Around the turn of the millennium, Volvo seemed like the perfect automaker to make a crossover. It had, after all, already established for itself a reputation for building all-wheel-drive wagons for transporting families in safety and comfort. But while its competitors marched one by one into the luxury utility market, Volvo held out. That was, anyway, until the debut of the original XC90 in 2002. And it's never looked back since.
Over the past baker's dozen years of production, Volvo has produced over 600,000 examples of the XC90 – not to mention another half-million or so of the smaller XC60 that followed. In other words, the decision to build the XC90 in the first place may very well have been among the smartest that Volvo has ever made. But after an unusually long lifecycle, Volvo has finally retired the first-gen XC90, and it's replacing it with the model you see here. And with it, it's ushering in a bold new era for the Swedish automaker.
After a series of three particularly handsome concept cars and even more teasers and advanced details, we're finally looking at the new 2015 Volvo XC90 here at its birthplace in Sweden. The big-production live reveal with media in attendance from around the world is testimony in and of itself to the importance of the new XC90's arrival to a marque that's always had a loyal following and is, after a period of stagnation, only growing. Because the new XC90, you see, isn't just about the new XC90: it's as much about the new generation of Volvos that will result.
Volvo's latest is based on a new platform it calls Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). Similar in concept to the upcoming new Jaguar iQ Al architecture or the Volkswagen Group's prolific MQB platform, SPA is adaptable in size and will underpin the replacements for every model Volvo offers in North America, including the next-generation 60 series (S60, V60 and XC60) and additional 90-series models to include an S90 flagship sedan and V90 wagon. Along with the new XC90, those new models will come as welcome additions to an aging model line.
This is the first all-new product Volvo has developed since it shed its previous Ford ownership.
In fact, this is the first all-new product Volvo has developed since it shed its previous Ford ownership for the warm embrace of its new Chinese parent company Geely, but it certainly won't be the last. It's actually just the start as Volvo sets its sights on replacing its entire model line within four years, moving to more competitive seven-to-eight-year lifecycles. Once it's up to speed, Volvo aims to build 800,000 units annually – nearly double what it sold worldwide last year. Smaller models in the 40 series will be based on new architecture to be shared with Geely, but the rest will use the flexible new SPA platform.
In addition to being more adaptable – which Volvo views as essential if it's going to catch up to larger-volume luxury automakers – it's also lighter: the new XC90 sheds a good 275 pounds over the model it replaces, so as far as weight's concerned, those two kids in the third row essentially ride for free.
Not only is the platform new, but so is the engine family. Where the first XC90 (which will continue production in China where Volvo's parent company Geely is based) could be had with a range of five-, six- or even eight-cylinder engines, the new model will be powered exclusively by a 2.0-liter inline-four. But don't think for a moment that it will be lacking for choices, because that four-cylinder engine will be in gasoline, diesel and hybrid guises in a range of outputs, all of them mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission (sadly Volvo has yet to confirm a diesel offering for its North American customers).
The XC90 T8 TwinEngine will be the only seven-passenger plug-in hybrid on the market.
For the top version, Volvo has pulled every trick in the book, bolting to it a supercharger, a turbocharger and a hybrid electric assist to have it churning out around 400 horsepower. (Exact specifications have yet to be announced.) You don't need to dust off the old abacus to realize that works out to about 200 horsepower per liter. In short, it promises to offer more power than the 4.4-liter Yamaha-sourced V8 it replaces (which initially produced 288 hp and was later upgraded to 311). Even without the hybrid assist, the relative output of the twin-charged, internal combustion engine alone puts it in league with the high-strung performance engines in the Mercedes CLA45 AMG and Alfa Romeo 4C. Throw in the electric motor and Volvo's new powertrain edges closer to that which Jaguar had planned for the C-X75 supercar before it was shelved (minus, of course, the individual wheel motors). It also makes the XC90 T8 TwinEngine (as the hybrid model will be known) the only seven-passenger plug-in hybrid on the market, which may very well make this the only model some buyers will even consider. That Volvo has managed to replace one engine with another less than half its size is a sign of the times if we've ever seen one, and we're looking forward to driving it to see how it responds to real-world conditions.
