Beginning with a light and animation show that would have made Disney and Pixar scramble for cover, Volvo dropped the veil on its all-new 7-passenger SUV Wednesday in Stockholm, Sweden. The 2016 Volvo XC90 carries the huge weight of being the first all-4-cylinder model line built off of an all-new platform that will be the basis for a number of new Volvo vehicles, including the next-generation 60-Series models.
Volvo classifies its shared-platform and fuel-efficient 4-cylinder drivetrain initiatives "Scalable Product Architecture" (SPA) and "Drive-E" respectively. That's worth noting because the Chinese-owned-but-still-very-very-very-Swedish company has bet the gard (farm) on these strategies, so a big hit right off the bat would be a real boost as it goes up against the cream of the 3-row SUV crop, including the Acura MDX, BMW X5 and Audi Q7.
Luxury Family Values
Volvo wasted nobody's time in being coy about its pride in the all-new SUV, listing four items -- luxury, fuel efficiency, comfort and, of course, safety -- as a top priority during different parts of the launch presentation. With refreshing candor, Dennis Nobelius, Volvo's Vice President in charge of the XC90 program, summed up his all-in belief in the multi-billion-dollar product development program that the Volvo XC90 represents by saying, "We cannot do better than this."
Immediately after the 2016 XC90 unveiling, Volvo put display models of the SUV on stage (where it looked uncomfortable), and posed one on a pseudo-rock formation in the exhibition hall's cafe (where it looked bored). I kept thinking that I'd rather be looking at the new XC90 in traffic where it was designed to be seen, and where its beveled profile, double-folded wheel arches and strong-faced front end will stand out. My gut instincts were affirmed later when I saw a white XC90 parked in a lot among other cars. It looked appealing and natural in its element.
An Interior Built Around You
Moving inside the Volvo SUV, you become involved in the seats -- leatherette on base models, leather further up the ladder -- as they do a really good job of mimicking a sleeve for the human spine. There's a roomy, airy feel in the cabin. Without a doubt, room in the second row's three sliding, articulated seats is competitive, and the third row is survivable, even for adults. Cargo room feels generous with the third row folded down. When it's up, however, the space for your stuff becomes a bit cramped.
From behind the steering wheel, the view out is expansive, but even more IMAX impressive is the large, vertical touch screen with a user-adoring logic that frees you from having to endlessly push buttons and swap screens to control navigation, media, phone and climate-comfort systems -- all standard -- plus a broad choice of apps, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If you own a smartphone, you already know how to use this setup, and the pressure-sensitive touch-screen menu elements are so big, you could use your elbow (or your gloved hand) to engage them. True to carmakers' need for bragging rights for premium audio, the Volvo XC90 boasts an optional 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins system.
Safer the Little Children
Nothing says Volvo quite like a quick discussion of safety features. To its credit the company isn't afraid to use the term "safe" as evidenced by it 2020 initiative asserting the goal that by the year 2020, no one driving a Volvo should ever be killed in an automobile accident. The 2016 Volvo XC90 plays safety up as well. "City Safety" now becomes the blanket system for all of Volvo's automatic braking systems including the automatic braking response when the SUV senses vehicles, pedestrians, kids and cyclists heading for a bad end with the front of the Volvo. New to City Safety is a terrific system whereby the XC90 senses an oncoming vehicle while you are trying to make a left-hand turn. If the Volvo senses an inevitable head-on collision as you begin the turn, it will put a full stop to the XC90. Everybody has a friend who ended up in a bad way due to a left-hand turn, so this is a great idea.
At launch, two versions of the Volvo XC90 will be presented: the 316-horsepower supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter T6, and the dual-powerplant hybrid version, the T8, rolling out 400 horsepower and cranking out 347 lb-ft of accelerative torque. A terrific rundown of the inner workings of the T8's 2.0-liter + electric motor drivetrain can be found here. Both XC90 models will feature all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission. A front-wheel-drive version of the T6 may come after launch, which is scheduled for April of next year, but that decision has still yet to be made.
E-Business for the XC90
If you can't wait to start the anticipation of owning a 2016 Volvo XC90, however, an online-only initiative is starting up on September 3rd, when a limited edition of 1,927 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 "First Edition" models will go on sale via the Internet at www.volvocars.com/us. The number of XC90s offered commemorates Volvo's 1927 start in the car-building business. The $66,800 price tag gets you a loaded, loaded SUV with an Onyx Black exterior and custom 21-inch Inscription wheels, and a fully driver-adjustable air suspension with electronically controlled damping. Inside, the Volvo XC90 First Edition includes Amber Nappa Leather seats -- heated and cooled in front, heated in the second row, and power-adjustable in the third -- a Charcoal leather dash and Linear Walnut wood trim, and that killer Bowers & Wilkins sound system.
Final pricing for the XC90 T6 should start just under $50,000 for the new SUV, with prices for the meatier T8 model arriving closer to the launch date.