Volvo’s brand reinvention efforts, which culminated in the launch of the new-look Volvo XC90, have been paying off. Today, Volvo cars, always among the world’s safest, are now also among the most desired luxury vehicles.
When the new-look XC90 debuted locally in 2015, South African motorists demonstrated their approval of the large, luxury SUV in sales numbers, the model immediately becoming the brand’s bestseller.
Large, roomy and elegantly kitted out, the sophisticated seven-seater SUV boasted advanced safety credentials and a host of innovative technology. Rather than mess with that successful recipe and change what is still a contemporary and visually striking vehicle, the Swedish brand has elected to carry through the same styling in the 2020 XC90 and instead add a few more bells and whistles to its flagship model.
Aside from new wheels and ‘modernised’ grille, not much has changed externally on the refreshed version. The biggest changes are a brand new six-seat configuration and concierge service.The 2020 XC90 version offers a range of two-litre, four-cylinder petrol and diesel power trains all coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Four trim options, Momentum, Inscription, R-Design and Excellence, are offered.
finweek spent quality driving time in the seven-seater sporty R-Design model of the range-topping Volvo XC90 T8, a hybrid with a supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine and electric motor.
Scandinavian design flair and attention to detail make for a beautifully crafted machine, both inside and out. Like its 2015 predecessor, the interior epitomises luxury and class. Modern and elegantly appointed, the cabin is uncluttered and surfaces streamlined. This includes a well-disguised cubby, its smooth lines unbroken by an opening mechanism. That button is located in the centre console.
Even the core of the car’s control system, the tablet-like touchscreen, nestles in the dashboard.Stitched leather dashboard and door panels, soft leather seats, wood and an optional crystal gear knob make up some of the quality materials of its luxe interior.The generous cabin comes with flexible seating configuration options. Now in play on the back of demand from American and Asian customers is a new six-seat configuration.
The latest incarnation of the XC90 includes two USB ports as standard and telematics unit with P-Sim card slot, and Android Auto has been added to Apple CarPlay released on its predecessor.
This sophisticated Swede boasts an array of world-class safety and in-car connectivity technologies. Standard fare on the sporty T8 R-Design includes Intellisafe Assist (includes City Safety with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection and front collision warning), lane keeping aid, LED headlights with active high beam, park assist and adaptive cruise control with pilot assist.
Also standard are power driver and passenger seats and a power-operated tailgate, ergonomic leather sports seats and perforated leather-trimmed steering wheel with gearshift paddles.Newly introduced is Volvo’s concierge service, Volvo On Call. This includes an in-car WiFi hotspot accessible to all passengers. Both the human-based concierge service as well as an SOS function for use in the event of an accident are standard fare.
Volvo On Call is free for five years. Volvo On Call will tell you if you have forgotten to lock your car; can check the fuel level; cool or heat your car prior to entry; and also automatically alerts emergency services if the system detects that an accident has occurred. It was an iPhone rather than a key that testers were provided with on arrival at Cape Town airport.
Armed with a cellphone loaded with this app, tracking down the test car proved straightforward, a five second hooting and flashing of lights bringing the hunt to a speedy close. Location is also displayed on a map, handy when positioning is further afield.
In the driving seat
Powered by a combustion engine and electric motor, the range-topping plug-in hybrid T8 delivers on both power and efficiency for a remarkable 300kW of power and a frugal 2.1 litres/100km. And there’s further driving under battery operated power, courtesy of a battery and software upgrade.It’s premium piloting all the way. And for a fair portion of the drive under electric power, it’s a silent one.
It’s not a car you would take to a drag race but there is certainly no lack of grunt, the combination engines producing a spirited and effortless drive. This substantial machine has supremely good road manners. The all-wheel-drive XC90 is planted and its 20-inch wheels and air suspension make for a pliant ride. The sophisticated SUV handles much like a smaller, lower car. It really is a most satisfying driving experience.
With pricing starting at R1 023 700 and climbing to R1 668 500, the refreshed Volvo XC90 is no budget buy. But consider what you get. The XC90 is well-documented as one of the safest vehicles in the world. Put that together with space, innovative tech, luxury features and premium on-road performance and it makes this top-notch SUV tough to beat.