When Volvo set out earlier this year to promote its new V-8-powered XC90, it offered buyers a chance to win a free trip to outer space. The implication was that Ford's Swedish subsidiary was venturing where no company or sport utility vehicle had gone before.
Trouble is, there are a number of brands, foreign and domestic, already offering standard or optional V-8 engines with lots of power in their SUVs and crossover vehicles, which makes Volvo a bit late to the party. Nor does Volvo offer the most powerful engine in the class, although its base $46,090 sticker is right up there with many of the premium players.
We tested a V-8 XC90 with a handful of options, priced at $50,285.
SHE: You could make the argument that Volvo, the longtime safety champ, finally has it all -- superior standard safety features and now an optional V-8 engine. That twin-cam 4.4-liter V-8 makes 311 horsepower and is designed not so much for the racetrack, but to keep you out of trouble in potentially dangerous highway situations. But part of me was wondering, why didn't they spend the extra money on more sensible seats? And why doesn't a luxury crossover vehicle with a $50,000 price tag come with a standard navigation system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system?
HE: Part of me was wondering why I like this Volvo so much, but why I would be unwilling to recommend it to families. Then it dawned on me. The virtues of the XC90 V-8 are easy to summarize: Great exterior design, with familiar Volvo family styling cues. Lovely new engine that makes driving much more enjoyable. Clever and innovative features, like a fold-flat third-row seat and a two-piece tailgate with a short lower section that makes loading and unloading much easier. Unfortunately, the XC90's major shortcomings are equally easy to pinpoint: A third-row seat that can't accommodate adults and robs precious cargo space, an engine that returns dismal gas mileage and an exorbitant sticker price on a vehicle that doesn't measure up to many of its competitors.
SHE: You're being way too harsh and, as usual, you're not thinking like a mom.
HE: I knew you'd hold that against me one day.
SHE: Volvo should be commended for the thought that went into this vehicle. I'm impressed by all the people-friendly touches, like the human-body icons on the climate control system that are so elegantly simple and easy to understand. And stuff you wouldn't normally think of, like the front console lid that opens into a small table for the second-row occupants. Or the built-in child safety seat in the middle of the second row. Even options like the power child safety locks so you don't have to worry about one of the kids inadvertently opening one of the rear doors while you're leaving the grocery store.
HE: I agree that Volvo, in many ways, has gone the extra kilometer on designing in clever little features, like the coat-hanger button on the side of the front passenger headrest. And for once, the driver seems really pampered, with big, roomy seats, a beautiful lacquered-wood steering wheel and a six-speed automatic transmission that you can shift manually.
SHE: You mentioned that polished wood steering wheel, which doesn't really mix well with hand cream.
HE: A major problem for many of us dads who love our Cornhuskers lotion.
SHE: The cabin looks just a bit too dark and masculine for my taste, with all that black leather. And did you ever figure out why they left the ashtray out of the front seat but put one in the rear? Wrong message to send to the kids.
HE: What this all adds up to is a vehicle with lots of cool features and good ideas, but whose flaws nearly outweigh the good things. I mean, what good is a "family" vehicle that gets only 14 miles per gallon in city driving and has some major issues with the design of its third-row seat? You want a performance crossover? Buy a BMW X5. You want a luxurious interior? Get the Volkswagen Touareg. Great all-around features and performance in a domestic brand? The Cadillac SRX is pretty sweet. No matter how you slice it, the XC90 V-8 winds up way down my personal shopping list.
Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Lienert & Lienert, a Detroit-based automotive information services firm.
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|Dan Neil||Los Angeles Times||May 4, 2005|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit Newspapers||May 4, 2005|
|Royal Ford||Boston.com||April 16, 2005|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||February 26, 2005|
|Kristin Varela||Mother Proof||December 7, 2004|
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