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Driven: Volvo enters ‘new era’ with new XC90

Revolutionary safety, autonomy features for new Volvo XC90, now from $89,950

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Volvo logo4 Aug 2015

By TIM ROBSON

VOLVO’S bold new XC90 SUV marks the start of an avalanche of product for the Swedish brand as it aims to crack 10,000 sales a year in Australia.

Taking just four years to develop and execute, the XC90 is part of a $US11 billion ($A15 billion) investment in new platforms by the company, which sets the groundwork for a Volvo fleet that will be fully refreshed by 2018.

“This is one of the most important days in our history,” Volvo Car Australia managing director Kevin McCann said at the XC90’s national launch in Canberra this week. “We are not just launching a car, but relaunching our brand. This day marks a new era for our company.”

The first all-new vehicle developed under Chinese parent company Geely, the seven-seat XC90 comes 12 years after the release of the first-generation model, which sold 15,117 units in Australia, making it the local arm’s most successful models of recent times.

Two new safety systems debut on the XC90. A run-off road system can detect when the SUV has left the road, and will pretension the front seatbelts. The seats have also been designed to absorb 30 per cent more vertical impact.

“It can be the difference between becoming paralysed and walking away,” said Volvo’s senior product manager of the 90 range, Lars Lagstrom.

An intersection detection function has also been added to Volvo’s standard City Safety package, which can detect cyclists, cars and pedestrians day and night.

An all-new modular SPA platform, a trio of new powertrains and increased safety technology comes at a price, however, with the entry-level Momentum D5 diesel kicking off at $89,950 plus on-road costs – a not-inconsiderable $29,960 leap over the previous baseline D5 Kinetic, which was listed at $59,990 plus on-roads.

Mr McCann told GoAuto that the pricing position had been thoroughly researched, and that the increase is “not something we are concerned about”.

“It’s fair to say that the entry level of the new model is significantly higher than the entry level of the run-out model,” he said. “I think it’s important to launch a car with a clear position, and I think there’s enough customers in that price range to buy all the cars that we’re going to bring to Australia for the period of time that we have to have just that range.”

Mr McCann also suggested that the XC90’s range would expand and contract as market forces dictate.

“Ultimately, we’ll see other models come through as well,” he said.

VCA says it is holding 140 firm orders, with another 400 ‘hand-raisers’ awaiting test drives before purchasing. The XC90 will come from the Torslanda plant in Sweden, and vehicles will be in showrooms from this weekend.

Volvo’s new pricing structure moves it up into the realms of premium SUVs from companies like BMW, Audi, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. The BMW X5 xDrive25d costs $89,200 plus on-road costs, for example, but Volvo claims that, like-for-like, the BMW will actually cost $12,500 more in equivalent spec.

The Volvo will also go up against Mercedes’ ML series and Audi’s Q7, both of which are set to be significantly updated before the end of 2016.

Volvo has introduced three variants that are new for the XC90, along with three new powerplants. The range kicks off with the Momentum, before moving up through the mid-grade Inscription and up to the top-end R-Design. The latter will join the range late in 2015.

The range will be topped next year with the arrival of the T8 petrol-electric plug-in hybrid, which will only be available in the top-spec R-Design.

Engine choices include Volvo’s new T6 2.0-litre supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine – part of the Drive-E series – along with a D5 2.0-litre common-rail twin-turbo diesel four.

Unusually, the D5 diesel acts as the entry point to the range, kicking off with the Momentum from $89,950, and rising to 93,950 for the T6 petrol. The mid-grade Inscription costs $96,950 in D5 guise and $100,950 for the T6.

The R-Design will be available with all three engines it starts at $97,950 for the diesel, $101,950 for the T6 petrol and tops the range in T8 spec at $122,950.

The petrol four produces 235kW at 5700rpm and 400Nm from 2200-5400rpm, and can push the XC90 from 0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds, while its top speed is 230km/h.

Claimed fuel economy is 8.5 litres per 100km, with 199 grams of CO2 emitted per kilometre.

The diesel makes 165kW at 4250rpm and 470Nm of torque from 1750-2500rpm. Its 0-100km/h time is 7.8 seconds and its top speed 220km/h. Economy is rated at 6.2L/100km, and CO2 emissions are 162g/km.

It uses the existing petrol engine in conjunction with a 65kW electric motor for claimed totals of 300kW and 640Nm. This lowers the 0-100km/h time to 5.6s and the economy to a claimed 2.1L/100km. CO2 emissions fall to just 49g/km.

An Aisin-Warner-developed eight-speed automatic gearbox is used in all the engines, driving through a permanent four-wheel-drive system.

The chassis is the first from the new SPA modular platform that is designed for what Volvo calls its 90 cluster. Worked started on the platform in 2008, and Volvo had originally planned to produce the S90 sedan first. The program was switched over to the XC90 in 2011.

Volvo claims the chassis’ design is flexible in every direction, with the only fixed measurement being between the front axle and the dash. The chassis and body are predominantly steel, with Volvo claiming that 33 per cent of the body in white is made of high-strength steel.

The standard front suspension of the XC90 is a dual-wishbone design with steel springs on MacPherson struts, while the rear end resurrects a clever design from Volvo’s 960 wagon of the 1990s. A polyurethane leaf spring runs across the rear of the XC90, tying the two sides together via lower A-arms and vertical dampers, and eliminating the need for traditional shock towers.

The arrangement – also seen in Chevrolet Corvettes – saves 4.5kg of weight and has allowed the fitment of larger third-row seats.

An optional air suspension system with multiple damping modes and a ‘kneeling’ function for the rear end is available for $3760.

The XC90 is 4950mm long on a wheelbase of 2984mm, stands 1776mm high and 2008mm wide. The diesel weighs 1970kg in total, the petrol 5kg less, while the T8 R-Design comes in at 2296kg.

The all-new interior features newly designed seats in all seven positions.

“It’s very important that all seating positions are equally safe,” said Mr Lagstrom. The front seats have multiple adjustments including optional bolster adjustment for the driver, while the third row includes niceties such as armrests, storage bins and cupholders.

The second row has 120mm of fore-aft adjustability to allow more room for the third row.

Up front, a 9.0-inch tablet-style screen takes away all but eight hard buttons on the centre console, while the steering wheel can control navigation, telephony and entertainment functions.

The dash, too, is a TFT display with multiple viewing screens.

Standard inclusions on the Momentum incorporate 19-inch alloy wheels (a space-saver spare is used), active high beam on LED headlights, a power-operated tailgate, child seat booster cushion in the centre of the second row, leather trim, four-zone climate control (including the third row), and front seat power adjustment (including driver’s position memory).

Collision mitigation support, keyless start, park assist camera and auto-park pilot and satellite navigation are also standard.

The Inscription adds 20-inch wheels, different exterior trim, Nappa leather trim, ‘high-level’ interior lighting, leather key remote, blind-spot and cross-traffic alert, along with a collision warning mitigation front and rear and hands-free tailgate opening.

Various options are available including a $4000 driver support package that includes adaptive cruise with in-traffic pilot assist (autonomous traffic driving), lane keeping, queue assist, distance alert and a speed limiter, along with a 360-degree camera array and head-up display.

A top-end Bowers & Wilkins stereo system costs $4500, while birch dash inlays cost $700.

Volvo XC90 pricing*
Momentum D5 diesel$89,950
Momentum T6 petrol$93,950
Inscription D5 diesel$96,950
Inscription T6 petrol$100,950
R-Design D5 diesel$97,950
R-Design T6 petrol$101,950
R-Design T8 hybrid$122,950
*Excludes on-road costs.

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