Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 15, 2015

Volvo’s XC90 Just Won’t Die

Volvo's new 2016 XC90 sport utility vehicles.

Volvo’s new 2016 XC90 sport utility vehicles.

LOS ANGELES

Hard to believe: Volvo’s XC90 SUV has been in production now, without a major re-design, for nearly 14 years.

That’s an eternity for most models in the auto industry, which are typically re-designed every six to seven years (or even sooner, of late). Volvo is finally introducing a new XC90 – a “clean sheet of paper” re-design – for the 2016 model year.

But the sleek new XC90 is not exactly a replacement for the old one. In fact, Volvo can’t seem to bring itself to completely kill off the old model – which still is selling well, and scoring top marks in international crash tests.

“It’s still an IIHS Top Safety Pick – Plus,” pointed out an engineer, at an event here, introducing the new XC90.

So, Volvo has shipped first-generation XC90 tooling to China, where it will continue to be produced, as the “XC Classic”.

The XC90 was Volvo’s first SUV, when it first broke cover in 2001, in concept form at the Detroit auto show. It was the most significant new product to come out after Ford bought Volvo Cars (in business since 1927) in 1999. It soldiered on, continuing as the company’s best-selling model, even through the Volvo’s sale by Ford in 2010 to China’s Geely.

The new, second-generation XC90 is the first all-new model produced under Geely’s stewardship. Even though the company is now owned by a Chinese automaker, Volvo goes out of its way to emphasize that the XC90 is entirely designed and manufactured in Sweden (for now – a new Volvo factory in South Carolina will come online in 2017; another plant in China is also in the works). Little hints of the XC90’s “Swedishness” are scattered around the car like Easter eggs. Notable is the small Swedish flag sewn into the seat seams.

While the new XC90 has big shoes to fill, Volvo believes it will more than measure up. The new XC90 is longer, lower (to the ground – a little taller cabin overall), and lighter than the model it replaces. Gone are a variety of XC90 engine choices (which at one time included a Yamaha-sourced V8); and now the XC90 features only a four-cylinder 2.0-liter engine which is both supercharged and turbocharged for greater efficiency and performance. This engine has a diesel variant (they share 50 percent of their parts) that is initially available in Europe but not the U.S. (It could be certified for U.S. use, if Volvo detects enough sales interest; with greatly increased torque and fuel mileage – 40 plus – over the gasoline variant, it is an appealing possibility.)

A “twin-engine” T8 version will also be available; it is a plug-in hybrid version with more than 400 horsepower from a combination of its gasoline engine and battery-driven electric motor for the rear wheels. Volvo said the T8 will probably rated be rated at something approaching 60 m.p.g. fuel economy. Volvo claims it is the first seven-passenger PHEV SUV.

But it will be a pricey variant: At least $15,000 more than the gasoline engine-only T6 (as Volvo calls it). The new XC90 is already endowed with a significantly higher price than the outgoing XC90, which started at about $40,000. A base 2016 model starts at almost $50,000.

But the new one offers high style, state of the art safety features, all-wheel-drive and prestigious options like a Bowers & Wilkins sound system, huge panoramic sunroof, and napa leather (among a long list of other goodies) that Volvo hopes will offset any sticker shock.

For any first-generation models in the used car market, the rising price for the second-generation version should help boost residual values.

The new XC90 starts to arrive in America later this year; it is already available in Europe.

But please don’t mourn the passing of the original XC90; it’s not like it is completely going to die. It is just re-locating.

Jerry Garrett

May 15, 2015

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