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11/03/02 VOLVO XC 90, NO DIRT HERE!

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Thu, Jun 12, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

VOLVO XC 90, NO DIRT HERE!

By JOHN GRAFMAN

The Matterhorn at Disneyland is a favorite ride of mine as it is to many others who have visited the amusement park over the years. It may not be the tallest or fastest coaster out there at the moment yet it has so much appeal that waiting in line for a half an hour is tolerable. If Disney bombarded us with a barrage of infomercials while waiting the experience would definitely not be the same. Information has its time and place. And like chocolate, too much of a good thing is not always a wise idea.

The introduction event held in El Toro marine base for the Volvo XC 90 on November third overflowed with too much information. The event, which was held at the same location as the Mercedes E Class event just weeks earlier, seemed to slightly miss the mark. For someone who has never been to such a presentation this may have been fairly intriguing. Volvo most definitely has many interesting and innovative features to crow about on their entry into the SUV fray. Some of the demo could have been pared down. Lets admit it, if you want to find out more about any vehicle, just open any of the countless magazines or web zines and you can get enough info to gag on. However if you leave the comfort and safety of the couch or chair in front of your computer monitor, one is looking for some hands on stimulation. Volvo did come through with that but even then they missed a real opportunity. Of the four courses they set up one was dedicated strictly for their professional drivers to show us how well the XC 90 handles at the upper limits. Unfortunately our driver was told that due to the excessive amount of tires being devoured, they were going to limit the full bore demo to half the track and then crawl through the remainder of it. So what could have been an exciting, memorable moment was watered down enough to become nearly ineffective.

Somehow or another they also missed the other key point. This is a SUV. Why not show what this vehicle can do off of the pavement? Is there something to hide? They did have some adjacent areas that where unpaved however that would not be our terrain for the XC 90. Fortunately you can't keep a good SUV down. The over zealous commentary prior to our time behind the wheel was not without cause. This is a well-executed design from what we could tell. We did have the chance to motor through the three other courses that offered the two different choices of motors. The smaller engine was barely nominal for this size vehicle and the larger was not the most powerful engine in the marketplace but it did get the job done around our courses. There are several optional features that were displayed that were fairly trick including the optional laminated side glass. This glass not only reduces the noise from the outside world from penetrating but also as shown in the demo, can help reduce injury in an accident. Perhaps if you happen to reside in some hostile country (such as ours), this could even thwart the efforts of ruthless intruders and kidnappers. In the bigger picture I would be concerned how this newcomer stacks up against its competitors. The reputation that Volvo has for safety is of course a strong selling point, as they mentioned in the presentation that the XC 90 has a center of gravity that is not altogether that much higher than their Cross Country Wagon.

None of the competitor vehicles were at either track and I was left feeling that this new product hadn't truly overwhelmed me. The styling and execution inside and out were in line for the most part with the target market. If the BMW X5 or Mercedes M Class is your benchmark in those areas, the XC 90 will resonate a familiar tone. The wood trim used in our vehicles didn't strike my fancy but it did distinguish itself from the pack. At the end of the day's event I left with some hesitation as to making any bold statements with regards to our short sampling. Our forthcoming in depth look at the new Volvo will get to the nitty gritty on how she stacks up. Just like Disneyland isn't complete without a little water spray, an SUV event without an off road course and mud just doesn't seem right. In retrospect, I unfortunately wound up slinging more dirt than the XC 90. More dirt on Volvo at www.volvo.com

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