We all have that type of friend who always does things the right way, never cutting corners and calculating everything to climb up the social ladder. Well, the 2016 Volvo XC90 is precisely like that.
The Swedish carmaker has now finally settled and, with Geely financing, is showing us what it can deliver with a solid base to work on. The second-generation XC90 comes as Volvo's new flagship and, interestingly enough, its overall feeling reminds me of the first XC90 more than I had expected.
Sure, from the platform to the cabin, everything is innovative, and we'll get to that later on. But after spending a few days together, I feel like the XC90 has kept its spirit unaltered.
With the old model still managing to keep up after 12 years on the market, it seems natural for Volvo to maintain the same direction underneath all the shiny gadgets and safety upgrades.
As I said, this has partially taken me by surprise and that's because, with the exception of the rear end, the XC90 has gone through an important styling change.
We got the best impression of what the new design means during our coffee stops, when people would give the Thor-headlighted SUV a second and even a third look.
One thing's for sure - those who paid close attention to the XC90 had a manly appearance, belonging to the 30-60 age group. We were even asked if we could open the car up by a guy who owned a first-gen model. While he wasn't convinced the new XC90 would be his next car, he did show a genuine look of appreciation.
From the front grille to the details on the side of the XC90, the designers have done a great job at concealing the hefty size of the car - the SUV
sits at 195 inches (4.95 meters in length).
As mentioned above, the rear end seems like a familiar sight, thanks to the vertical, elongated taillights and yet the split tailgate is gone. Perhaps a feature that will be missed, it was replaced by a massive hatch, which is power operated as standard. Back in 2002 when Volvo introduced the original XC90, the SUV was offered with wheels up to 18 inches in size. Modern-day trends mean you can now climb up to 22 inches.
Open the traditionally-massive doors (salesmen explain not even the Scandinavian winds can accidentally close them) and you'll get to see the freshest side of the new XC90.
Sure, if you look at the dashboard with your eyes half closed, the layout seems very close to that of the old model, but the goodies found here are among the most advanced in the industry.
We have to start with the 9-inch central infotainment screen, which shows the portrait orientation can be a good solution for cars, despite most carmakers’ preference for the landscape layout.
We've already seen a similar scheme being used by Tesla, but this implementation is radically different. First of all, the US carmaker makes us think of two joined iPads, while here the hardware comes from Mitsubishi and the interface seems closer to the Android operating system. To keep things short? I'll list the ups and downs of the system below.
Volvo's infotainment implementation responds quicker than Tesla's and we haven't experienced even the slightest of delays.
Moreover, the system cleans up the entire center console, since it incorporates all the features of the car. And while other carmakers, such as Mercedes-Benz, have chosen to leave the climate control out of their infotainment systems in order to offer physical buttons, Volvo has integrated those as well.
In fact, selecting the temperature is one of the features that works brilliantly, supporting the idea that such a futuristic layout is the best way to go. After all, having the ESP
settings packed underneath multiple layers of menus is not a bad idea in a car that has turned safety into a religion.
The XC90 has so few buttons (seven) on its dash that they've dedicated one to opening the glovebox.
Unfortunately, even after you get used to the menus, having to scroll through the options all the time is something that becomes tiring for many drivers, myself included. Imagine there's a situation that demands you to turn on the recirculation function of the climate control. You'll need two clicks for that and that smoke might just enter the cabin. One fully digitalized part of the XC90's dashboard that won't split opinions is the instrument cluster. Aside from the glare, which seemed a bit more serious than other cases, the system works brilliantly.
You can configure the pair of gauges, the information is easy to read and the menus are accessible. In between the two round elements, you have a navigation screen that makes life easier for the driver, doubling the info displayed on the central display.
Speaking of the navigation on the Volvo XC90, we liked the prompt response and the clear instructions. Nevertheless, the details showed on the high-res screens were inferior to those displayed on our backup navigation - Google maps on an Android smartphone.
As for the standard audio system on our tester, this felt below the overall level of the car. You should go for the optional Bowers and Wilkins 19-speaker system.
Our tester used the mid-range Momentum trim level. Tthis means the crystal gear lever offered on the superior trims was absent. Thus, our attention was grabbed by the engine start knob.
Volvo wanted to be different, so you'll have to twist the knob to the right to start the engine and go left when you want to turn off the powerplant.
The company's ways dictate a certain discretion, so while the cabin is cozy, you never get fat padding or armchair-like seats that display comfort as if it were a flag.
The mid-level equipment level materials are within the premium SUV class limits: the leather and the plastics are decent, but nothing more; we liked the tastefully restrained aspect of the aluminum trim. We also have to talk about the steering wheel, which felt unnaturally small.
When it comes to interior space, the 2016 XC90 easily tops its German rivals. Forget what the BMW X5
, Audi Q7 and Mercedes GLE (the revised ML) have to offer. This Volvo's cabin space is only rivalled by the Mercedes GL (future GLS).
Up front and in the second row, you have all the room in the world, while you can also order a pair of third-row seats. We have to mention this is the first seven-seater SUV we've driven that offers proper third-row comfort, simply because the two seats in the back offer room for your lower legs instead of being placed on the floor.
This is one of the benefits brought by the all-new platform of the XC90, which is called Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). This will be used on all future Volvo models, starting with the upcoming S90 (you can read more about this here
Another benefit is the boot space, which is downright impressive. In a five-seater configuration, the boot offers 25.5 cubic feet (721 liters), so you’ll never have to worry about this part of a trip again. Even if the pair of seats in the boot is raised, you still get 11 cubic feet (314 liters), which is considerably more than what you used to get in a Volvo C30, for example.