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From Gothenberg (via Hangzhou) with Love
by Jim Corbran
2016 Volvo XC90
If you hear the name Volvo and think “squarish-shaped über safe car driven by non-tenured college professors wearing elbow-patched sport coats that reek of, ahem, herbal stimulants,” well then, I guess we grew up in the same era.
Back in the late 1960s, and the decade which followed, Volvos were renowned for their reliability (often going hundreds of thousands of miles), safety (if your daughter’s date showed up driving a Volvo you didn’t care what he looked, or smelled, like), and wallflowerish styling (they looked like those cars you see in car insurance ads).
Fast-forward to the late 1990s, with Japanese luxury brands making inroads on Volvo’s territory, especially in North America. Volvo’s supposed knight on a white horse was the guy in charge of the Ford Motor Company, who was busy buying upscale European brands for Ford’s newly-formed (but since now departed) Premier Automotive Group (PAG) which eventually also included Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, and of course, Lincoln.
To make a long story short, Ford’s PAG wasn’t such a great idea. Bleeding cash, the disbanding began in 2008. Volvo ended up being sold to a Chinese firm which owns Geely Automobile, whose house brand cars are mainly small compacts (they also now own the famous London Taxi Company). FYI, Jag and Land Rover are now owned by India’s Tata Motors, while Aston is more or less an independent.
The XC90 is the first vehicle wholly-developed under Geely ownership. If you’re expecting throwaway cheap Chinese goods here, you couldn’t be further off. The XC90 is a true luxury vehicle, and has just been named Motor Trend Magazine’s SUV of the Year. It is built around what Volvo has christened its Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), a platform which will be shortened, stretched, narrowed, and/or widened to create more new Volvos down the line.
Let’s have a closer look at the new XC90, starting with the obvious—styling. This Volvo SUV is different from Volvo’s Ford-designed SUVs in that it hearkens back (somewhat) to Volvos old squarish upright styling cues, but with a 21st century update. I think it’s the most Volvo-looking Volvo to come down the pike since Ford said “Ta-ta.” Sorry. It’s a rounded-off rectanglish square in the most modern sense. The (very handsome) interior, while not having the rugged-yet-comfy look of the ‘70s cars, has the luxurious comfort buyers have come to expect of a car in the half-a-hundred-thou range—which is, by the way, where we are here. And that luxury extends to seven passengers with a third row which yes, I was able to get my six-foot frame into without a lot of bother. That being said, it will probably be relegated to mostly humans who have yet to reach voting age.
Safety is back at the forefront of the Geely-designed Swedes, with what Volvo is calling “...the world’s first auto brake function when turning in front of an oncoming vehicle”—something none of us should rationally be doing, but, well things do happen. There’s also something Volvo calls “run off road protection.” Because so many accidents involve road departure, the XC90’s seat belts will tighten when the car detects a road departure, and keep them tight as long as the vehicle is in motion. Energy-absorbing material located between the seat and the seat frame will cushion any vertical forces that arise when encountering a hard landing, helping to reduce spinal injuries. Couple this with the rash of “normal” safety features (visit the website below) on the XC90, and fathers will once again be happy to send their daughters off on dates in a Volvo. With “whomever.”
And what, you may ask, does all of this cost? I hinted at the dollar figure a couple of paragraphs back, but the bottom line is a starting list price of $48,800 (a plug-in hybrid is also now available starting at $68,100). The Crystal White Metallic example I checked out at Northtown Volvo was a Momentum (base) model to which was added a long list of option packages which I’d be crazy to even try to start listing here.
Let’s just say it’s about everything you’d want in a safe, comfortable, reliable squarishly rounded-off SUV.
More info at: volvocars.com/us.blog comments powered by Disqus
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