Step it up
The second generation Volvo XC90 aims to make the most of its sleek Swedish design values. Andy Enright takes a look.
Less is most definitely not more when it comes to the second generation Volvo XC90.
Bigger, bolder and more technologically advanced than ever, it’s a long way removed from its low-key predecessor. The interior’s beautifully finished and the focus is on downsized, efficient engines. Key to understanding the dynamics of this second generation XC90 is the fact that it runs on the all-new chassis based on Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). Yes, it’s Volvo’s take on the infinitely customisable chassis systems like Volkswagen’s MQB and will inevitably underpin a whole host of nextgeneration models. In this guise, it’s lighter, stronger and safer than the old XC90 chassis, but despite an increase in vehicle dimensions, this XC90 downsizes its engines. You’ll find no Yamaha V8s this time round, just a range of engines from the marque’s green-tinted Drive-E family. The flagship engine is the 320PS T6 petrol, which utilises both turbo and supercharging, while most British customers will inevitably walk straight past that to look instead at the 225PS D5 twin turbodiesel. Both engines drive all four wheels via the almost obligatory eight-speed automatic transmission. The other option is the T8 Twin Engine petrol/ electric plug-in hybrid model, billed as ‘the world’s most powerful and cleanest SUV’ This delivers a combined 412PS output, with a thumping 640Nm of torque. 62mph from rest is dispatch in just 5.6s, yet this car can also gve you 26 miles of pure electric driving range when fully charged. Whatever you think of Volvo’s latest design direction, it’s hard to ignore. The XC90 has a very big face. Even the ‘iron mark’ grille badge has been updated, while the headlamps now get T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” daytime running lights. The intricately shaped bonnet is an XC90 trope and that continues, blended into even more complex forms. The beltline and the sharpened shoulders connecting with the distinctive new rear lights are other design signatures that will be mirrored across the range. Wheels? They’re big too, with alloys of up to 22 inches being offered. The interior is even more boldly-styled, with a massive tablet-like touch screen control console helping to create an interior that is modern, spacious and uncluttered. Volvo’s clearly put a lot of budget into driving up materials quality and this XC90 gets soft leather and wood with handcrafted details, including a gear lever made of crystal glass from Orrefors, the Swedish glassmaker, and diamond-cut controls for the start/stop button and volume control. This genuine seven seater features innovatively designed seats that also free up interior space for passengers in both the second and third seat rows. Even the third row can seat a adults up to 170cm tall. Well, it’s certainly different. Volvo has responded to an explosion in the big SUV market by bringing us an XC90 that’s unrecognisable from the former model. It’s bigger, bolder and, yes, a little brasher but with Chinese owners and a Chinese market that loves big and shiny, that was perhaps inevitable. The Cotswold set might be disappointed by the extrovert exterior but it’s hard not to love the sheer audacity of the XC90’s cabin, complete with its tablet-style input screen, brilliant safety systems and continuing focus on comfort. Clearly Volvo’s punt is that for every existing XC90 buyer who finds the latest car infra dig, there will be countless more attracted to the marque, and these will probably be valuable conquest sales from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative. This XC90 is Volvo’s natural progression.