THE PERFECT SEQUEL
By JOHN GRAFMAN
So let’s just say for a moment you’re a European car company looking to make some big sales in America. What do you do? How about making a SUV that is upscale and has something to offer something everyone? Also, price it under the premium brands. Give it unparalleled safety features, clean styling, more cargo area and a great ride as only a uni-body can. Unfortunately for you, Volvo beat you to the punch with the release of its recent blockbuster.
The XC90 is dominating the European SUV market here. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, they captured the title with only a six-cylinder as their largest power plant in the XC90. While this might be unsettling for BMW, Land Rover and Mercedes (the otherwise logical buy for a luxury European SUV), Volvo sees this as just the beginning.
Coming to a dealership near you will be the XC90 V8, which is the Swedes’ class-leading vehicle being elevated it to the next level. For a nominal bump in price over a comparably equipped six-cylinder model, this bigger engine is the final ingredient turning a quality product into one helluva good deal that can’t be ignored.
In driving the new and improved model, we were caught off guard at its refined delivery of power. While riding shotgun after a driver change, my fellow driver initially wasn’t blown away with his first romp on the gas pedal. That all changed when I informed him he was now doing ninety. Never let a little thing like the speedo get in the way of testing!
So off we went. We cover hours behind the wheel through a picturesque desert. With the windows up and the radio down, you can barely hear a whisper of wind noise – even at high speeds. And, all the way, the engine just hums when cruising. Putting the pedal to the metal, the response not only is rapid but pleasing to the ears. This motor has a very satisfying tone that will be welcome in many a sport sedan.
The beauty of the desert is nature unspoiled by man; the air is blue and clear. Volvo wants it to stay that way. To that end, Volvo has produced a motor that’s even cleaner burning than Big Brother requires. The V8 is in compliance with the upcoming ULEV II EPA requirements.
Sounds and smells are one thing, performance is another. Fortunately, this car doesn’t disappoint. While the XC90 is no little two-seater, the new motor seems to think otherwise. The SUV gets off the line quickly in comparison to almost any practical people hauler that can seat seven. I’m not so sure the world needs this, but I am certain that the public will eat this up like kids devouring popcorn at a Saturday matinee. Exploring the upper end of the motor’s capability may be near impossible on any Southern California blacktop. Let’s just say this baby will close the deal if the only prior argument was a lack of overwhelming force.
While this might be part of the Ford family, Volvo set out to create a motor to integrate with this SUV perfectly rather than try to force fit one of the pre-existing engines. In return, the Swedes produced more power and more efficiency, while being cleaner burning than other V8s. This transverse-sitting block also works in conjunction with the crash safety design of the XC90 where a typical engine wouldn’t.
Complementing the new engine is a new six-speed transmission that includes Volvo’s own Instant Traction system. As we didn’t encounter much stop and go traffic, we can only comment on the conditions we did traverse – including a brief jaunt on semi-soft dirt trails. The new transmission, coupled with the new motor, work in harmony – creating a greater sense of control regardless of the road conditions. In the future, we want to expand our short sojourn to a few thousand miles to get a better sense of how this works in various other conditions like rain and snow.
While a special application V8 must have cost a few dollars to bring about, it is well worth the cost and will more than likely be justified in the first quarter sales numbers after this comes to town. With any luck, this power plant will be tucked under the hood of a few other Volvo cars in the future. While President Bush is out spending his newfound (albeit dubious) political capital, Volvo is making the most of its good fortune with the XC90s’ success. Reinvesting in itself will reap even larger rewards for this company.
Being that this isn’t the first screening of the XC90, we already know how this will affect the wallets of the car buying public. This machine is expected to retain at least 61 percent of its value over a three-year period. Now that is the hidden value that will save the owner plenty of bucks down the road.
As one might expect, the XC 90 includes a whole cast of safety features – including a roll stability system that takes the unsavory aspect of the SUV and reduces it to a minor role. Also available are video screens built into the back of the driver headrests. This feature is to ensure to driver’s sanity when kids are in tow, and let’s face it, who couldn’t justify the added expense in the name of mental health.
Now that Volvo is managing to produce the perfect sequel, all the other manufacturers of premium SUVs will have to at least look at rewriting their scripts. The XC90 takes the big screen fondness for action and adventure and brings it on home to the driveways of suburbia. Get your tickets early!
More information can be found at www.volvocars.us
$ 45,395 (not including $685 destination charge)
4.4 liter eight cylinder, aluminum block and heads, 32 valves
311 @ 5,850 rpm
325 lb.-ft @ 3,900 rpm
Front engine / all-wheel drive
6-speed adaptive automatic transmission with Geartronic, electronically controlled, with lock-up and winter mode
Front: Spring-strut, lower link, anti-roll bar
Rear: Individual, multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bars
Wheels and tires:
Front: 17 inch on all-season tires
Rear: 17 inch on all-season tires
Front: Vented discs 13.2″ diameter
Rear: Vented discs 12.1″ diameter
4-wheel power assisted, anti-locking braking system, electronic brake distribution
Curb weight (lbs.):
EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway:
N/A estimated average 18