A page from the Apple playbook
Words and Photos: Inigo Roces
Mention Apple today and most consumers will likely gush over the sleek, easy to use, and very desirable phones, tablets and computers. After all, Apple took what used to be complicated machines and made them work efficiently and intuitively. Volvo seems to be taking a page from Apple’s playbook and that’s most evident in its long-awaited model, the XC90.
The XC90 was first offered locally in 2014, spanning a shelf life of 12 years. This year, the 2016 model has finally arrived and offers a refreshing and decidedly different approach from the usual sporty route of its competitors.
The XC90 shows off its new look with slim headlights, a massive grille, and a minimal amount of flourishing — only a tastefully slim line of chrome outlines the windows. This is the first model to bear the new ‘Thor’s Hammer’ daytime running lamps, flanked by more LEDs than Honda’s Legend. Towards the side, its 19-inch wheels are dwarfed by the body. Behind, Volvo has retained the tall, bright LED taillights. The split tailgate of its predecessor is gone, though the new mufflers integrated into the rear diffuser are a welcome addition.
Its sedate exterior may be underwhelming, but it’s in the interior where the XC90 truly impresses. Volvo’s trademark stylish interiors are taken to new levels with the clever and tasteful integration of technology. Volvo Philippines opted for the monotone treatment with brushed aluminum accents.
In front of the driver is a fully digital instrument cluster. The tachometer dial changes depending on the driving mode, or can be customized with ‘themes’. The center space can display which doors are open, trip info, consumption, audio settings or even GPS Navigation with up-to-date local maps. The steering wheel itself has all the usual cruise control and entertainment remote controls. It can also adjust the displays on the instrument cluster. The driver’s side has great adjustment for the wheel and seats with memory, 4-way lumbar support (even for the passenger), and extendable seat cushions.
In the center of the dash is the best feature of the car — the iPad-like center display. It’s a clever touch, displaying much more information and responds just as smoothly and quickly too. This grants access to Navigation, the Bowers & Wilkins entertainment system, climate control, any connected phones and devices, safety settings, and even a built-in vehicle manual to figure things out on the go. Like any iPad, just hit the home key to return to the main menu.
Lower on the center console, the knobs and buttons are decorated like jewelry. Sliding shutters hide the cupholders and power jack. Behind, rear passengers also get dual-zone climate control, adjusted by touch-screens.
Finally, the cargo area features the two more seats that can deployed with reasonable room to fit adults. Even with the seats up, there’s still a lot of space for bags and some clever dividers to keep cargo from flying around. The spare tire and tools are also kept out of sight underneath it.
Propelling this all forward is a 2.0-liter twin-turbo diesel D5, generating 225 bhp and 347 lb ft of torque. This power is sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission, with manual mode. Fully independent suspension on all four wheels keeps it aloft.
The XC90 makes an event of your arrival, with its lights illuminating the ground around the vehicle as you hold the handle to unlock it. It can even be started remotely from afar, cooling down the vehicle on a hot day if you’ve left climate controls on.
Twist the start knob and the vehicle comes quietly to life. There’s usable power on hand, but the on-board drive-by-wire system prefers to deliver it more smoothly and progressively, rather than by neck-snapping aggression, even in Dynamic mode.
Keep the stop-start system on and you won’t even notice the engine shut off by itself. Starting up again is just as gentle. There’s also an auto handbrake that can be activated at stoplights.
The ride itself is smooth for the front passengers but can be slightly stiffer for those in the second row. When cornering, there’s some expected body roll as the suspension is tuned for comfort. The steering adjusts from light to stiff and sharp with speed, and the manual gearshift response is quick when you opt to shift manually. It’s no sports car, but for its size, the handling and response is very commendable.
Outside of the city, and in darker roads, the Active Bending Lights truly show their usefulness, turning in to the corner in sync with the steering wheel. They can even be paired with the Auto Dimming feature, which automatically dims your lights if another car approaches or if you approach another car up front.
Though it has AWD, going off road simply entails selecting it from the drive modes. The car controls the rest. No lockable differentials, terrain modes, or any other fiddly bits.
Naturally, this vehicle also comes with Volvo’s trademark City Safety, which includes the full auto brake feature and adaptive cruise control.
There’s also the automated parking feature, which can handle both parallel and perpendicular spaces. It can park the car in remarkably tight spaces. And finally, a “Drive-out” feature has been added, which can navigate out of the same tight space.
In spite of the vehicle’s size and seemingly small 2.0-liter twin turbo engine, the XC90 still netted an impressive 10 km/L in the city and 16 km/L in the highway, with help from the stop-start system.
Finally, much like the ubiquitous iPhone or iPad, the XC90 simplifies much of the complexities of daily driving with automated and intuitive features. It’s not exciting on a daily basis, but it is very convenient and comfortable. This clever integration of technology and understated style, truly useful high-tech features, and a drive that is just as relaxing whether in heavy traffic or out of town, combine to challenge what you should expect of a luxury car.
It’s not a conventional choice, and at P6.5M, it’s no steal either. Yet, for those that want to know what the car of the future will be like — before driving ourselves becomes obsolete — this is it.
Engine: 2.0-liter twin turbo common rail diesel
Max Power: 225 bhp @ 4,250 rpm
Max Torque: 347 lb ft @ 1,750 rpm
0-100: 8.7 secs
Top Speed: 215 km/h
Fuel Mileage: City, 11 km/L; Highway 17 km/L
Price as tested: P6,495,000
+ Very high tech, fuel-efficient, and easy to drive
– Ride is taut on the second row, expensive
C! Editor’s Rating: 9.5/10