When Chinese automotive manufacturer Geely scooped up the Volvo Car Corporation in 2010, many predicted the end of the Swedish brand as we always knew it. That Volvo’s logo would soon grace the grilles of spruced-up Geely products and sold as luxury cars. That those indestructible, square-shaped wagons would become a distant memory.
It took a while to arrive, but the first vehicle to appear under this new philosophy and management is the 2016 Volvo XC90. The second generation of the company’s midsize, seven-passenger SUV is powered solely by four-cylinder engines. Our T6 AWD Inscription tester featured a 2.0-litre mill that’s force-fed by both a turbocharger and a supercharger, resulting in 316 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Performance isn’t neck-breaking – the vehicle weighs more than 4,500 lbs., after all – but the XC90 can get up to speed as swiftly as the competition’s diesel-powered offerings. Namely, the BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE.
Managed by an eight-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel drivetrain, the 2016 Volvo XC90’s engine provided us with a fuel economy average of just 9.9 L/100 km. That’s impressive for a big luxury SUV that isn’t motivated by diesel fuel or electricity. Soon, the XC90 will also be offered with the company’s T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain that dishes out 400 hp and 472 lb.-ft. along with a consumption average of 2.1 Le/100 km (European estimate).
The 2016 Volvo XC90 also feels sure-footed on the road, thanks to its well-calibrated suspension. However, the ride is rather harsh on badly maintained city streets. The Drive Mode system tweaks throttle response and suspension firmness, although with the exception of the Eco mode, the difference between the various settings isn’t all that noticeable.
Inside, the XC90 truly stands out of the luxury SUV crowd with styling that can best be described as elegant simplicity. A very tasteful mix of leather, bright trim and low-glare wood create a soft, peaceful atmosphere. Less peaceful is the sophisticated centre stack infotainment system that requires the driver’s attention to operate. A few physical climate control buttons or rotary dials would’ve been nice. On the other hand, the LCD driver instrument pod is clear and modern, while the optional, 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system’s output is terrific.
The XC90 can even be equipped with electronic driving aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, active park assist and – something Volvo even pioneered years ago – blind spot monitoring.
Last but not least, the 2016 Volvo XC90 is competitively priced from $61,900, although our well-equipped T6 AWD Inscription tester topped $80K. It’s a worthy rival to the German luxury SUVs, a breath of fresh air in its market segment, and every bit a Volvo as we hoped.