Twelve years. That’s how long Volvo has been peddling its current XC90 crossover SUV, which debuted at the 2002 Detroit auto show before going on sale as a 2003 model. Since then, the XC90 has received remarkably few changes. A wonderful Yamaha-designed V-8 engine option came and went and a few tweaks hit the model for 2013, but it’s largely been status quo for Volvo’s de facto flagship. So you must understand that the all-new 2016 XC90 is quite a big deal, akin to spotting a moose walking on its hind legs.
Hardly able to contain itself, Volvo has been sneaking out packets of information on the crossover all year, showing us how the all-new infotainment system works, revealing the rich cabin, detailing the XC90’s muscular plug-in-hybrid powertrain option, and even giving us rides in prototypes in Sweden. And what Volvo propaganda campaign would be complete without boasts of two “world first” safety technologies?
Scalable Product Architecture, Scalable Attractiveness
The foundation of the 2016 XC90 is formed by its platform and its clean, handsome aesthetic, and both eventually will trickle down to other Volvos. The new T-shaped LED daytime running lamps are dubbed “Thor’s Hammer” by Volvo—isn’t that seriously awesome?—and the taillights are squared-off takes on those of the V60 and (not for America) V40 wagons.
Furniture for Seven, by Sweden
The XC90’s cabin apes fine Scandinavian furniture, using swaths of supple leather, broad shards of wood, and metal. The shift knob is a stunning crystal-glass unit fashioned by Swedish glassmaker Orrefors, and the engine stop/start button and audio-volume knob are both diamond-cut. There’s an available full-digital gauge cluster, as well as a 1400-watt, 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system that will make your tears shed tears of their own.
Standing tall—literally—in the dashboard is Volvo’s new infotainment system, which incorporates a slick, vertically oriented touch screen. There are four key menu items–navigation, audio, phone, and information—displayed horizontally across the screen. Tap one to make it expand to fill most of the display, and the other three condense themselves to strips of pertinent information. We’ve tried it and we like it. Apple groupies will be pleased to hear that iOS CarPlay integration will be offered; Android Auto will be available, too.
The XC90 once again seats seven, this time including a sliding and reclining second row and a third row that’s actually habitable for humans. The second- and third-row seats fold flat for IKEA runs, and the front seats incorporate energy-absorbing material intended to cushion occupants’ spines from vertical shocks, such as those encountered when the vehicle leaves the road and jumps a ditch. Taken as a whole, the XC90’s interior is luxurious and attractive, and it strikes us as vaguely Jeep Grand Cherokee–like—albeit crafted by Swedes—which is no bad thing.