The availability of a V-8 engine is the compelling news for Volvo's sport utility vehicle in 2005. Introduced at the 2004 Paris Motor Show, the V-8 version has new 18-inch wheels, a graphite-gray grille and twin exhaust pipes. Volvo says the engine emits a distinctive sound.
The 2005 model year also brings improved standard Rainsensor wipers with new flat blades and a standard HomeLink transmitter. A tire-pressure monitor becomes standard later.
Long known for safe, solid sedans and wagons, Volvo joined the SUV fray in 2003 with its car-based XC90. The Swedish automaker claimed the midsize XC90, with its Roll Stability Control system, would be the safest SUV on the market.
Volvo also offers 2.5T and T6 editions of the XC90. Available all-wheel drive permits operation on a variety of terrains, but the XC90 is not intended for serious offroad driving.
When it debuted, Chief Designer Peter Horbury called the XC90's appearance "masculine, but not macho; muscular, but not aggressive." At 188.9 inches long overall, the XC90 is 2.7 inches longer than the automaker's S80 sedan. A 112.6-inch wheelbase and wide track dimensions help enhance stability. Ground clearance is 8.9 inches.
Styling features include tall taillamps, an accentuated V-shaped hood and a dark, upright eggcrate grille. Bi-xenon headlights are optional.
The XC90 can seat either five or seven people and is equipped with a 40/20/40-split second-row bench. The seven-passenger version has a child booster seat in the second row that slides forward, nearly between the front seats. Two separate seats make up the available third row. Cargo volume is 85 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Options include rear-seat DVD entertainment and a navigation system featuring a pop-up screen.
Under the Hood
A light-pressure-turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder in the 2.5T delivers 208 horsepower to a five-speed-automatic transmission. Volvo's bi-turbo 2.9-liter inline-six-cylinder in the T6 sends 268 hp to a four-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is standard on the T6 and optional on the 2.5T, which can be equipped with front-wheel drive.
Volvo's new 4.4-liter V-8 produces 311 hp and 325 pounds-feet of torque and teams with a six-speed-automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard.
Volvo's Roll Stability Control system employs a gyrosensor. Inflatable side curtain-type airbags drop down to protect occupants in all three rows of seats.
The XC90 is solid and refined and handles more like a taut European sedan. It reacts masterfully on twisting roads and functions with precise control.
Expect a smooth, solid ride as the base suspension irons out pavement imperfections. The T6's suspension is significantly stiffer and adds body motion on undulating surfaces.
The base engine performs with reasonable vigor, but the T6's twin-turbo six-cylinder is noticeably stronger. Automatic-transmission shifts are smooth, but the T6's four-speed automatic changes gears more crisply. Other than a light growl on acceleration, the XC90 is quiet.
The seats are firm but comfortable. Second-row seats have good legroom and foot space, but the center position is painful; the meager third row is for children.