The oily bits, however, aren't the only elements of the new XC90 that forecast Gothenburg's future. So do the parts you can actually see. The lines on this vehicle usher in a new design language for Volvo, though in this application, it's not as distinctive and all-of-a-piece as the concepts that previewed it. Viewed in person, the new XC90 is handsome enough, if conservative and a bit upright. Given the lengthy lifecycle of its predecessor, perhaps Volvo decided to play it a bit safe here.
Viewed in person, the new XC90 is handsome enough, if conservative and a bit upright.
Volvo is counting, instead, on the lighting elements to do the talking. And the lights are really nice. At the front of a hood which is larger than its predecessor's (despite the smaller engines it has to house) are a set of LED daytime running lights that are stylistically inspired by Thor's Hammer, backed up by tall taillights running (in typical Volvo style) up the D-pillars that look like they could serve as the centerpiece in one of Stockholm's newest nightclubs.
If the exterior styling doesn't get your motor running, the cabin is at least every bit as airy, clean and modern as you'd expect from Scandinavian interior design. In fact, if you had told us we were sitting in a concept car, we might have believed you, if not for the production-ready quality of the materials and their fit and finish. The tablet-style, portrait-oriented touchscreen display keeps the center console uncluttered and has a nice, clean interface. Top trims get a crystal shift knob made by Swedish glassmaker Orrefors, diamond-cut ignition and volume controls, and an available Bowers & Wilkins audio system with a 1,400-watt amplifier, 19 speakers and a ventilated subwoofer that turns the entire cabin space into a giant resonance chamber.
The cabin is at least every bit as airy, clean and modern as you'd expect from Scandinavian interior design.
The seats are thin yet as comfortable as any we've sat in, the abundant leather is both supple and artfully applied, the matte wood on some trims is beautifully done and the switchgear conveys the tactile impression of a well-built, high-quality product. Compared to other, older Volvo models we've been in (including the S80 that picked us up from the airport en route to the presentation) the new XC90 is in another league – that league in which the luxury automakers Volvo's after compete. Combine that level of comfort with a highly adaptable seating configuration (including individually sliding seats and second and third rows that can fold flat, even electrically at the push of a button if so specified) and anyone who's in the market for a luxury CUV and steps inside the new XC90 will surely add it to his or her short-list. Of course, few will ever use the third row (suitable for passengers up to five feet, seven inches), but then few buyers ever take their CUVs off road either, yet customers seek out both capabilities just the same. That way, you know... you have it.
Where Volvo really sets itself apart, though, is in the safety department, and the new XC90 moves the game even further ahead. Not only does it have a dozen airbags and all the safety systems Volvo has developed until now, it also includes a couple of new technologies as well. The first is a road-departure system that detects if the vehicle is about to run off the highway and strategically tenses up the seatbelts in preparation for what could happen next. (The system, we were told in conversation with Volvo safety engineer Anders Axelson, is only activated at high speeds, so if you're intentionally leaving the road to, say, get to your camping site, or park atop a snowbank, the car shouldn't go berserk on you.) The second system is designed to detect an oncoming vehicle that turns into the XC90's path, a scenario that triggers automatic brake application to prevent a fender-bender.
Where Volvo really sets itself apart is in the safety department.
Though driving enthusiasts may protest the intervention of such systems, we can all probably recall more than a handful of situations where that feature would have come in handy. Both systems are world-firsts and join such other features like a rear-facing camera to detect an imminent rear-end collision and about a dozen airbags to make the new XC90 the safest Volvo yet. In fact, assuming all this new tech works as advertised, the XC90 should bring the company that much closer to its goal of preventing anyone from being killed or seriously injured in one of its new vehicles by 2020. It's a noble and ambitious goal, and if anyone can get there – and get there first – surely it's Volvo.
Months of speculation ended today when Volvo Cars unveiled its all-new Volvo XC90, delivering on its promise to introduce a visually striking, premium-quality seven-seat SUV with world-leading safety features, new powertrain technologies, an unrivalled combination of power and fuel efficiency and a superlative interior finish.
