Corporate transformation is a sure thing in the automotive industry.
Volvo not only offers a big sport utility vehicle that seats seven, but with the advent of the 2006 XC90, you now can buy one with a lusty 311-horsepower V-8 offering a top speed of 130 mph , when you really need to get those kids to the soccer game in a hurry. Yes, Volvo has moved well beyond its role as the purveyor of safe and sane midsized sedans and wagons.
Volvo was one of the last automotive companies to enter the SUV arena and has reaped spectacular results. According to my unofficial headcount, the XC90 model is ubiquitous in all of the places where you’d expect to find it, such as the parking lots of private schools, trendy athletic clubs and upscale vendors such as Whole Foods.
In just two short years, the XC90 is Volvo’s best-selling product and represents 27 percent of total sales volume and an even higher percentage of company and dealer profit with sticker prices that can reach $50,000.
The new version of the XC90 with the potent V-8 is Volvo’s attempt to bolster its competitive stance against Land Rover, BMW and the Infiniti, which all offer V-8 power. The new model satisfies all of the family decision-makers , mom gets her beloved Volvo and dad gets the bragging rights to 311 horsepower, which stacks up well against its competition.
The XC90 has many features that appeal to its traditional buyer. The compact 4.4-liter engine is the only V-8 in production to meet the stringent standard of U.S. ULEV II (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II). Gas mileage seems reasonable at 21 miles per gallon for highway driving. The new engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and what the company claims is the world’s first all-wheel-drive system with instant traction to enhance footing on all road surfaces.
There are other important safety components in the XC90. Volvo’s Roll Stability Control system was developed in direct response to the higher center of gravity in an SUV that precipitates an increased incidence of rollover accidents when a driver suddenly swerves to avoid a dog bounding across the road.
The system prevents a rollover through the implementation of active technology. It incorporates gyroscopic sensors that determine the angle and speed of an impending rollover. Computer logic then engages the XC90’s Dynamic Stability Traction Control system that instantaneously reduces power, or applies braking action to one or more wheels, thereby putting the vehicle back on a safe course.
Should a rollover occur, the XC90 has additional features that come into play. The vehicle’s roof structure is reinforced with a special boron alloy that is much stronger than normal steel.
Occupants are further protected by an inflatable air curtain that drops down from the headliner in a side impact or rollover. In addition, each of the seven passenger seats are equipped with seat belt pretension that pull the seat belt tight to keep the passenger securely planted in the seat.
While the power component of the XC90 has been upgraded with the addition of the V-8 engine, the handling remains underwhelming. The road feel is not up to contemporary norms and the turn-in is vague and unresponsive. The XC90 would not be my first choice for threading demanding roads.
The XC90’s interior offers flexibility for a wide range of family uses. The optional third row of seats folds flat into the floor when not in use. The second row of seats can be configured so that the bench seat can be moved back and forth, allowing more legroom for passengers in the third row.
The XC90’s interior is handsomely conceived and executed with comfortable seats and a center console that contains a wealth of information, but is relatively easy to access and use. The new XC90 V-8’s interior is equipped with a long list of luxury standard features, such as leather seating surfaces for all three rows, power moonroof, auto-dimming mirror, aluminum inlays and gearshift knob, third-row climate control, six-CD in-dash changer and rear seat audio controls.
Our test vehicle was equipped with the optional touring package, which delivers snappy 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/60 tires, premium sound with Dolby ProLogic, genuine wood inlays and a luxury wood steering wheel.
Cordell Koland is an automotive journalist based in California’s central coast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volvo XC90 V-8
Price as tested: $49,480.
Type: 4.4-liter V-8.
Horsepower: 311 @ 5,850 rpm.
Torque: 325 foot-pounds @ 3,900 rpm.
Fuel economy, automatic transmission:
City: 15 mpg.
Highway: & #173; 19 mpg.
Curb weight: 4,610 pounds.