DRIVING IMPRESSION: Volvo XC90 D5 Inscription Geartronic

BY CHARL BOSCH - AUGUST 20, 2015

Every so often, numerous automakers lay claim to the fact their latest or soon to be released model, is the most important ever in terms of either showcasing new technological achievements or taking comfort and luxury to previously unheard-off levels.

When it was first introduced in 2002, the Volvo XC90 broke new grounds at a time when the SUV craze was at its peak.

Not only was it the Swedish marque’s first attempt at making a luxury SUV, but it also predated the rise in popularity of crossovers, vehicles designed as an alternative to traditional family sedans, but without the full-on off-road hardware for venturing into the bush.

In addition to its car-like feel and luxury trimmings, the XC90 had seven proper seats when many of its rivals only had five, and, in traditional Volvo fashion, it came packed with safety equipment never before seen on a family SUV.

Although it continued with a number of changes over the following 11-years, there was no denying that something major had to happen if Volvo, now under the ownership of Chinese manufacturer Geely, wanted the XC90 to stay competitive against ever improving rivals.

Frankly, no-one could prepare for what was to emerge when the wraps were taken off the long awaited second generation model late last year. Within hours of online orders opening, all 1 927 limited run First Edition models, build to commemorate Volvo’s founding year and with a number of special features, sold out at over R1-million each.

While it remains unknown whether any of these pre-mass production models made it to our shores, the time for speculating about what is arguably the most important new model of the year, recently ended when the credit-card like transponder ‘key’ of a range topping D5 Inscription landed in my hands.

At first glance, you cannot help but take a few minutes and just stare. Although wider and longer than its predecessor, the styling takes a minimalistic yet elegant approach which makes many of its rivals appear outdated or trying too hard.

Not only does the trademark T-bar shaped LED headlights, dubbed Thor’s Hammer, give the XC90 a unique and distinctive look, but the chrome grille, rising shoulder line, bulging front bumper and 19-inch alloy wheels lends the impression that its designers were keen on making it stand out, with the only requirement being close and simple attention to detail.

Where the XC90 really shows this trait to massive acclaim, is when you step inside. In what is without doubt one of the most modern and smart interiors fitted to a car on sale today, the traditional multitude of buttons have been replaced by a clean and uncluttered facia, with most of the functions being activated by Volvo’s new tablet-like nine-inch touchscreen Sensus Connect infotainment system.

Characterised by lashings of real aluminium inserts, piano key black finishes, optional Nappa leather and some of the softest plastics I have ever come across, sitting behind the wheel of the XC90 somehow makes those of its closet opposition appear cramped and under engineered.

Being the first model to feature the marque’s Sensus system, the list of functions is such that I could speak about them for the remainder of this piece.

Stand out items include a 360 degree surround view camera system, 3D satellite navigation which can also be viewed on the TFT instrument display between the speedometer and tachometer, electric tailgate and a ventilated 19 speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system, which can be adjusted to provide a sound experience akin to watching a live performance at the Gothenberg Concert Hall.

Being a Volvo, the XC90 comes loaded with a myriad of safety features again never before fitted to any vehicle. These include Road Sign Recognition, Cross Traffic Alert when a vehicle or pedestrian is located at the rear, Vehicle Distance Alert, Rear Collision Warning, Auto Park Assist and City Safety Accident Avoidance.

Carrying on with the minimalistic approach, the XC90 ditches the previous model’s range of five, six and eight cylinder engines, in favour of Volvo’s new Drive-E range, all displacing 2.0-litres and with forced induction. Don’t think for a moment though that means a serious lapse in performance.

Turn the starting button, the D5 fires up with a subtle hint of diesel clatter before setting down to relaxed idle. Release the electric parking brake and nudge the stubby gear lever of the eight-speed automatic gearbox into Drive, the XC90 responds by offering a dollop of low down torque without the faintest hint of a two-litre engine hiding up.

Burry your foot into the carpet however, it reacts by unleashing a wave of torque as both turbochargers spool up to unleash 165 kW and 470 N.m of torque, from as low as 1 750 rpm.

Some of the words mentioned when carrying this out are unfortunately unmentionable, but could best be described as mind blowing, especially when you notice the speed on the Heads-Up Display are in three digests.

In addition, the seamless way the auto box goes about its business even when you are thrashing it, the drivetrain stand out as the undoubted jewel in the XC90’s vast crown. Even with the 19-inch wheels, the ride felt comfortable and composed while the cabin remained quiet and extremely refined.

Brief my time with it might have been, but there is little doubt that the Volvo XC90 had exceeded any pre-assumptions I might have had. There is really no way of saying, it rates as my highlight of the year.

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE LAYOUT DOHC 16v Inline 4 twin-turbo
DISPLACEMENT 1,969 cc
MAX POWER 165 kW @4250 rpm
MAX TORQUE 470 N.m @1750-2500 rpm
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; All-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Eight-speed automatic
ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H] 7.8 sec
TOP SPEED 220 km/h
FUEL CONSUMPTION 5.8 L/100 km
EMISSIONS 152 g/km