By: Jason Woosey

The all-new XC90 might look a little on the unassuming side but this grand-scale SUV is causing a lot of hype within Volvo circles. In fact, Volvo’s CEO Håkan Samuelsson reckons it represents a completely new era for the Swedish brand that’s associated with superlative safety:

“This is one of the most important days in our history. We are not just launching a car, but relaunching our brand. This day marks a new era for our company.”

Along with a fresh design direction, this new XC90 ushers in the company’s new Scalable Product Architecture, which will incorporate a new range of technologies. Yet when one looks at the new tech featured on this automotive cruise liner, that ‘old era’ safety spirit is clearly more alive than ever.

TWO WORLD FIRSTS

In fact, Volvo claims this new SUV offers the “most comprehensive and technologically sophisticated” safety package available in the world. This armoury against the means streets includes two world firsts.

One of these will automatically brake the vehicle when the driver turns in front of an oncoming car and the other will prepare the vehicle to best protect its occupants if it veers off the road. The seats even have an energy-absorbing functionality that can help prevent spinal injuries in the event of a hard landing.

FAST AND FRUGAL

Another technological priority when developing the XC90 was creating an over-achiever in both performance and efficiency and that all culminates in the flagship T8 model. Its plug-in hybrid drivetrain mates a supercharged and turbocharged two-litre petrol engine to an electric motor. At its greenest, the T8 boasts an official NEDC driving cycle (read: laboratory) CO2 emissions figure of just 60g/km, yet at is very meanest the powertrain will push 295kW through all four wheels.

The T8 will eventually join the South African range, but initial models will be powered by brand new range of two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged Drive-E powertrains, for which Volvo has yet to specify outputs.

FANCY FURNITURE

Yet, arguably, the XC90’s biggest drawcard will be its luxurious interior, swamped in soft leather and wood, and decorated with interesting touches such as a gear lever made from crystal glass and a few controls with a ‘diamond-cut’ design.

In addition to offering a semi-autonomous driving function that allows the XC90 to automatically follow the vehicle ahead in slow traffic, the make-your-life-easier portfolio includes a tablet-like touch-screen control centre that, Volvo says, “represents an entirely new way for drivers to control their car and access a range of Internet-based products and services.”

The cherry on top, if you specify it, is a 1400W top-of-the-line Bowers & Wilkins sound system featuring air-ventilated subwoofers.

Best of all, this Volvo can entertain seven at a time thanks to a commodious three-row seating system that even claims to offer class-leading comfort for occupants as tall as 170cm in the third row.

VOLVO’S DESIGN FUTURE

The XC90’s exterior design forges a new design direction for Volvo and variations of its T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” DRL headlights, new ‘iron mark’ grille design and ‘tattoo-like’ taillights are sure to find their way onto other future Volvos.

A sharpened shoulder line and large wheels, up to 22-inches in diameter, aim to give this SUV a more purposeful stance on the road and buyers can personalise it further with a range of accessories and styling themes.

There is also something rather bespoke in store for the first 1927 examples, all of which celebrate Volvo’s founding year with a unique styling and equipment package. This ‘First Edition’ model will only be available to order online via www.volvocars.com and you can place your order from 3 September onwards.

IN SHOWROOMS NEXT YEAR

The First Edition will cost R1 050 000 in South Africa and although prices for the normal models have yet to be finalised, Volvo SA expects the range to start just below the R800 000 mark. Expect to see the new XC90 in local showrooms during the second half of 2015.