Versus the competiton:
The best line in 1990’s Crazy People, a movie starring Dudley Moore as an advertising executive whose attempts to tell the truth in ads landed him in a psychiatric hospital, was his presentation for a certain Swedish car.
“Volvo. They’re boxy but good.”
When Volvo lost its boxiness, some loyal customers would argue, the brand also lost its single-minded sense of purpose: Boxes are, after all, good for carrying stuff. Including people, perhaps.
Those days are long gone. Nothing boxy about the 2007 XC90, which also means that, given its overall dimensions, it doesn’t carry as much as some of its competitors. Rear-seat room seems tight, and the optional third-row seat, which folds out of sight to the point where you might not even know it was there unless somebody told you, is for kids only.
The XC90 has been around since 2003. From the start, Volvo marketed it less as a traditional, trail-pounding SUV, more as a family-friendly hauler. If that sounds like “station wagon,” so be it, but Volvo calls it a “special-purpose vehicle.” Says so right on the window sticker.
As always, the XC90 remains one of the best-handling SUVs, and the ride is smooth but not quite plush. The test XC90 was a relatively basic, front-wheel-drive model, powered by a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine, the one I liked so much in the new Range Rover LR3. Ford is, of course, the connection between Rover and Volvo — the company owns both. The transmission in the XC90 is a Japanese-built six-speed automatic.
I was pleased with the powertrain, but if you want more power, there’s the XC90 V-8 AWD, which has a 4.4-liter, 311-horsepower V-8 and, as the name suggests, all-wheel-drive. You’ll pay for it, though: Our test XC90 started at $36,135, and the V-8 model starts at $46,425. A Sport model with that V-8 starts at $49,300.
One nice feature of the 3.2-liter six-cylinder model is fuel mileage — it’s EPA rated at 17 miles per gallon city, 22 mpg highway, but my overall mileage was a surprising 21.6 mpg.
Typically Volvo, there’s a lengthy list of safety features, including stability control, traction control, side and side-curtain air bags, whiplash protection, rollover protection and several other features. Self-leveling xenon headlights were a neat $800 option. Other options, including that third-row seat, leather upholstery, a power moon roof and an upgraded stereo, brought the list price, with shipping, to $43,350.
That’s a premium price for a premium vehicle that lacked all-wheel-drive and a navigation system. Still, there’s a lot of content here in a complete, versatile package. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s pretty.