2015 Volvo XC90 Preview: New Look, Platform, and Technology

A closer look at what's in store for the first new XC90 in 11 years.

A funny thing happened when Volvo brought journalists in to view its new Concept Coupe show car last week: the automaker wound up showing off quite a bit of the forthcoming 2015 Volvo XC90, the brand’s first all-new SUV since 2002 and the first major product development since Volvo’s takeover by Geely.

Although the press corps wasn’t issued photos of the vehicle in its entirety, we saw enough to give you a fairly good preview of what to expect from the 2015 XC90.

There’s no mistaking the new XC90 for anything other than a Volvo, but the new 2015 Volvo XC90 bears little resemblance to the old model, whose form has hardly changed over the past 11 years. Strong shoulders, an upswept side window opening, and tail lamps that stretch into the D-pillars have long been Volvo hallmarks, and will again appear in the new XC90. That said, that’s where the resemblance comes to an end.

Volvo has hinted that the Concept Coupe’s aesthetic would help set the tone for the company’s new design language, and the 2015 XC90 is no exception. The happy-go-bubbly look of the old XC90 is replaced with a stronger, more muscular form. A wide, flat hood wraps into a large, rectangular grille, which is dominated by a gigantesque Volvo insignia. Headlamps are slim and also rectangular, and accented with T-shaped lighting elements integrated into the lamp assembly. The lower fascia includes a trapezoidal center aperture, flanked a large opening on either side. LED running lamps may also be incorporated into the V-shaped edges of the lower grille, as is presently de rigueur.

Less is known about the rear of the XC90, though Volvo says the tall tail lamps are accented with LED elements that allegedly resemble brackets, a design cue that will allegedly spread throughout the Volvo lineup in the years to come. There’s also some mystery surrounding the interior design, although some reports claim the new XC90 will adopt a digitized control interface to reduce the number of physical switches placed on the dashboard.

The 2015 XC90’s update is hardly skin deep. The new XC90 will likely be the first new Volvo to ride upon the company’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) – which, coincidently, also underpins the new Concept Coupe. The new modular architecture is designed to allow a near-infinite number of vehicles to be built from common roots. Indeed, though the structure between the front axle and firewall is shared among future SPA variants, the portions both forward and aft of that section are, according to Volvo, “variable.” As such, the same architecture can be used to build a two-door sports coupe and a three-row SUV like the XC90.

Mechanical advancements don’t stop with the platform. The 2015 XC90’s platform is designed to utilize the company’s new range of four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines. The diesel options aren’t likely to make it stateside, but a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, offering 240 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, is one possible option. An eight-speed automatic will be offered, and Volvo executives have previously suggested to us that a plug-in hybrid variant could be a possibility.

Expect a fair amount of tech to be packaged into the 2015 Volvo XC90. In addition to Volvo’s familiar CitySafety functions, the new XC90 will incorporate an improved pedestrian detection system, which can brake the vehicle if a collision with a pedestrian or cyclist is deemed likely. An updated lane-keep assist function, which no longer relies merely on lane marking stripes, will also be included, as will an active steering function, which allows the driver to briefly remove his or her hands from the steering wheel while traveling with the adaptive cruise control set.

Illustrations by Scott Olsen

The 2015 Volvo XC90 isn’t expected to debut until late 2014, so expect further details to emerge as its launch grows ever closer.