The year is 2002, and North America is invaded by the Swedes. Volvo, to be more precise, and its all-new XC90 sport ute. That vehicle won every major automotive honor and caused many to rewrite the rulebooks – it even won Truck of Texas. We recently got to spend time with the 2017 Volvo XC90, and it’s still a winner.
I found my old story I wrote about the first XC90 winning so many honors and a portion where I remembered visiting with the Volvo rep at that rainy Texas Truck Rodeo in Fort Worth. He asked advice about his first presentation to the fickle crowd who then were almost all real journalists. “Keep it short and to the point,” I said, “and hope you have a vehicle that will do most of the talking for you.” He did, it did, and they won – top honors. An SUV from Sweden crowned Truck of Texas over the likes of Chevy Silverado and Ford F-150. That won’t happen anymore, but Volvo is still turning heads with quality, safe products, and the new XC90 is at the top of that list.
The 2017 XC90 is a seven-seat premium SUV built on the new Scalable Product Architecture (an $11 billion program by Volvo for modular chassis technology). Since launch, Volvo has added S90 and V90 models to this mix. The big flagship vehicles are powered by a unique choice of powertrains: Hybrid or supercharged/turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engines. Our recent T6 tester featured the latter, a powertrain we first saw last year in the S90 premium sedan that quickly became our favorite new car. The XC90 features Volvo’s new design language including “Thor’s Hammer” in the front lighting. Inside and out there is no mistaking this a Volvo and its Swedish heritage, despite its Chinese corporate address.
Since arriving here in 2002, the Volvo XC90 has become well known for its safety, technology, craftsmanship, and overall efficient utility. It is roomy, comfortable, quiet, stylish, and despite only being powered by a “four banger” it does quite well around town and on the open highway.
The heart of the T6 powertrain is that 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine I spoke of that benefits from both supercharging (for power at the low end) and turbocharging (for speed). The overall combination is quite remarkable and very surprising. Total power output is 316hp and 295 lb. ft. torque. The engine is mated to a slick and smooth eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with start/stop technology. Volvo’s first foray into turbocharged powerplants came in 1981 – you know, back before turbos were cool.
All XC90 models are equipped with Volvo’s electronically-controlled all-wheel drive with instant traction technology. In normal operating mode, nearly all power is sent to the front wheels for optimum fuel efficiency. When slippage is detected, power is automatically redistributed to the wheels with best traction and up to 50 percent power sent to the rear. The XC90 also features adjustable drive modes selectable by the driver. They can choose from Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Off-Road, and Individual modes. I spent most of my week between Comfort and Dynamic depending on my mood and the road conditions.
The new XC90 chassis is very solid and stable and utilizes new double-wishbone front suspension design along with integral axle rear suspension. Our tester arrived with the optional 4-Corner Air Suspension for even more control over harsh road conditions (apparently the new Corvette uses a similar design). There is automatic leveling with this system as well as rear load height being adjustable for easier loading/unloading.
The advanced safety technologies are nearly mind-blowing as this vehicle can almost drive itself. Almost. There is a new Pilot Assist semi-autonomous system that works in conjunction with many of the other safety features in the XC90 to operate the vehicle is as safe a manner as possible with state-of-the-art accident avoidance technology. The car can even read road signs and detect pedestrians in the roadway and on the sidewalks. The new XC90 can help you drive, help you park, help you avoid accidents – basically help you be a better vehicle on the crowded roads today.
I haven’t even gotten to some of my favorite features of the Volvo XC90 yet, and they are on the inside. Want a massage? No problem, and it’s adjustable and available for both front seat occupants whether parked or in motion. I got one every day on the way home from work – outstanding. Like concert hall or studio music experience? The advanced Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system allows for total control over your listening pleasure. Nearly all infotainment features (as well as climate and vehicle controls) can be accessed via the large tablet in the center dash. Word of warning though, on a hot Texas summer day the screen can burn your fingertips. Voice of experience on that one.
Pricing for the 2017 Volvo XC90 begins at just under 50 grand. Our T6 AWD Inscription model tester arrived with a final window sticker of $72,805. This baby was fully loaded and probably not typical of most sales transactions at Volvo dealerships. Fuel economy is rated at 20 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
From its first impressions in 2002 where it was named Truck of the Year to 2017 and this magnificent example of Swedish design, craftsmanship, and technology, the XC90 is quite a vehicle. It has seen favor with critics and experts alike for 15 years and that is not going to change anytime soon. If you are shopping a three-row premium utility vehicle you need to make sure to visit the XC90, you will not be disappointed – you just can’t call it a truck anymore.