Step it up

The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion Volvo XC90 aims to make the most of its sleek Swedish de­sign val­ues. Andy En­right takes a look.

Rutherglen Reformer - - Drivetime -

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.

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