Three years in the making and part of a USD11bn investment programme, the new XC90 marks the beginning of a new chapter in Volvo's history, capturing its future design direction, incorporating its own range of new technologies and utilising its new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) technology.
"This is one of the most important days in our history. We are not just launching a car but re-launching our brand. Today marks a new era for our company. The XC90 paves the way for a portfolio of exciting new cars to come over the next few years," said Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Car Group.
The limited First Edition of the XC90 comprises 1,927 individually numbered cars that celebrate the year Volvo was founded, and in a world first they will only be available for sale by digital commerce at www.volvocars.com.
"Anyone wanting to be among the first to own the best SUV in the world will need to act fast. The huge interest in the all-new XC90 indicates that the First Edition will sell out quickly," said Alain Visser, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Customer Service of Volvo Car Group.
The First Edition cars, which have uniquely numbered tread plates and a distinctive badge on the tailgate, are powered by a high-performance petrol or diesel engine from Volvo Cars' new four-cylinder Drive-E family. The supercharged and turbocharged T6 has an output of 320 hp and a maximum torque of 400 Nm, while the D5 twin-turbo diesel engine has 225 hp and 470 Nm. The engines are teamed with a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission.
The Onyx Black exterior and 8-spoke, 21-inch Inscription wheels are combined with an interior featuring nappa leather seats in Amber, a Charcoal Leather dashboard and Linear Walnut inlays.
Volvo's new face
The new XC90 will be the first Volvo car to carry the company's new, more prominent iron mark, which has the company's iconic arrow elegantly aligned with the diagonal slash across the grille.
Together with the T-shaped "Thor's Hammer" DRL lights, the iron mark introduces an entirely new, distinctive and confident face for Volvo's forthcoming car generation.
The XC90's larger bonnet with its new topography, the beltline and the sharpened shoulders connecting with the tattoo-like, new rear lights are other important design signatures that will be mirrored across the range.
To add more visual muscle from the side, the XC90 comes with a range of wheel sizes up to 22 inches.
"The overall impression, both exterior and interior, has a strong connection to the key elements of the Swedish lifestyle: generous space, celebration of light and focus on wellbeing," said Thomas Ingenlath, Senior Vice President Design of Volvo Car Group.
First SUV without compromises
The XC90 is hard evidence of the Volvo-by-Volvo strategy. Its outstanding combination of luxury, space, versatility, efficiency and safety will bring the crossover segment into a new dimension, just as the original XC90 did in 2002.
"SPA has enabled us to create the world's first SUV without compromises," says Dr Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President, Research and Development of Volvo Car Group. "You get the in-command feel, generous interior space and flexible capability combined with the agility and smooth comfort of a much smaller and lower car. The adrenaline rush that is key to true driving pleasure is delivered by powertrains that offer an unrivalled combination of power and clean operation. And since the XC90 carries the Volvo badge, world-class safety comes as standard."
Unrivalled combination of power and fuel efficiency
The new XC90 offers a range of two-litre, four-cylinder Drive-E engine options, all of which provide an outstanding combination of performance and fuel efficiency.
The top-of-the-range XC90 Twin Engine, which combines a two-litre, four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor, offers an unrivalled combination of power and clean operation: around 400 horsepower with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of around 60 g/km (NEDC driving cycle).
Most comprehensive standard safety package
The all-new XC90 offers the most comprehensive and technologically sophisticated standard safety package available in the automotive industry. It includes two world-first safety technologies: a run-off-road protection package and auto brake at intersection capability.
In a run-off-road scenario, the all-new Volvo XC90 detects what is happening and the front safety belts are tightened to keep the occupants in position. To help prevent spinal injuries, energy-absorbing functionality between the seat and seat frame cushions the vertical forces that can arise when the car encounters a hard landing in the terrain.
The XC90 is the first car in the world with technology that features automatic braking if the driver turns in front of an oncoming car. This is a common scenario at busy city crossings as well as on highways, where the speed limits are higher.
