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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

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 Sat, Aug 25, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE BEAUTY IS A BEAST By HAROLD OSMER

Volvo's XC90 is among the best-looking crossover vehicles on the road. Crossovers are roughly defined as vehicles that are larger than a car yet not up to full-sized SUV bulk.

Though smaller in outright size than a typical SUV, the XC90 seats three passengers in terrific comfort, four if three are friendly, and six if three are friendly and three have short legs. The rear seats are multi-adjustable allowing maximum utilization of the 85.1 cubic feet cargo area. Seat controls are sturdy, positive, and simple to use. Standard equipment for our top-of-the-line V8 AWD Sport includes an impressive list of features. The engine is displaces 4.4 liters, has dual continuously variable valve timing and is torque rated at 325 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm. All-road capability is enhanced via ground clearance of 8.6 inches. Six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, Sport-Tuned Suspension and Steering, and Dynamic Stability and Traction Control add to the solid feel of the XC90.

Volvo's in general have a tight, solid feel to the way they drive and it's a question taste as to whether you agree or disagree with this approach to car design. You will more sense than actually notice the XC90's 4826 pounds and solid is the correct word. Steering is true and responsive. The XC90 is the same relative size inside and out as a Lexus GX470 with both boasting similar capacities of head, shoulder, and leg room though the Volvo has a cozier, tighter overall feel. With nearly enough airbags to float this thing, the XC90 offers the best passive safety restraints available.

Where the XC90 disappoints is in the drive. I found myself getting queasy at highway speeds and eventually hypothesized that the XC90 was constantly shifting its relative attitude. As though the power was being delivered first to one wheel then another at random. If you hold the steering wheel of your current car too tight on the freeway and send every arm twitch to the wheels, you can generate the same effect. Power control presented another issue. When accelerating from a stop, all was fine, smooth and predictable. With 311 horsepower, the XC90's drivetrain is more than capable of moving around. But at any speed above 30 mph, standing on the gas requires some anticipation of results. Slow, smooth throttle application results in a steady speed increase. Pushing the pedal to the floor produced momentary speed increase followed by a maddening second of pause then finally getting to the business of launching the XC90. All cars will hesitate briefly between the pedal mash and acceleration, but I found this particular response lag unsettling.

I was excited to have an opportunity to test the Volvo XC90. Within one day I wanted to return it. Even given the benefit of the doubt and a few more days, the XC90 continued to disappoint. At a base of $49,300 the XC90 does not match up to some similarly priced competitors. SUMMARY JUDGMENT There are some better alternatives, including from Volvo. For more information about Volvo products, go to www.volvocars.us.

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2007 Volvo XC90 V8 AWD Sport Price: Base $49,300, as tested $51,200 options include: Blind Spot Information System ($595); Convenience Package ($1295) Engine type: 4.4L, naturally aspirated V8, Aluminum block, Dual continuously variable valve timing, Advanced emissions control Horsepower: 311 @ 5850 rpm Torque: 325 lb.-ft @ 3900 rpm EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 15/20 Drive configuration: Full-time 4 wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed Geartronic automatic with Manual Mode option; fulltime AWD Suspension: Front: McPherson struts with anti-dive and anti-lift functionality Rear: Multi-link independent, roll bar Wheels and tires: 19" x 7.5" Vulcanis Wheels Pirelli Scorpion ZERO 255/50/R19 All Season Radial Tires Brakes: 4-wheel ventilated discs with ABS Dynamic Stability and Traction Control System Overall length/wheelbase: 189.3 inches/112.6 inches Overall width: 74.7 inches Overall height: 70.2 inches Warranty: The Volvo New Car Warranty provides comprehensive coverage for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Additional warranties cover corrosion, seat belts, the supplemental restraint system, emission systems, genuine Volvo replacement parts and genuine Volvo accessories. First regular maintenance free of charge at 7,500 miles.

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