The Volvo XC90, one of the Swedish carmaker’s best-selling models of all time, has been completely redesigned.
This is Volvo’s top-line SUV and this new example shows that Volvo is trying to prove itself as a modern contender in an evolving luxury car market. Volvo tossed Business Insider the keys to the 2016 XC90 so we could give this all-wheel-drive, supercharged and turbocharged Swede a proper workout.
Naturally, we started our week-long stint with a road trip.
The only thing that could make this more interesting: spinning the XC90's four corners from LA to San Francisco on one tank of gas. Done!
Here we are filling up in Burbank, CA, the suburban cousin of Los Angeles.
The XC90 we're driving here has a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder engine. There's also a supercharger and a turbocharger attached, producing an impressive 316 horsepower.
Filling the not-quite-empty gas tank with premium unleaded cost a respectable $US40 and change.
The car's computer tells us we've got about 500 miles of range on this tank of gas, but the estimate changes quickly depending on traffic, how fast you're driving and whether you're climbing any steep hills.
This is indeed a luxury SUV. Notice all the attention to detail on the contact points (the parts of the car that your hands will touch on a daily basis).
There's subtle knurling on the engine dial and on the Drive Mode selector. The effect is repeated on the volume knob beneath the giant center touchscreen.
A couple hours in, we took a short breather at this strange, faux Western-style shopping center off the 5 freeway near Kettleman City.
The XC90 is a 7-passenger SUV, so you would think that kind of volume would make it feel large and clumsy. To our surprise, the car drives and maneuvers with a comfortably nimble ease.
This XC90 may have a 4-cylinder engine, but it's no slouch. Remember, it's supercharged and turbocharged. We've been hustling along, and occasionally passing slower cars with incredible ease.
There's an available plug-in hybrid version -- which also has a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. Together with the hybrid's electric motor, it produces 400 horsepower. It can travel up to 25 miles on battery power.
The scenic route from LA to San Francisco is the Pacific Coast Highway and the 101 freeway, but since we began our trip before dawn, we started on the 5 freeway instead. Time to change it up.
The XC90 will probably look right at home in any number of settings, but we can imagine suburban shopping centres like this one will be a frequent go-to.
The XC90's interior is done in a tasteful array of leather, wood and aluminium. The level of luxury infused into this car may be a sign of what's to come for the rest of the Volvo lineup.
The XC90 we're driving here has a panoramic moonroof -- along with front, rear and side cameras that watch everything from your blind spots, to the distance between you and the car ahead, cross-traffic, and even your distance from the curb.
Those expressive LED daytime-running lights are part of Volvo's new design language that will be present on its future models.
These seats feature Volvo's Whiplash Protection System and an energy-absorbing functionality that helps counteract spinal injuries in a crash.
Volvo says, in a collision where the car runs off the road, the seats are designed to keep passengers 'firmly in position,' and the skeleton that comprises the seat's foundation can minimise potential spinal injuries.
There's a small Swedish flag woven into the seams of both front seats.
One of our goals (aside from making it to San Francisco on one tank of gas) was to make it to the Golden Gate Bridge before the fog rolled in. Too late.
It started getting cloudy just a few miles away from our Half Moon Bay beach hangout. Since we didn't beat the fog, we stopped for more pictures. Interesting fact about the XC90 -- with the key fob in your pocket, if you step out of the car while it's running, it will shut itself off.
We're quickly approaching San Francisco now, so it's time to wash the road trip off of this chariot.
We didn't ask for that plastic VIP cap, but the attendant put it on the roof anyway. Apparently, people know a nice car when they see one.
After the wash, we cranked it up and pointed the car toward the Golden Gate Bridge. When we got there, we found this.
Fleet Week was in full swing up here in San Francisco, so there was no place to park and there was traffic on every road in and around Golden Gate Park. Also, it was too foggy to see the bridge.
So, the XC90's navigation system pointed us to another iconic Bay Area landmark.
This Volvo has an intuitive digital assistant that could probably be described as Siri's older, more cultured sister. It's called Sensus, and it's the XC90's voice-activated helper that also features a 12-inch center touchscreen that will show you points of interest, like gas stations.
Also, we should note -- now that we were in San Francisco at this point and still sitting on about a quarter-tank of gas, we stopped keeping track of what was left. Suffice it to say, we made it on that one fill-up!
This is a comfortable cabin that feels like a right-sized SUV -- not too big, not too small.
Full name of this model: Volvo XC90 T6 All-Wheel-Drive Inscription. Quite a mouthful.
Added options include a 10-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system ($US2,500), a vision package that includes a 360-degree surround view camera ($US1,600), 4-corner air suspension ($US1,800), and a climate package that includes heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel and 4-zone climate control ($US1,950).
This is a reasonably quick, nimble luxury SUV. It's got the road manners of a car, so its hefty presence commands the road without overtaking it. The XC90 is not brash, it slips through traffic gracefully, without much of a fuss.
We're convinced that its supercharged and turbocharged 4-cylinder provides ample power for cruising and passing, though engine power did seem vague while climbing hills, and the expected punch of the turbocharger didn't always deliver.
The XC90's 316 horsepower is on par with your favourite SUVs in this class. The low-end BMW X5, Mercedes GLE-Class and Audi Q7 all have about that much -- give or take a few ponies, but handling is where the XC90 really shines. The car stays relatively flat in the corners, there's minimal body roll and it rotates beautifully, both at low speed and highway speed.
And ultimately, the XC90 is just a very attractive car, inside and out. Volvo took care to make this car look like it belongs in this class.
It's the tailored suit to its competitor's off-the-rack sameness, and that helps the XC90 feel like something special. Rare, even.
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