On Wednesday Volvo introduced the U.S. to its all-new 2016 XC90 seven-passenger SUV at the LA Auto Show and among variants is its first hybrid for this market – a plug-in model.
A non-plug-in hybrid version is not being imported, and Volvo is going straight to the top with the large, opulently appointed family hauler/executive express with sub-6-second 0-60 time and up to 25 miles all-electric driving range. It features an evolved sophisticated powertrain based on the Euro-market V60 PHEV wagon. That diesel hybrid boasts enough tech credentials to have even made devoted GM/Chevy Volt fans wish out loud that their favorite automaker would do something similar – but it hasn’t.
Nope, leave it to the green-car loving Swedes where hybrids have 50-percent market share to be first to offer Americans this advanced technological design thesis you can buy. Nor will it be a “compliance car” for Californians only, but will be released to all of Volvo’s approximately 300 dealers, nationwide.
Projected launch for the XC90 is spring 2015 and the plug-in will fill a hole that actually no other automaker has seen fit to fill – plug-in vehicles in SUV form, although Tesla’s all-electric Model X is pending, as is the more-modest Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
The XC90 has been completely redesigned too – of necessity. It builds on a car introduced 12 years ago, and upgraded through the years under its former Ford ownership. To avoid Ford patent infringement, and prepare to revitalize the flagging brand, Volvo devised a Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) as DNA also for future models.
Now owned by Hong Kong-based Geely Holdings, Volvo has a five-year plan to revitalize its share in this important market. Volvo has been releasing news of the XC90 for a while now, and as it showed it for the first time in the U.S., it says it has the right stuff.
The XC90 plug-in hybrid has 400 total system horsepower, 472 pounds-feet torque from its T8 inline four cylinder paired with an electric motor providing 320 horsepower in the front, and 80-horsepower electric motor in the rear with torque vectoring.
Volvo incorporates both a turbocharger and supercharger on the complex gas engine. This engine is part of a new family of efficient and electrification-ready engines called Drive-E.
The hybrid system can – as one might expect – operate in a variety of modes. These include rear-wheel driven all-electric mode up to an estimated 25 miles (40 km) range, while yielding an estimated 60 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe). No U.S. EPA certification numbers have been announced yet, so this remains to be proven.
It also operates as a hybrid of course, with an aimed-for 25 mpg. For maximum acceleration, Volvo says 0-60 mph will be under six seconds with front and rear gas-plus-electric power brought to the task. Naturally, the AWD system is also useful in snow and slippery conditions.
The XC90 is similar in concept to the seven-passenger Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which also uses a rear electric motor, although it’s not a plug-in, and not as well equipped. Lexus’ five-passenger RX 450h is in the same category, but the well-equipped Volvo plug-in aims to leapfrog both these, if it can.
And well equipped is the watchword with the XC90.
While we’re not sure how successfully the light-tan leather seats will hide dirt, they are just plain rich. This premium leather is a beautiful full grain, soft and a cut above many other leather interiors we’ve seen.
The aroma is not unlike a new baseball glove – we mean this in a good way – as supple, heavy gauge new leather is expensive, and durable.
For its part, Volvo says this is the most luxurious interior it’s ever offered – as it attempts to revive the brand as a yet-still Swedish company now owned by a company with Chinese interests.
Defiantly wanting to show its heritage, the new vehicle incorporates symbolism with a shift knob cut from solid crystal and front “Thor’s Hammer” shaped LED headlights.
The shift knob is from Orrefors, a 200-year old Swedish company known for quality crystal. A diamond cutting tool was used to carve out controls for the start/stop button and volume control in the polished clear piece of hard glass.
Perhaps if this had been Land Rover, they might have tried to incorporate Wedgwood China somehow? As it is, the crystal is a classy gesture, and meant to be a focal point.
Adding to it all are multi-adjustable seats evolved from ergonomic designs known to be very comfortable, and these feature rear seat cushions shaped to better accommodate the human spine. Middle-row seats slide forward or fold forward to allow third-row passengers up to five-feet, seven-inches tall.
Instrumentation and infotainment are all top notch, a design Volvo calls “Sensus.” The interface is centered around a large touchscreen which is visually striking, and nearly button free.
Further, Volvo boasts the top trim level will offer one of the best sound system in the automotive world.
This will include a 1,400-watt Class D amplifier and 19 Bowers & Wilkins speakers. Also there to round out bass response is one of the first air-ventilated subwoofers to be offered in an automobile. The sub is integrated into the body of the car and Volvo says it’s been tuned to turns the whole interior space into a giant subwoofer.
As for the entire XC90 range, regular gas engine models and the featured plug-in hybrid ride on a new platform and a double wishbone front suspension up front. In the rear is a new integral link rear axle that features new lightweight transverse leaf springs.
The XC90 can also be equipped with electronically controlled air suspension with five operational modes.
All engine versions come with an 8-speed automatic gearbox.
The XC90 comes with “the most comprehensive and technologically sophisticated standard safety package available in the automotive industry.”
World firsts include: 1) a run-off road protection package, and 2) auto brake at intersection capability.
In a run-off road scenario, the car tightens the front seat belts to keep occupants in position. To help prevent spine injuries, energy-absorbing functionality between the seat and seat frame cushions the vertical forces that can arise when the car encounters a hard landing.
Volvo says the XC90 is the first car in the world with technology that features automatic braking if the driver turns in front of an oncoming car. Volvo says it’s a common scenario at busy city crossings and on highways and its proprietary tech is there to try and keep inadvertent kamikaze pilots from completing their accidental mission.
City Safety is the overarching name for all of Volvo Cars’ auto brake functions, which are standard for the XC90. It now covers vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians in front of the car, day and night.
The company’s updated trim levels resemble a tree with two branches. Kinetic is the base, followed by the Momentum level.
Inscription and R-Design form the two branches on the tree. The Inscription package is designed to be elegant, and R-Design is sporty.
The car will launch next year, and Volvo says it expects them to sell relatively well, having studied the U.S. market, and buyer preferences.
Sophisticated Niche Product
Pricing for the non-hybrid starts at $48,000, and not announced is pricing for the upscale PHEV.
Mitsubishi’s five-passenger Outlander plug-in SUV may be along soon enough also for folks not looking for a creme de la creme seven passenger car with jack-of-most-trades powertrain.
Tesla too will have its all-electric Model X, which we know also will sell for the lined-up fans wanting to bypass gasoline altogether.
The Volvo may be able to do what a car such as a Chevy Volt or Ford Fusion Energi can in keeping drivers in the EV zone for moderate daily driving, while having solid performance and luxury.
We shall see what the U.S. EPA says of the potential 25 miles EV range, 25 mpg combined, and 60 MPGe Volvo hopes to achieve.