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First pics: Volvo joins the off-road boom

Swedish mud-plugger: The XC90 will go on sale in Australia early in 2003.

Volvo is heading off-road with its new XC90 four-wheel drive

29 Nov 2001

VOLVO is planning to join the booming four-wheel drive market in a little over 12 months time with its first luxury off-roader, the XC90.

As the first official picture shows, the Swedish manufacturer has remained true to its Adventure Concept Car (ACC) on which the XC90 is based, although the production reality is naturally more conservative and practical than its concept counterpart.

The trademark design and safety elements of the V-shaped bonnet and pronounced body shoulders offer a strong link to other Volvo family models, while the production car also shares the same platform as the S80, V70 and S60.

The XC90 will be officially unveiled in the second week of January next year, taking pride of place on Volvo's stand at the Detroit motor show, before going on sale in Europe late 2002 and here in February or March 2003.

Production is due to begin in August 2002 after Volvo's traditional mid-year holiday shutdown, with the new model coming out of the Torslanda factory in Gothenburg.

Pricing for the company's first Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) is expected to be around $90,000, enabling it to compete against the current crop of luxury soft-roaders - Audi's Allroad, BMW's X5 and the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class.

There will be at least two variants for Australia, with a choice of 2.4-litre five-cylinder and 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit turbo engines already seen in other Volvos.

The four-wheel drive system is thought to be Haldex unit with an electronic differential.

Volvo Car Australia will look at the five-cylinder turbo-diesel variant further down the track, but it is not part of the company's initial plans for the XC90.

"This is one Volvo model where there would be some more logic in considering it than there might have been in the past," Volvo Car Australia public affairs manager Graeme Adam said.

"There is a neater fit between a diesel and a car with this sort of persona, but it is not strongly under consideration at this stage." The luxury off-road segment is poised to become an increasingly competitive niche, following in the footsteps of the now bursting compact and medium four-wheel drive classes.

Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are already competing in the category, with the latter two expected to add even larger versions of their current models in the next few years, while Porsche and Volkswagen will have joined the scene by the time Volvo arrives.

There has been speculation that Volvo may expand its four-wheel drive range even further with a XC version of the all-new V50, when the existing S/V40 range is replaced in 2004.

The current V70-based Cross Country model will continue as part of the Volvo line-up, but you can expect to see it re-badged as the XC70 to bring it into line with the XC90.

Originally released in early 1998 as the V70 Cross Country, or XC for short, Volvo pushed hard to eliminate the V70 and XC tags when the current model was introduced in September 2000 and market the car as simply Volvo Cross Country.

But the XC badge has remained on the car's flanks throughout its life, which should facilitate an easy transition for the model's third name change.

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