2015 Volvo XC90: The Sweetened Swede

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The world has said "ja" to Swedish design for decades, appreciating its minimalistic yet functional traits that traditionally distinguish it from other design philosophies. Volvo too, has grown into a brand increasingly known for style and luxury, now a far cry from the conservative lines of their products in the 1980s and 1990s.

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Looks like there's going to be at least some restrained congratulatory back slapping in Volvo circles, because first impressions of the 2015 Volvo XC90 are wowing the world. The company has finally revealed the first major update for their flagship SUV in more than a decade, and its an understated stunner, in almost every respect.

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Finally, a luxury SUV that looks future-ready. No thanks to the brilliant "Thor's Hammer" LED daytime runners that really highlight the new car's front fascia, which also sees a more prominent Volvo iron mark logo across the large vertically-slatted grille. The central and side air intakes have been very neatly penned too. There is beauty in simplicity, and the XC90 shows the world how its done.

Viewed side on, the SUV looks like it was created out of a single block of metal with classic restraint. A strong shoulder line lends the car impressive road presence and there's body coloured flares for the wheel arches that house up to 22 inches of rubber. It's good to see that Volvo chose to stick with an almost-straight greenhouse line that will render the cabin bright and airy, and importantly retain good visibility. Too many manufacturers have fallen for steeply-raked window lines which look great and all that, but come at the expense of occupant comfort and rear and sideward vision.

The XC90 has a handsome rear profile too, and retains the basic design of the predecessor's elongated tail lamps that stem from the top of the D-pillars. The broad shoulder line looks especially impressive from the back, resulting in a profile that you're sure to find yourself admiring, when you pull up behind.

Where Volvo really have an ace up their sleeve with regard to the new XC90 is its all-new, three-row cabin. Volvo say they have paid attention to craftmanship with the interior work, and it shows. The upholstery is soft hide, and an almost clutter-free centre central console that houses a vertically-aligned, tablet-like control system gave Volvo's interior designers plenty of room to create a beautiful space for the car's occupants.

Every luxury vehicle needs premium sound, and the available 19 speakers (yes you read right) of the 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system will move your soul, no doubts about that. The setup features a rarely-seen air-ventilated subwoofer system integrated into the car body which converts the entire cabin into one large subwoofer. Plenty trick to make your body tick, then.

Global under-bonnet options include new, fuel-efficient four-cylinder mills, in both petrol and diesel. Included in the range will be a gas-burning, turbocharged and supercharged T6 engine producing 316 bhp and a 225 bhp T5 diesel engine. There is a new plug-in hybrid powertrain on offer as well, boasting around 400 bhp and ultra low CO2 emissions of 60 g/km. All the engines will form part of the Volvo's Drive-E family and will be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The company's Vision 2020 goals include completely eliminating fatalities in a Volvo vehicle by 2020, and the new XC90 has pulled out all the stops with regards to safety. The Swede vehicle features two world firsts: a run off-road package and an auto-braking feature at intersections. The SUV also gets other auto-braking capabilities as standard under its "City Safety" moniker, with the system now capable of detecting vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians, both during day and night. Daresay Volvo will have a tough time configuring this system for Indian road conditions, however, when the new vehicle eventually gets here.

Volvo is pinning huge hopes on its flagship SUV, which also marks the release of its new modular SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform that will underpin future models. The company says the XC90 reveal has been its most important in a long time, with Volvo "re-launching itself" as well. But, judging by first reactions from across the world, Volvo is pushing all the right buttons, and the competition better sit up and take notice.

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Story first published: Wednesday, August 27, 2014, 17:55 [IST]
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