Cars - Volvo

Road tests and reviews of the latest Volvo models available in South Africa

We take a fresh look at the new Volvo XC90

2016 Volvo XC90

By Franky Johnson

The all-new Volvo XC90, which was launched to the world media in Sweden in August last year has now made its debut in South Africa with the introduction of two derivatives – the Volvo XC90 T6 petrol and D5 turbo-diesel, both “wearing” the top spec “Inscription” package, which is designed for customers that want an elegant look and a luxurious experience, and which are the subject of this road test.

The new Volvo XC90 has moved a major step up-market and has morphed into a stylish luxury SUV, combining a distinctive exterior and a cool, high-class interior, strong enough to “hold its own” against the establish makes such as the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes ML models.

Displaying a distinctive and confident face, complete with the updated Volvo Iron Mark and the signature 'Thor's Hammer' headlights, the deep front bumper and bluff radiator grille, the XC90's connection to Volvo's past and homage to the Swedish lifestyle, is entirely evident in the new design language.

Despite the square-set front end, the rounded wheel-arches, raked windscreen pillars and aluminium roof rails give the XC90 a sleek and aerodynamic look, while both press vehicles rode on large eight arm alloy wheels wrapped in wide, extra low profile 275/35R21 Pirellis, which are great on tar, but perhaps not the best on really rough road surfaces, despite the 238 mm ride height as befits an SUV.

At the rear, the XC90 is less striking. The tail-lamps run from the top of the boot right down to the bumper and, with Volvo’s traditional shoulder kink halfway down, there’s a small boot lip spoiler and a few creases in the tailgate, and the XC90 sports twin exhausts.

The interior is certainly plush, with expensive-feeling brushed metal inserts and full Napa leather upholstery. The entertainment and climate systems are controlled by a central 23 cm tablet like touch-screen flanked by two main air vents and some chrome detailing. All the main functions including the GPS are controlled by the touch-screen, however the disadvantage is that to operate the touch screen the driver has to take his eyes off the road, so I believe it should be in-operative while on the move.

Volvo's Sensus control system, delivers true connectivity with a range of useful cloud-based applications and services which can be operated via the touch screen, through steering wheel controls, or via the advanced on-board voice control system.

Standard equipment across both models is most comprehensive and will fill a couple of pages if I were to list, but to mention a few they have GPS, LED headlights, air-filtration, keyless entry and push button start, hands-free tailgate opening, a powered driver’s seat, auto-dimming mirrors, cruise control, and a 1 400 watt Bowers and Wilkins audio system with 19-speakers which produces a superb sound. Most appreciated are the 360-degree camera, the blind spot information system with cross traffic alert, and the remote hands free tailgate opening from the optional Premium pack.

Just about everything is electric like all the windows, the seat adjustments, the steering column, the parking brake, boot opener while all the instruments are electronic.

The XC90 is a premium SUV with a special emphasis on family-friendly practicality. The five-door XC90 is very roomy inside with lots of head- and leg room in the first two rows, but becomes a little compromised at the back. It comes standard with seven proper seats and has an impressive quota of advanced safety tech under the Volvo IntelliSafe banner, which includes special energy-absorbent seats, Volvo’s City Safety auto-braking tech, Queue Assist and a self-parking system.

The large boot offers 692 litres of space, with the front seats up, 314 with the third row seats up and a massive 1 957 litres with the second row seats folded.

Adding to Volvo's innovative safety systems, the XC90 comes fully equipped with the IntelliSafe package as standard, delivering two world firsts - Run-off Road Protection, and Auto Brake at Intersections.

The Volvo 2-litre 4-cylinder DS5 twin turbo-diesel vehicle makes 165 Kw at 4 250 rpm and 470 Nm of torque available from 1 750 rpm and drives all four wheels through Volvo’s eight speed automatic gearbox. It is fairly quick for a large diesel SUV and will accelerate from standstill to 100 km/h in 7.8 seconds, and has a top speed of 220 km/h. Diesel consumption, depending on how you drive it, is about six litres per 100 kms and the tank holds 71 litres so if you fill it you won’t call at the filling station for quite a while.

The Volvo T6 4-cylinder 2-litre super and turbo-charged petrol version develops a healthy 235 kw at 5 700 rpm and 400 Nm of torque from 2 000 rpm and as the diesel, sends power to all four wheels through the 8-speed automatic gearbox. Acceleration is very good for a large SUV with the 0 to 100 km/h sprint taking just 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 230 km/h. Expect petrol consumption to be around 8-litres per 100 km.

The XC90 has permanent ‘on demand’ four-wheel-drive that puts most of the power down through the front wheels. It can, however, send torque to the rear when conditions demand.

Driving the XC90 is a real pleasure. The high position front seats provide the driver with a commanding all round view of the road, and the buttons and levers are well positioned. On the road, the XC90 strikes a neat balance between comfort and agility, with great body control and excellent suspension, while the steering is smooth and well weighted.

The new Volvo XC90 DS5 turbo diesel is quite noisy for a luxury SUV, especially when stopped at a robot, at idle speeds and while ambling around the city. It also noisy under fast acceleration but once on the freeway it smoothens out and is all quiet in the cab. At the 120 km/h limit the diesel engine swings at just 1 700 rpm and even at 160 km/h it registers just 2 300 rpm and it’s all quiet in the cab.

The petrol engine is a gem. Quiet and smooth at idle, whisper quiet on the freeways at 120 km/h and 1 900 rpm, and it delivers a quiet, smooth and nimble character in the city.

With the XC90 there is a fair amount of body roll at highish speeds in corners, but if you do happen to overdo it, the electronic “nannies” will step in and keep you out of trouble. However, there’s lots of grip and the four-wheel-drive system so wheel-spin is not an issue.

There’s also a clever autonomous braking system, which stops you turning in front of an oncoming car. This is part of Volvo’s enhanced City Safety package, which also helps protect against collisions with motorcycles, swerving bicycles or errant pedestrians.

So both the diesel and the petrol Volvo XC90 models are good, but if I were buying, the smoothness of the petrol engine over the noisy diesel would be my choice despite a saving of almost two liters per 100 kms of fuel.

For a sportier drive both models have adjustable Drive Mode settings and gear shift paddles located behind the steering wheel.

The recommended retail selling price of the new Volvo XC90 D5 turbo-diesel is R893 900 then add the options as fitted to the press vehicle and the price goes up to R1 014 100. The T6 petrol model is priced at R907 600, add the options fitted, and the price tops out at R967 050. The prices include a 5 year / 100 000 km warranty and maintenance Plan and a 5 year / unlimited mileage Roadside Assistance.

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