Driven: Volvo SA’s one-off XC90 ‘Beast’ looks ready for the apocalypse
JOHANNESBURG - While driving through the hilly outskirts of Roodepoort in search of a location to take some pictures of this unique Volvo XC90, which head office simply refers to as ‘The Beast’, I thought it was quite appropriate that my Spotify was streaming ‘Radioactive’ by Imagine Dragons.
“I'm breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus. This is it, the apocalypse… Whoa…”
It has certainly been that kind of year with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the harsh lockdown that followed, turning life as we know it upside down. For many, it has felt like an apocalypse of sorts. So it seemed fitting that Volvo Car South Africa has created a vehicle that appears ready for any further disasters that might follow - it even comes with a bright orange spade attached to the roof rack, which could be useful for fighting off zombies.
On a more serious note, the XC90 Beast that you see in the pictures is a one-off creation, although customers can for the most part concoct a similar creation through the importer’s range of accessories.
Distinguishing features include 18-inch glossy black wheels shod with BF Goodrich All Terrain Tyres (265/60R18), a Satin Black full body vinyl wrap with orange accents, Front Runner roof rack and an XC90 ‘Rugged’ accessory kit that had to be customised to fit the 2020-model-year XC90.
So why did Volvo create a vehicle like this? To find out, we spoke to Volvo Car South Africa's Managing Director, Greg Maruszewski:
IOL: How did the idea come about to build this vehicle and what was the inspiration behind it?
Maruszewski: We wanted to put up an eye-catching display at the South African Festival of Motoring in August 2019, in Johannesburg. In addition to the House of Volvo structure set up at the entrance, we thought the audience would appreciate seeing how this luxury SUV could look in a rugged, off-road guise. The project really was a bit of fun for the Volvo team and our close suppliers.
IOL: Is there a specific type of apocalypse scenario that it was designed for?
Maruszewski: Many of our XC90 customers enjoy the adventure of travelling to South Africa’s top safaris from inside a luxury car. We had this audience in mind when designing the modifications.
IOL: Are there plans to create more uniquely accessorised vehicles such as this?
Maruszewski: Watch this space!
IOL: If it were for sale to the public, how much would it cost?
Maruszewski: Approximately R1.3 million. Except for the orange seat belts which Volvo Car South Africa sourced from the V90 CC Ocean Race edition (not available in South Africa), any Volvo XC90 owner can customise his/her car in a similar way, and have a one of a kind vehicle.
Let’s take a spin
The Beast is based on the regular D5 diesel model, which comes with a 2-litre turbodiesel engine that’s good for 173kW and 480Nm. While it’s not speed demon, this is arguably the best all-rounder in the range, in terms of offering reasonable performance, economy and all round refinement.
Given that there were no performance mods to speak of here, The Beast doesn’t feel all that different on the road, although those roof-mounted accessories do result in a lot more wind noise, particularly on the highway. Apart from that aspect, it is an impressively quiet and refined vehicle.
Oh, and while the XC90 has never been a hardcore off-roader, featuring permanent all-wheel drive rather than a transfer case with low range gearing, the BF Goodrich All Terrain tyres do serve up some extra grip off the beaten track.
Of course, the XC90’s biggest drawcard is its cabin. It’s one of the only SUVs on the market that can accommodate seven adults in comfort and the vehicle is also packed with features and technology, with standard amenities including four-zone climate control, leather seats, powered tailgate, Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving system with steering assistance and adaptive cruise control, Navigation Pro, Road Sign Information and Lane Keeping Aid.
Occupants will certainly experience the next apocalypse in comfort.