Being a niche automaker and selling a small handful of units worldwide is no longer an option for most global brands anymore. Most are owned by larger corporate entities now, and no matter how “bespoke” or “exclusive” the brand, it seems like almost all of them are under pressure to increase sales. Lately, the almost can’t-lose proposition is to build and sell a crossover, which has proven as popular in Moscow and Beijing as Manhattan or Miami. Volvo is certainly no Johnny-come-lately to the market, having introduced the first XC90 back in 2003. However, other than some powertrain and minor trim changes over the years, the brand’s flagship crossover changed little. So after more than a decade, Volvo is finally introducing a truly all-new 2015 Volvo XC90.
Recognizable, But Fresh
Unlike many other cars that could be easily mistaken for another brand or model at a distance, the XC90 is unlikely to be mistaken for anything other than what it is. It’s still clearly a Volvo and clearly a large crossover, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Volvo customers have long gravitated to the more restrained, minimalist Scandinavian design motif, rather than the sometimes “look-at-me” styling employed by other luxury brands to get attention. The two most distinctive design elements on the exterior of the new XC90 are the “Thor’s Hammer” LED driving lights up front and the full-height “tattoo-like” taillights, which carry forth the bumper-to-roof design from the previous model. The rear glass has slightly more forward rake to it than its predecessor, but Volvo claims interior space is increased over the outgoing model.
On the inside, Volvo is going for the minimalist approach, employing a large tablet-like touchscreen in the center console to control most of the vehicle’s climate, comfort, and entertainment features. Among the few physical controls left are a diamond-cut volume knob and a shift lever featuring renowned Swedish glassmaker Orrefors on some trim levels. The premium theme continues with an available 1,400-watt, 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system.
Small, But Powerful
With a top powertrain offering of 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque with T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid, the 2015 XC90 is the most powerful ever, but with all engines having a displacement of just 2.0L, the engines are the smallest ever and less than half the size of the XC90’s one-time optional 4.4L narrow-angle V-8 co-developed with Yamaha. Though thanks to the modern-day magic of forced induction, few will be left yearning for more power. Aside from the top-trim engine mentioned above, the mainstay engine for the U.S. market promises to be the T6 model with its supercharged and turbocharged 2.0L I-4, delivering 320 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. European models will also be offered with a twin-turbocharged I-4 turbodiesel making 225 hp and 347 lb-ft. All engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic.
Carrying forth Volvo’s long tradition of safety, the 2015 XC90 is claimed to be the first vehicle to feature automatic braking in the event of driving into oncoming traffic. Another feature is an automatic-follow feature in which the car will automatically brake and accelerate in tandem with the vehicle ahead of it, offering a semi-autonomous driving experience, as well as minimizing potential low-speed urban accidents.
In commemoration of the founding year of the company, a limited run of 1,927 First Edition models will be produced with numbered plates and a special tailgate badge. Final pricing, dimensions and other technical specifications have not yet been released, but expect the new XC90 to be slightly larger than the outgoing model. Non-hybrid models will also likely be several hundred pounds lighter than their predecessors.