The Volvo XC90 is a special kind of sport utility vehicle. It’s not really for everyone; so if you’re after a boring, assimilating crossover utility, you better look somewhere else.
For starters, the XC90 is a looker as far as SUVs go. There’s a lot of Volvo sedan heritage everywhere, a trick the Europeans have been using for years to establish common DNA in their lineups.
The front features the trademark rectangular lamps and oblong grille, with a long, bulging hood resembling that of Volvo’s big-daddy S80. The fenders are punched out from the hood in a pronounced crease that travels the length of the car, making the XC90 appear longer and meaner than it really is.
The rear end of the XC90 resembles that of Volvo’s impregnable station wagons, with tail lamps that arc all the way up the C-pillar, terminating only at the car’s roof. It’s a nifty and singular look–the lights border the glass for the CX90’s bisected lift gate. We can’t think of any other full-size SUV that uses this visual effect, and it really catches the eye.
There have been some subtle changes made to the XC90’s exterior for 2007, mostly involving the lamps and bumpers. The overall shape of the lamps is the same, but the housings are slightly different. Unless you’re a Volvo connoisseur, you won’t be able to tell the difference, but it does look cleaner when compared side-by-side with the 2006 model.
There’s bigger news under the hood. For 2007, the XC90’s base motor comes right out of the new S80. The 3.2-liter inline-six makes 235 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 236 lb.-ft of torque at 3200 rpm, and is mated to the XC90’s six-speed automatic. From a sporting standpoint, we’d have preferred the old top-dog motor–the 268-hp 2.9L twin-turbo in-line six–or the newest, the 4.4L V8 from the XC90 Sport that pumps out 311 hp.
Our tester XC90 was a bit heavier than an S80, at 4,600 lbs., so although it was nimble and responsive once it got going, it didn’t quite have the low-end grunt of the V8 model. However, the new six is about as light as Volvo’s old inline-fives, so we were impressed from the standpoints of packaging and efficiency. Fuel economy is good for a near-5,000-lb. Vehicle, at an EPA rating of 16 city/24 highway.
However, the real story with the XC90, as with any Volvo, is safety. That’s what you’re paying for here, and that’s what you get. The XC90 has an alphabet soup of safety systems, such as RSC (Roll Stability Control), ROPS (Roll Over Protection System), SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) and WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System) for the front two seats, just to name a few.
In the event of a potential rollover, Roll Stability Control uses a gyro sensor that calculates the speed and angle of body roll. To prevent the rollover in the first place, the stability control system is activated. If the XC90 does roll over, the inflatable airbag curtain deploys over all three rows of seats. The safety theme continues with an army of side airbags for the heads and torsos of all outboard occupants. Every seat gets seatbelt pre-tensioners.
Standard safety items include a tire-pressure monitoring system and Volvo’s “On Call” system. Similar to GM’s guardian angel OnStar, On Call uses GPS to track your XC90’s exact location in the event of an emergency. You can push a button for a Volvo operator for any kind of routine assistance (driving directions, for example), or hit the SOS button in the event of a more serious emergency. If the XC90 is involved in any event that triggers the seatbelt pre-tensioners or airbags, On Call will immediately notify the operator. If that operator can’t reach you in the car, On Call will dispatch emergency services to your exact GPS location.
Optional safety equipment ranges from 15-degree-swiveling bi-xenon headlights (which our tester had) to a system called BLIS (Blind Spot Information System, which we didn’t get). BLIS monitors the XC90’s blind spots, and uses a system of indicator lights to warn the driver if any other vehicles enter them.
If the laundry list of options doesn’t sway you, the XC90’s saftey test results might. Our XC90 earned five stars (out of a possible five) for protection of the driver and four stars for the front passenger In NHTSA (National Highway and Transit Safety Administration) frontal-impact crash tests. It scored a perfect five-star rating across the board in side-impact tests, and was named a “Best Pick” in IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) frontal-offset crash testing.
All rows of seating get an inflatable-curtain airbag system. This is a good thing because we’re betting that the XC90’s excellent third row will get a lot of use since it can accommodate adults as well. Many manufacturers offer a third row, but the XC90’s is plush and easily accessible. For easy cargo loading, it folds completely flat. The second row and the front passenger seat fold nearly flat as well.
You can view the 2007 Volvo XC90 video and many other vehicles on YouTube
There are some other neat tricks in the XC90’s interior. The center console has an array of cup holders and compartments, and the entire thing is removable. There is also a sliding center booster cushion in the second row for smaller children.
The cabin is typical of Scandinavian cars–sensible and intuitive, rather than flashy. The interior materials are of high quality, but the keyword here is restraint. Some might wonder why the cabin isn’t awash in funky-colored lights from multiple displays, but Volvo has obviously placed a premium on function over fashion with the XC90.
The family-friendly character permeates every inch of the XC90. It does give up a little ground in areas like acceleration and interior glamour, but there are few vehicles on the road that inspire as much confidence as this Swedish brick house.
The MSRP for a base XC90 is $36,135. Metallic paint ($475), the trick headlights ($800), and all-wheel-drive ($1,850) pushed it a bit higher, and that’s not including the options packages. The Premium Package, which included the moonroof, power passenger seat, leather, and in-dash 6-CD changer, added three grand.
The Versatility Package, which got us the third row and its own AC system, the center booster in the second row, and the self-leveling suspension, ran $2,250. Our grand total was $45,200, including destination charges and all that jazz. Not cheap, but for buyers primarily concerned with the safety of their children, there isn’t a better SUV on the road