The latest Volvo XC90 has won lots of awards since it was introduced here just less than a year ago, both for its innovative engineering and its overall design.
John Oxley looks at the T6 Polestar.
When Volvo introduced the original Volvo XC90 it was something of a loner, a luxury 4WD without low ratio in a world where low range was king, and anything less was inferior.
Since then the world has changed in the other direction, and after a long run, Volvo has finally come up with a brand-new XC90 that ticks all the current boxes.
Gone are the big engines, and in their place engineering solutions that produce clever thinking to give power AND economy, with the top model now a hybrid rather than a V8.
The design language has changed, too, and the latest XC90 eschews the complex lines of its predecessor for a new, clean, look, which, to my mind pays homage to the classic looks of the Volvo Duett of the early 1950s.
Our test vehicle was based on the T6 R-Design, but with the added benefit of a Sports Pack, air suspension, Bowers and Wilkins sound and the Polestar performance optimisation kit.
This latter feature was included in the purchase price of the original test car, at $2,070, but we notice that Volvo NZ is now offering this free on all new R Design models, so you might want to deduct this from the price shown in our spec panel.
While we’re on the subject, what the Polestar kit does is make the vehicle a lot sportier by making the throttle more responsive, increasing gearshift speed, re-calibration of the gearbox to prevent unwanted upshifts, thus improving acceleration and cornering performance, giving better off-throttle response, and improving mid-range performance of the engine.
The heart of the XC90,is, of course, the engine, and Volvo’s Drive-E units have opted for a small capacity (2-litre_ four-cylinder unit, but with direct injection, supercharging, and turbo-charging to ensure they have not just economy, but power too.
The T6 in Polestar trim produces a lusty 246kW (11kW better than the standard engine) and massive toque of 400Nm, and this gives the car excellent acceleration and great overtaking ability, while pegging overall fuel consumption at 8L/100km – fantastic for a big seven-seater SUV packed with comfort features. With a 0-100km/h time of 6.4 seconds, it can stay up there with some of our top hot hatches.
The quick acceleration is in part due to the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which not only offers intelligent operation, but also gives the option of manual changes via steering column paddles, with four drive mode settings – Comfort, Eco, Dynamic, and Individual, plus an Off Road setting.
We found most of the time the Comfort mode was fine, while on tighter roads the Dynamic option tightened up the suspension and gave a lot less body roll. It also keeps the transmission in a lower gear for better response and adds more aggressive throttle mapping.
Comfort is a keynote of the XC990, and in R Design trim it’s lacking nothing, with oodles of black leather, with contrasting stitching, and as with all models, the <italics>piece de resistance the 12-inch iPad-like touchscreen centre stack.
As tested there was the Mowers and Wilkins sound system, complete with 16 speakers to give a concert hall audio experience, while the Sensus satnav included a smart head-up display.
Bluetooth, audio streaming, and safety features such as an auto-brake facility as part of its City Safety function which will prevent an XC90 from turning in front of an on-coming vehicle which otherwise would hit it.
Other features include cornering traction control to keep the car on the road in high speed cornering, and also reduces the understeer common in a four-wheel drive vehicle, a trailer stability system, advanced stability control which includes a rollover sensor, driver alert control, a parking assistance programme plus adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot information system (including cross traffic alert), rear collision warning and mitigation, and auto braking after a collision.
There’s also a 360 degree camera and City Safety, which includes the collision warning with full auto brake, as well as pedestrian and cyclist detection as well as new functionalities. A neat feature is road sign information; the built-in cameras recognise and display road signs.
In short, imagine the safest and most comfortable vehicle you’ve ever travelled in, and the XC90 is probably better.
Body type: Five-door SUV
Engine type: Inline 4-cyl super/turbo
Engine capacity: 1,969cc
Max power: 246kW/5,700rpm
Max torque: 400Nm/2,200-5,400rpm
Fuel consumption: 8L/100km
C02 emissions: 179g/km
0-100km/h: 6.4 secs
Front suspension: Air
Rear suspension: Air
Roof rack: Rails
ABS brakes: Yes
Air bags: Six
Stability programme: Yes
Air conditioning: Dual climate
Lap/diagonal belts: Seven
Satellite navigation: Yes
Electric seats: Yes
Burglar alarm: Yes
Panic button: No
Boot release: Electric tailgate
Cargo cover: Yes
Boot capacity: 448/1,183 litres
Wheel type: 22 inch alloy
Spare tyre: Spacesaver
ANCAP rating: Five stars
Price (as tested): $127,690