Saturday 24 March 2018

The future is now for Volvo as new XC90 is revealed

Prices to start at €70,950 New era after $11bn investment

The future: Volvo XC90
The future: Volvo XC90
The interior dash of the Volvo XC90
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

The future has finally arrived for Volvo. After four years and an investment of $11bn, not alone did they unveil a new car, the XC90, they mapped a route for the next decade and beyond for a stream of vehicles.

These will range from the XC90 large SUV (12 years after current one veiled) to saloon and estate/hatch versions of the 90, 60 and 40 series over the next few years.

And it will all be possible because of their new 'game-changer' SPA platform (Scaleable Product Architecture) which underpins the XC90 (125kgs lighter as well).

They claim this will challenge rivals such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes 'for years'. There is a completely new chassis.

This new XC90 is slightly longer and wider but still stays under the five-metre mark.

Another game changer is price. This moves upmarket and starts at €70,950 for the D5 AWD Momentum.

So you will pay more (D5 runout version cost €54,995; last year's price was €66,695). But they expect more of you will buy; 350 a year when all versions are on the market. That will involve a lot of conquest sales.

A massive amount of work has gone into developing chassis, technologies and engines.

And, of course, safety. Among the myriad technologies to bolster their claim of it being the 'safest car in the world' are a run-off road protection package where the seatbelts stiffen, and the ability to automatically brake at intersections. Its City Safety includes automatic brake functions for cars, pedestrians and cyclists day or night. Their aim is that, by 2020, no one in a Volvo will be seriously injured or killed.

With such an array of preventative technology, no wonder they say the "future of autonomous driving is already here".

There will only be seven-seater versions for the Irish market. The inside is luxurious (a gear handle made of crystal proves that) and the seats were really comfortable; they are designed to 'follow' the human spine.

The first row will have electrical side and lumbar support as well as massage and ventilation (depending on spec level). There was good room when I sat into the 40/20/40 middle row which has a full-sized booster centre seat. The seats can slide and recline individually. The third row can be lifted manually or electronically; decent room there too but small enough luggage area when all three rows are up.

The dash is clean, simple and relies on a tablet-like touchscreen to prioritise
commands. Even for me it was intuitive. Internet connectivity and sat nav will be standard.

There will be three
powertrains - two 2-litre diesels and a petrol hybrid: a D5 225hp (152g/km but could be lower) AWD; a D4 (190bhp) front-wheel-drive and a T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid (with up to 400hp). The 8spd automatic Geartronic transmission will be standard. The D4 will be for front-wheel-drive only; D5 will also power all-wheel-drive. The plug-in petrol hybrid (60g/km) comes later next year. With an eye on electric power, the car will also be able to take different sizes of battery packs.

They have simplified their trim names: 'Momentum' replaces SE and is the new entry-level; R-Design and 'Inscription' (replaces SE Lux and Executive). They expect Momentum to account for 70pc of sales with R-Design and Inscription
taking 15pc each. A limited 'First Edition' goes on sale online next Wednesday for up to 10 weeks (from 3pm local time). It will be the bells-and-whistles spec and customers can choose their own number and cost €106,950 ex-works. It was interesting to talk to designer Anders Gunnarson and hear how the original design was effectively ripped up and a whole new approach adopted. He gave us an insight into the drama behind the development and how even up to a few weeks ago they were making minor tweaks.
That was all against the
backdrop of the XC90's role in Volvo's plan to nearly double sales to 800,000 vehicles overall by 2020.

It is a massive challenge.

The XC90 is a big start. It's a cutting-edge product alright, with strong looks that may take a while to get used to.

Irish Independent

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