DENVER – When Volvo picked us up at the airport my riding partner and I climbed into the back seats of what turned out to be a 2018 XC90 Excellence. It was the most luxurious utility vehicle I have ever been
There were heated and cooled rear seats that massaged the tired traveler. What’s more, they were eight-way power seats. A high central tunnel separates us with armrest, cupholders and a couple of crystal glasses.
The rear passenger seats, with footrests, and a chill compartment in the tunnel and each back seat had a retractable tray (read desk) that I sat my iPad on with its real keyboard and started typing notes. Each seat had what I thought was a DVD screen but upon taking a good look turned out to be an iPad and dual sets of USB jacks.
Most notable is the transparent partition that separated the luggage and passenger compartments. I’ve never seen that in a utility vehicle. The panoramic roof showered the interior with natural light. Add a thumping 20-speaker sound system, and I’d rather sit in the back seat of the Volvo XC90 Excellence. What’s more, we weren’t here to test drive this vehicle.
We were here to test drive a trio of Volvos; the first two were the V90 and the S90. The presentation started with the declaration that Volvo is redefining luxury and after experiencing the XC90 Excellence, I could hardly disagree.
One of the things that came out of this particular program was that Volvo was undergoing a metamorphosis. In addition to new products, new engines, new scalable chassis, a new philosophy, the goal of electrifying its entire product line and being on the cutting edge of putting self-driving or autonomous cars on the road, the company is in the midst of a manufacturing watershed.
Two plants and an engine plant in China and assembly plants in Sweden and Belgium plus the company is building an assembly plant here in South Carolina. “We intend to build cars where we sell them,” a spokesman told us.
For the first leg of the drive, we chose the 2018 Volvo V90 T6 Inscription with all-wheel-drive. Were starting from 5,280 feet and would climb up to more than 8,000 feet. There was something about power to all four wheels that made us feel a bit more secure.
The only way to get this car is by order, either on Volvo’s Web site or at a dealer. Volvo calls it the Concierge Program. Or with Overseas Delivery, customers can pick the color, interior, trim and engine at their Volvo dealer and receive two paid airline tickets and hotel accommodations to find the car vehicle at Volvo’s Torslanda, Sweden factory.
You get a plant tour; you can drive around Europe, take the V90 to a port of your choice and have it shipped home. The XC90 Excellence is also part of this program.
The V90 is a low volume car. Volvo only sold around 1,000 of them last year. Still, the full-size station wagon is part of the company’s heritage. Volvo has sold more than 6 million worldwide since the first one it offered, the Duett in 1953.
Volvo thinks this is a smarter, more price conscious way to market a small volume car. However, it will take three months to get the regular 2018 V90. But the V90 Cross Country, with its higher clearance and a bit more rugged attributes, can be purchased at Volvo dealerships.
The T5 Volvo V90 produces 250 horsepower from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that made 258 pound-feet of torque. And it also comes in a sportier R-Design trim.
Our 2018 V90 Inscription had a 2.0-liter four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged engine that made 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. That may not sound like much oomph, but at low or high speeds the engine will propel a Volvo rapidly. There were a couple of places my driving partner got on the pedal, and this engine responded by sending the V90 from about 60 mph to almost 95 mph in a few seconds.
I thought the seats, a Volvo strong suit, was comfortable. This V90 was quiet, handling was excellent, and the ride was smooth. And now that I think about it, sight lines were clear. Not once did I feel constricted because I could not see.
The base price was $57,950. But a $1,900 convenience package that included a surround view camera, an air suspension, a premium audio system and 20-inch Inscription alloy wheels, and a heads up display pushed the price to $69,340 as tested.
A panoramic roof was standard as well as a smart key, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, LED headlights blind spot alert, lane keeping assist, and emergency braking for pedestrians and cyclists.
We got into a 2018 S90 for the second half of the drive to lunch. The sedan has undergone a couple of significant changes for this model year. First, it is 4.5 inches longer than last year’s model.
The short-wheel-based version will not be available in this country any longer. It will be available in Europe and of course Sweden where a spokesman said the streets couldn't accommodate the long-wheel version. But I’ve driven in Sweden, and I think the roads can provide the long-wheel version. Anyway, some believe that Volvo is making a move in preparation for the launch of the S60 next year. Time will tell. But that wasn’t the second piece of news for this model.
The S90 now comes with the 400 horsepower plug-in electric hybrid system, and that is what we test drove to lunch. All of the extra inches went into more leg room in the back, the rear seats massaged passengers, and the car had power side shades and of course a power rear shade.
Its panoramic roof was standard. What Volvo called a Twin Engine Plug-in Electric Hybrid 400 horsepower propulsion system or T8, joins the 316 horsepower T6 super- and-turbo charged engine, as well as the 250 horsepower turbocharged T5 engines, offered on the S90. They all have four-cylinder engine blocks. Thus they are all relatively fuel efficient.
There certainly was a big difference in 400 horsepower of the S90 versus the 316 horsepower of the V90. The S90 engine made 472 pound-feet of torque and because of the electric motor on the rear wheels power could be felt almost instantly. It could get to 60 mph from a standstill in 4.7 seconds.
On one of the few straightaways long enough to let the car loose, the engine lacked the roar of a V8 but not the speed. My driving partner and I agreed that it was the new sound of performance; still rhythmic but lighter in grunt.
The only thing we found to complain about during the initial test drive was the brakes of the T8. Because of the hybrid component, they were regenerative, and we thought they needed recalibration. It was nearly impossible to bring the car to a smooth stop. We both found ourselves stopping short more times than we’d like.
Still, the S90 T8 was a great driving car. Although it had the length of a full-size sedan, it didn’t have the weight, tipping the scales at 3,870 lbs. And that was with all-wheel-drive. The car was nimble, responded to driver input accurately and it was very maneuverable.
The S90 will also feature the updated Sensus Connect Touchscreen interface, Oncoming Lane Mitigation and what Volvo called blind spot information with steering assist as well as City Safety which will bring the vehicle to a complete emergency stop.
Our test car had a base price of $63,650. But add option packages included adaptive LED headlights, Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights, and a premium audio system. Furthermore, a color-coordinated Nappa leather key fob, powered cushion extension front seats, laminated side windows, surround view camera, backrest massaging front seats, heated and cooled rear seats, four-zone climate controls, 19-inch 10 spoke alloy wheels, and the price came to $82,140 as tested.
As Volvo continues to redefine luxury, the company is also restructuring itself.