STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Nobody does touchy-feely like Volvo (OK, perhaps Subaru), and we mean that as a compliment. The Swedish survivor has managed to sell the same tall XC90 sport/utility vehicle since 2002, a lifecycle that rivals the 122 Amazon, and now its new replacement for the 2016 model year has premiered, and it’s more Volvo-esque than ever.
Volvo will resuscitate its twelve-year-old, seven-passenger XC90 sport/utility flagship with a range of engines with no more than four cylinders and a plug-in hybrid version with 25 miles of electric-only range available in the all-new 2016 model. The 2016 Volvo XC90 is the first new model from the Geely-owned Swedish automaker that uses a new, flexible transverse-engine, front-wheel-drive based platform that is expected to spawn production forms of the coupe, crossover and station wagon concepts unveiled at the 2013 Frankfurt, 2014 Detroit and 2014 Geneva auto shows, respectively.
[Volvo loyalists in the U.S. were created, or so the stereotype goes, when college students bought the used 122s their professors had traded in for 240 sedans. The students graduated on to shuttling their families around in Volvo wagons in the 1990s, even as their cohorts migrated to minivans and sport/utility vehicles.
But the Swedish automaker upended its own stereotype when it introduced, three years into Ford Motor Company’s ownership, its own SUV: a large and rather handsome three-row model called the XC90. Twelve years later, that XC90 still lurks about the automaker’s dealerships, having received only minor facelifts and a short-lived Yamaha-built 4.4-liter V-8 option, alongside the V60 wagon and the smaller XC60 crossover and the bestselling S60 sedan.]
During its five years under Geely ownership, Volvo has gone from stopping import of any wagons into the U.S. in favor of the midsize XC60 crossover/utility vehicle, to importing wagons again, albeit the compact, five-passenger V60, which is not suitable for carpooling your kids and their friends to their local private day school.
The new 2016 Volvo XC90 is suitable for that, and even though it’s still an SUV, it looks the part of Volvo wagon. The relatively boxy greenhouse avoids the swoopiness of many other premium crossovers with its square, upright rear tailgate that should allow for a decent amount of room in the third-row seats. There are a few interesting premium touches like T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” inserts in the headlights and optional 22-inch alloy wheels that add visual interest, but overall the look is well-proportioned, conservative, and quintessentially Volvo.
For its second generation, there are no six-cylinder engines available, let alone a Yamaha V-8. In harmony with its touchy-feely image, Volvo’s new Drive-E family of four-cylinder gas and diesel engines emphasize low emissions and high fuel efficiency. The flagship 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine is a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0 liter, four-cylinder gas engine combined with an 80-hp electric motor, for a combined 400 horsepower. The plug-in hybrid model can travel 25 miles without gas, and goes on sale before the end of the 2016 model year.
A launch version of the all-new 2016 Volvo XC90 with a 316-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged I-4, all-wheel drive, and an eight-speed automatic transmission will be limited to 1927 copies globally, and is available for order at volvocars.com/us beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern, September 3, for $66,825. Deliveries are expected by April or May 2015. The base 2016 Volvo XC90 T6, with the 316 hp engine, AWD, navigation, 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, and internet connectivity will start at $49,825.
The interior of the 2016 Volvo XC90 features a “virtually button-free” tablet-style touchscreen infotainment system, combined with soft leather and wood, and a gearshift lever made of crystal glass from the Swedish glassmaker Orrefors. There are diamond-cut controls for the start/stop button and volume control, and a top-spec British Bowers & Wilkins 1400-watt Class D stereo amplifier with nineteen B&W speakers. Air-ventilated sub-woofers are integrated into the XC90’s body, which turns the entire interior into one big sub-woofer, Volvo says.
Of course, since this is a Volvo, there’s a lot of safety kit. New additions to the City Safety system are a protection package that tighten seatbelts when sensors detect that the XC90 is about to run, involuntarily, off-road. An energy-absorption function between the seats and seat-frame cushions the vertical forces of landing hard on the terrain, to help prevent spinal injuries.
Another feature automatically brakes the XC90 if the driver turns in front of an oncoming car.
“The new technologies will take a significant step closer to our vision that no one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020,” says research & development senior vice president Peter Mertens. Safety, connectivity and autonomous driving are key to that goal, Volvo says.
The 2016 Volvo XC90 goes on sale in the U.S. in spring 2015.