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I Was Wrong About the Volvo EX90, But Volvo May Wish I Wasn't

Sometimes, we bet on a given outcome in the automotive industry with the information we have. Volvo registered the name Embla, presented the Concept Recharge, and its CEO said the XC90 would remain in production when its new flagship arrived. When Volvo teased the EX90, it looked so much like the XC90 that I was sure the EX90 was the restyled one. I could not be more wrong. Ironically, Volvo may eventually wish I wasn’t.
Have a good look at the EX90 and answer: doesn't it look too much like the XC90? 72 photos
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Joking aside, Volvo was expected to break the mold and offer something unique with its first dedicated EV. This vehicle was supposed to reformulate not only the brand’s naming strategy but also its design. It was a massive opportunity to make something different, more efficient, and more elegant. Volvo just made the safest XC90 ever, with a price tag that people are having trouble accepting.

Steve Fowler wrote about that AutoExpress. The British magazine’s editor-in-chief was also flabbergasted by its weight: almost three metric tons. That may be safe for the occupants, but any vehicle crashing with an EX90 will have a pretty difficult time. I am more concerned about how bland the car looks.

Volvo must have decided that its customers are so conservative that they would never drive a production-version Concept Recharge. After all, it would be just a tall station wagon, a body type that does not drive as much attention from customers as SUVs do. However, a sleeker and more innovative style would probably attract younger buyers – and that would not be the only benefit a production Concept Recharge could offer.

If the concept’s design were preserved, the EX90 (or Embla) would be more aerodynamic, requiring much less effort to keep high speeds than the EX90 certainly does. While we are talking about electric vehicles with drag coefficients of 0.20, Volvo’s SUV on batteries presents 0.29. Is that good for an SUV? For sure, but the EX90 frontal area is massive. That will turn it into an electric car with lousy efficiency, which the hefty weight will make even worse.

The Concept Recharge suggested Volvo would make a lower vehicle, with a smaller frontal area and better drag coefficient than its competitors. If Volvo pursued these objectives, the EX90 could be lighter. The only efficiency pillar left to tackle would be more frugal electric motors, which is pretty difficult considering how good they already are in that regard.

For the hypothetical Embla to hold as many passengers as the EX90, it would have to be longer. The seven passengers that fit on the production SUV sit higher, which allowed Volvo to raise the hip point and shorten the vehicle. That may make the SUV easier to park, but this is not truly a benefit when your battery pack and electric motors have to beat air resistance.

With the EX90 looking pretty much like the XC90, the only selling argument the former Volvo flagship will have will be a lower price tag. Yes, it will still be a large SUV that is safe, but what else does the XC90 have to offer? A unique design? Not anymore. The premium status of being Volvo’s flagship? That ship has sailed, leaving the feeling that the restyled XC90 will be Volvo’s budget option for customers in need of carrying seven passengers.

If Volvo has already amortized the XC90’s project, anything else it sells will be almost pure profit. Yet, the Swedish brand would probably keep it attractive for more conservative buyers if it made the EX90 something that really stood out. And it only does that when it comes to price and weight. Volvo is also proud of how safe it is, but that’s pretty much it.

I’m sure the Swedish brand must have plenty of reasons to have made the EX90 a larger, heavier, and more expensive XC90, but the fact that it could be so much more almost makes me proud of being wrong about it. Ultimately, I have the impression that I expected much more from Volvo than it was willing to deliver. My bad.

 
 
 
 
 

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