XC90 Review

What is it?

It is a show of strength, a peek into Volvo’s future, and a very capable luxury SUV. This is the new Volvo XC90 and it can be yours for under Rs 80 lakh for the most expensive Inscription version.

How is it inside?

Sophisticated. Spacious. Tech-laden. And uncluttered. It only has eight buttons on the dashboard (unheard of in today’s electrically complicated cars), and a majority of those buttons control the audio. The rest are there to open the dash, switch on the hazard light and get the defoggers working.

But, it’s the simple but classy layout of the interiors, the 9in touchpad and the materials used, which give the Volvo XC90 its unique, likeable and sophisticated appeal. The soft and expensive-to-the-touch plastics, the brushed metal highlights, the natural looking wood inserts, and the Nappa leather, all add to it. 

Then there’s the touchpad. It helps control the audio, the climate control, the ventilated seats, the car systems and almost everything else. The touch sensitivity is fantastic and the info you need the most – music, Bluetooth, navigation and AC – is always a touch away thanks to permanent shortcuts on the screen.

Space is another huge plus for the new Volvo XC90. Leg, head, and shoulder space is plenty in the first two rows. Plus, it has a large glass area (including a huge sunroof), which not only helps the overall visibility for the driver; it helps with the feeling of space as well for the passengers. Ingress / egress for the front two rows of seating is easy too, but getting into the last row can be a big challenge. But, once you get there, the knee and headroom is more than acceptable especially when you consider it is designed to hold occupants not taller than 1.7m.

So what do you get?

A full-sized, plush, and handsome SUV to begin with. The Volvo XC90 also has a very distinct aura. It stands out thanks to its right proportions, its upright stance and some bling (read the Thor-hammer headlamps and that huge satin silver grille). But, it looks tasteful and rich but never ostentatious. 

The new Volvo is also packed with technology. It can park itself; it gets colour HUD function with navigation readout; a high-end Bowers and Wilkins with 19 speakers and a trick sub-woofer; a lovely touchpad; and of course, a plethora of active and passive safety kit which has made the new XC90 the safest car of 2015 in EuroNCAP’s books.

What we didn’t get though is Volvo’s choice of sticking with Boron steel when all its competitors have moved to aluminium. Yes, Boron steel is Swedish but when one must choose between weight saving and jingoism, ideally it ought to be the former. As a result, the new XC90 weighs over 2.1 tonnes, which for new generation cars, even SUVs, is a bit much.

How is it to drive?

Calm. Serene. But, not exactly very enjoyable. The Volvo XC90 feels surefooted and unwavering in a straight line, which should make it great for long distance travel. But, show it some corners and it begins to get uncomfortable. It is a heavy car and as a result, the XC90 rolls around and struggles a bit under braking too. The brakes themselves are great: lots of bite, lots of feedback and just the right amount of travel. But, as you go faster and the momentum builds, it takes more effort to slow the Volvo down. We are also no fans of the XC90’s electrically powered steering; there’s little feedback and a hint of laziness in its reactions.

Selecting Dynamic mode improves the XC’s handling characteristics, no doubt; the steering weighs up better, the suspension becomes tauter still, and there’s an improvement in the throttle response as well. But, it certainly doesn’t turn the SUV into a sports car.

Other driving modes include: Eco (for fuel efficiency), Comfort (for a cushier ride and lighter steering), Off-Road (for taking on the rough with hill descent and raised ride height), and finally Custom (which allows you to take bits and pieces from various modes and come up with your own recipe).