2011 9-3 New Car Test Drive
The things that make a Volvo a Volvo just seem to work better in a vehicle designed for family-oriented, all-purpose transportation. The Volvo XC90 is strong on safety, comfort and functionality, and we consider it one of the most successful vehicles Volvo builds.
In the growing-family scheme, the XC90 has it all. Its styling is appealing, without shouting family-mobile. It seats up to seven passengers, with more cargo space than nearly all its competitors and features that allow quick, easy tailoring for cargo, gear or people. The XC90 is not the sportiest vehicle among luxury-class SUVs, but it handles well on city streets and highways. It rides very comfortably and it's easy to park. Any of the three XC90 models can tow just about anything the typical family is likely to pull along.
The standard 235-hp six-cylinder engine that Volvo introduced last year is up to all the demands of daily driving and delivers the best value, in our view. It's smoother, more powerful and more sophisticated than the tried-and-true turbocharged five-cylinder it replaced, and delivers comparable EPA mileage ratings The upgrade 311-hp V8 adds a bit of excitement for those who put a premium on quick acceleration.
In addition to the new base-level straight-six, Volvo freshened the XC90 last year with a restyled grille, bumpers and lights. Also new was Volvo's optional BLIS system, which uses cameras to search a large area on either side of the vehicle, and warns the driver if there might be an approaching vehicle not visible in the XC90's mirrors.
For 2008, Volvo has made much of the content of last year's Touring Package standard with the V8 engine. And last year's Sport Package has been promoted to a separate trim level.
Volvo's fulltime all-wheel-drive system works smoothly in the daily grind without any penalty in EPA fuel economy, and it's truly welcome when the weather gets foul or the road surface gets rough. Yet buyers who don't really need all-wheel-drive capability can choose an XC90 with front-wheel drive.
Volvo's reputation for safety engineering is deserved. Maybe more than anyone, Volvo devotes impressive resources and manpower to improve occupant protection. The XC90 offers the full array of active and passive safety features, including a Roll Stability Control system designed to keep the XC90 from rolling over, and a rollover protection system intended to shield occupants in the extremely unlikely event that a rollover actually occurs. Less obvious are features like a roof structure fashioned from high-strength steel, or a lower front crossmember engineered to inflict less damage on small vehicles if an accident occurs. It may be the safest SUV on the road; it's certainly one we'd feel reassured seeing our loved ones drive.
The XC90 is not inexpensive, but comes well-equipped, with the standard engine and all-wheel drive, for well under $40,000. Luxury-class shoppers who put a premium on comfort, safety and value should find happiness here.
The 2008 Volvo XC90 is available with a six-cylinder or V8 engine. Both come with a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive (AWD) is standard with the V8 and optional ($1,850) with the six.
The base XC90 3.2 ($36,210) comes with fabric upholstery, but standard features are otherwise premium grade, including an eight-way power driver's seat with memory; a 160-watt, eight-speaker stereo with CD/ MP3 and auxiliary jack; dual-zone automatic climate control; cruise control; trip computer; power windows, locks and mirrors; auto-dimming interior mirror; and 235/65R17 tires on 17-inch alloy wheels.
Option packages bring the XC90 3.2's features up to par with the V8 model, minus the V8 engine. The Premium Package ($2,995) includes leather seating; a power front passenger seat; power moonroof; and a 6-CD changer. The Versatility Package ($2,250) can be added to the premium package and includes the third-row seat, rear air conditioning, a built-in second-row child booster seat and self-leveling rear suspension.
The seven-passenger XC90 V8 ($48,505) is powered by a 4.4-liter V8 developed to Volvo specifications by Yamaha, the Japanese motorcycle builder and auto engine specialist. The V8 generates 311 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, with standard all-wheel drive. In addition to a two-place third seat with rear air conditioning, the V8 adds leather upholstery, an eight-way power front passenger seat, a six-CD changer, a power moonroof, and speed-sensitive power steering. Additionally, many items from the discontinued Touring Package have been made standard on the V8 for 2008, including 235/60R18 tires on 18-inch alloy wheels; Sapeli wood inlays on the dash, gearshift knob and steering wheel; and additional bright exterior trim.
Options for the V8 include a 12-speaker, 650-watt Dynaudio surround-sound system with Dolby Pro-Logic II and Sirius satellite radio ($1,400); and the new Executive Package ($1,995), which upgrades to premium soft leather, premium floor mats, and 255/50R19 tires on 19-inch alloy wheels.
The XC90 V8 Sport ($49,870) promises more athletic handling, with firmer springs, shocks, and stabilizer bars; faster-ratio steering; and low-profile 255/50R19 tires on 19-inch alloy wheels. The Sport also upgrades to unique Calcite leather upholstery and aluminum rather than wood interior trim, while deleting some of the standard V8's exterior jewelry. A Technology Package ($2,295) adds bi-xenon headlamps with automatic level adjustment, plus the high-zoot Dynaudio stereo.
All three models can be equipped with a Climate Package ($675), with heated seats, headlight washers and rain-sensing wipers; and/or a Convenience Package ($1,295) that adds rear park assist, power retractable side mirrors, a compass in the inside rearview mirror, power rear door child safety locks, and Volvo's Interior Air Quality System (IAQS). Stand-alone options include a navigation system ($2,120); a rear-seat DVD system with two headrest-mounted seven-inch color screens ($1,800); 18-inch alloy wheels, with chrome ($1,550) or without ($750); Active Bi-Xenon headlights ($800); a wood-rimmed steering wheel ($325); and metallic paint ($475-625).
Also available is Volvo's blind-spot monitoring system, or BLIS ($695). BLIS uses cameras to monitor an area measuring 10 feet by 31 feet on either side of the car, which is often not covered by the side mirrors, and reports the presence of another vehicle in the blind spots with a prominent warning light in the appropriate mirror.
Standard safety features make the XC90 is one of the best equipped sport-utilities on the market. Standard safety features include dual-stage front impact and side-impact airbags for front passengers, and curtain type head protection airbags for all outboard seats. The XC90 was one the first SUVs equipped with a rollover protection system, which senses an impending vehicle rollover, tightens the seatbelts and deploys the curtain airbags. The seats feature Volvo's Whiplash Protection System, which moves them back and downward if the vehicle is hit from behind, reducing neck snap.
Safety features intended to help drivers avoid collisions to begin with include advanced four-channel antilock brakes, an electronic stability program to help manage skids, and Roll Stability Control, which uses a gyroscopic sensor to reduce the possibility of a rollover by applying brakes and modulating engine power.