that a quick buck was in order, Volvo was sold to Geely for $1.5-billion. The new Chinese minders, in turn, let the Swedish engineers loose with a new, larger budget and freedom to develop their brand. One of the results of this freedom is a full-size SUV that’s more Swedish than ever, despite now being funded by the Chinese… if that makes sense.

Using a platform that Volvo calls SPA (Scalable Product Architecture), Volvo is able to produce a wider variety of
vehicles than ever, cutting production costs by increasing economies of scale with the ingenious modular platform and variations of only one engine block. The new XC 90 is the first model to use this architecture, and spearheads Volvo’s assault on the default German rivals.

Unique and quirky, the XC90 boasts some interesting design details, and features that are sometimes as enthralling as they are annoying. Take the iPad-like dash, for instance. While aesthetically pleasing, the big screen is often more of a chore to use than a simple knob or switch would have been. A menu has to be accessed for simple tasks like airconditioning settings, or park assist; and in my book, making simple tasks more difficult is not called progress. Features that do stand out include the ample space (even for adults in the third row), the exquisite exterior, and the quality of materials used throughout.

Under the hood of all Volvo XC90 models are variations of the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘Drive-E’ powerplant coupled to eight-speed automatic gearboxes. This engine is available in either petrol or diesel form and comes in various states of tune.

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