For quite a while, Volvo was lost. After decades of trying to emulate the Germans, Volvo has finally said, f*ck it; there’s no way they can out-German the Germans. Beginning with the 2016 XC90, the company has come to embrace its Swedish roots and in the process, put a unique twist on luxury. This makes the XC90 one of the most refreshing premium SUVs in the market today.
Modesty and humility are heavily ingrained in Scandinavian society and though there’s nothing modest about driving a 5.995-million peso car, it has influenced the design and engineering of the XC90. Compared to the bold and brash nature of the Germans, the XC90 relies on quiet luxury to gain attention. It starts with the exterior design that instead of hiding girth, celebrates it. It highlights the fundamentals of Swedish lifestyle: generous space, celebration of light, and the focus on wellbeing.
After 89 years, the XC90 is the first Volvo to carry a more prominent iron mark where the iconic arrow is now aligned with the diagonal slash across the grille. Together with the T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” headlights, it gives a distinct and confident face. The large, sculpted hood, high beltline, and sharpened shoulders all then connect to the rear lights whose lighting elements echo that of traditional Swedish tattoos. At each corner, 19-inch rims with 235/55 tires fill the wheel well nicely.
Inside, Volvo is reinventing its trim levels beginning with the XC90. The Momentum, the midgrade model and the subject of this review, is well-finished and excellently kitted. Soft touch plastics are everywhere as continuous poking and caressing on any surface, including the lower dashboard, reveals. All of the switchgear, from the stalks to the various buttons, is nicely damped. The standard leather seats (with 12-way power adjustment for the front occupants) and cross brushed aluminum inlays do their part to impart a sporty, yet executive character to the cabin.
And speaking about the cabin, all eyes are focused on the new Sensus infotainment system. Instead of relying on a potentially confusing rotary dial or knob between the front seats, the XC90 makes use of a 9-inch vertically-mounted touchscreen interface. It’s the most clever next-generation system because anyone will be familiar with the basic controls even before using it. With a physical home located below the screen, swiping actions to access screens, and even pinching or double tapping to zoom—operating the Sensus system is second nature to anyone who’s used an Apple iPad. Apart from the interface, the crisp and snappy response elevates this touchscreen system as the best in the business.
Adjusting to the XC90’s driving environment is easy thanks to the multitude of adjustment options. The seats themselves provide excellent support while all the controls are clearly labeled and placed within easy reach. With emphasis on comfort and space, this Volvo is extremely wide—2,140 millimeters—but it’s easy to drive thanks to the large greenhouse and thin pillars. In tighter confines, the front and rear parking sensors help in slotting this 4,950-millimeter long SUV. It can also park itself in both parallel and perpendicular spaces. Frustratingly enough, the proximity sensors override all other Sensus functions so don’t be surprised that while browsing through a playlist, a passing motorcycle can cause the proximity sensors and screen to let out a panic. False alarms are fairly common as well, so for sanity’s sake, it’s best to keep them off in all but parking situations.
Space-wise, there’s nothing to complain about the XC90. The front seats offer lots of head, leg, and shoulder room while the spacious second and third rows bump the total passenger capacity to seven. Interestingly, while the third row offers good knee room, there’s limited headroom there. Volvo even goes so far as to suggest a maximum height of just 170 centimeters—making the last row ideal only for children or the vertically challenged. Thanks to its boxy styling, the XC90 offers one of the biggest and widest luggage spaces in its class. With all seats up, there’s still room for a couple of bags; with the last row down, a couple of golf clubs or large suitcases will fit easily.
Powering the XC90 is the new Drive-E engine family that tops out with just two liters of displacement. With some 2,171 kilograms to motivate, this doesn’t sound like much, but thankfully, two turbochargers beef up the figures to 225 horsepower and 450 Nm of torque for this all-wheel drive diesel-fed D5. Married to a polished 8-speed automatic, it delivers a no-drama and easy-going performance that’s expected of a Volvo. Treated civilly, it offers good low down pull and thanks to a reasonably broad power band resulting in good thrust. It still sounds like a diesel with some hints of vibration, but it’s nonetheless refined. That said, like any boost-dependent engine, it feels hesitant during in-gear passing. It requires a split-second for the gearbox to shift down and the boost to build up before delivering overtaking pace. Surprisingly, the fuel economy doesn’t seem penalized: 9.09 km/L in the city (average speed 16 km/h) and 16.39 km/L on the highway (average speed 60 km/h).
The XC90 is underpinned by the new Scalable Product Architecture or SPA which will ultimately make up everything Volvo (the large models, at least). The front uses a familiar Double Wishbone set-up, but the rear multilink suspension employs an integral link. Making the set-up even more unique, a single composite leaf spring transversely spans the two control arms instead of a pair of coil springs. Overall, this setup produces a smooth and compliant ride matching its best rivals, especially at highway speeds. However, it does tend to pick up on cracks, bumps, and expansion joints a bit more at city speeds. It’s highly unlikely that the XC90 will be used as a canyon carver, but at least it’s good to know that it offers impressive body control, considering its size. The electric power steering feels artificial despite the driver-adjustable effort, but it still offers plenty of precision, eliciting confidence when pushed.
Finally, since this is a Volvo, the XC90 comes with a whole gamut of driver assistance features, some of which are welcome and others which are obtrusive for Philippine roads. Adaptive cruise control, LED headlights with Active Bending Lights (ABL), and Lane Keeping Assist are all welcome, but City Safety is alloying as hell. In theory, it helps mitigate accidents due to jaywalking pedestrians, wayward cyclists, or incoming cars at an intersection. In reality, it’s just about as good as causing one. One time, a car decided to swerve in close proximity and though there’s still a couple of car length’s space left, the system panicked causing the XC90 stop completely in the middle of a left-hand turn. And that’s with the sensitivity setting set way low (it can’t be turned off).
The 2016 Volvo XC90 shuns brashness and overt displays of wealth for something much more reserved. With a focus on delivering top-notch craftsmanship and minute attention to detail, it doesn’t shout out to the neighbors about newfound wealth or status. Apart from some issues with low speed ride and City Safety, it’s hard to beat it when it comes to overall comfort and refinement. It comes out as the best and perhaps the most sensible way to reward oneself.
2016 Volvo XC90 D5 Momentum
|Ownership||2016 Volvo XC90 D5 Momentum|
|Vehicle Classification||Luxury Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door SUV|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Direct Injection, Twin Turbo|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||225 @ 4,250|
|Nm @ rpm||470 @ 1,750-2,500|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Diesel|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||2,171|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Pirelli Scorpion Verde 235/55 R 19 V (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Front and Rear, Automated Park Assist|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric, Front, with memory|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 40/20/40 (2nd row); 50/50 (3rd row)|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, 4-zone|
|No. of Speakers||10|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|