City Safety becomes the umbrella name for all Volvo Cars' auto brake functions, which are standard equipment in the all-new XC90. It now covers vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians in front of the car, day and night.
"The new technologies will take us a significant step closer to our vision that no one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020," says Dr Mertens. "Our starting point on safety is the same today as it was when the company was created almost 90 years ago: real-life situations. We study data. We crunch numbers. We innovate. The result is one of the safest cars ever made."
Three focus areas will help Volvo Cars to reach Vision 2020: safety, connectivity and autonomous drive.
"With the XC90, we are taking the first step towards self-driving cars. A new function that automatically follows the vehicle ahead in stop-and-go traffic will provide a radically simplified, semi-autonomous driving experience," said Lex Kerssemakers, Senior Vice President, Product Strategy and Vehicle Line Management of Volvo Car Group.
The XC90's interior is the most luxurious to have been designed for a Volvo. The most striking feature is a tablet-like touch-screen control console, which forms the heart of an all-new in-car control system.
This system is virtually button-free and represents an entirely new way for drivers to control their car and access a range of Internet-based products and services. It also helps create an interior that is modern, spacious and uncluttered.
"The new interior is pure and uncluttered, while still radiating the sophisticated confidence and formality that luxury SUV customers expect. The simplicity is perfectly in tune with our Scandinavian design heritage. It opens up generous surfaces and gives us the opportunity to create a modern, luxurious interior architecture," says Mr Ingenlath.
The new XC90's interior combines materials such as soft leather and wood with handcrafted details including a gear lever made of crystal glass from Orrefors, the famous Swedish glassmaker, and diamond-cut controls for the start/stop button and volume control. Craftsmanship has been in sharp focus throughout the development process.
The genuine seven-seater features new, innovatively designed seats that also free up interior space for passengers in both the second and third seat rows. The third row offers class-leading comfort for two passengers up to 170 cm tall.
One of the top audio systems in the world
The XC90 features one of the top audio systems available in the automotive world after Volvo Cars audio experts joined forces with their counterparts at the renowned British audio equipment company Bowers & Wilkins.
The top-of-the-line system in the XC90 features a 1,400 Watt Class D amplifier and 19 Bowers & Wilkins speakers. It also includes one of the first air-ventilated subwoofers in a car. Integrated into the car body, it turns the whole interior space into a giant subwoofer.
The latest sound-processing software has ben used to manage the timing of the sound and co-operation between the speakers. This brings the emotional experience of a world-class live performance into the car.
Volvo Car Group in 2013
For the 2013 financial year, Volvo Car Group recorded an operating profit of 1,919 MSEK (66 MSEK
in 2012). Revenue over the period amounted to 122,245 MSEK (124,547 MSEK), while net income amounted to 960 MSEK (-542 MSEK). Global retail sales for the year amounted to 427,840 (421,951) cars, an increase of 1.4 per cent compared to 2012. The operating profit was the result of cost control and strong sales and was further tangible proof of Volvo Car Group's progress in implementing its transformation plan. For the full year 2014, the company expects to stay in black figures and predicts to record a global sales increase of a good 5 per cent.
About Volvo Car Group
Volvo has been in operation since 1927. Today, Volvo Cars is one of the most well-known and respected car brands in the world with sales of 427,000 in 2013 in about 100 countries. Volvo Cars has been under the ownership of the Zhejiang Geely Holding (Geely Holding) of China since 2010. It formed part of the Swedish Volvo Group until 1999, when the company was bought by Ford Motor Company of the US. In 2010, Volvo Cars was acquired by Geely Holding.
As of December 2013, Volvo Cars had over 23,000 employees worldwide. Volvo Cars head office, product development, marketing and administration functions are mainly located in Gothenburg, Sweden. Volvo Cars head office for China is located in Shanghai. The company's main car production plants are located in Gothenburg (Sweden), Ghent (Belgium) and Chengdu (China), while engines are manufactured in Skövde (Sweden) and Zhangjiakou (China)
Descriptions and facts in this press material relate to Volvo Car Group's international car range. Described features might be optional. Vehicle specifications may vary from one country to another and may be altered without prior notification.