Motoring

Powered-up Volvo XC90 still needs more punch

It will probably come as a surprise to many that the second generation Volvo XC90 is fast approaching its fifth year in production having debuted towards the end of 2014.

With big changes on the cards for the next generation reportedly out in 2022, Gothenburg’s fi nest, which recently became the recipient of a series of small updates still to be applied to local models, had a chance to show-off another innovation when a striking Passion Red D5, clad in the sporty R-Design exterior garnish, recently arrived for a seven-day stay.

The appeal of Thor

As mentioned, the XC90 broke new ground for Volvo in the styling department with the large grille and the signature Thor’s Hammer headlights with its t-shaped integrated daytime running LEDs providing a distinct and upmarket appearance that came as an unexpected surprise from a brand always erring on the conservative side.

Interior still a marvel

Right from its debut, the main focus centred round the XC90’s interior which adopted a minimalist and clean design with the usual array of switches being housed inside the tablet-like nine-inch Sensus Connect infotainment system. While this approach has since been adopted by its rivals, the cabin looks good despite its advancing age, though the imitation metal inlays felt cheap and not up to the quality of the soft-touch materials found elsewhere, or indeed the eye-watering R1 123 100 price tag.

A force of tech and safety

Laid-out on the facia, the Sensus system is easy to understand and use despite the inherent complexity portrayed, with the undoubted headline being the Gothenburg Concert Hall setting for the 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system that forms part of the optional R70 000 R Pack. With the aim of not recording a single injury or indeed death in any of its cars by 2020, the XC90 can lead claim to being the safest car on sale today with items on offer such as City Safety, Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving, Adaptive Cruise Control, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, Rollover Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning and Auto Park Assist. As accomplished as the XC90 is from a visual, technological, safety and comfort standpoint by offering good levels of head-and-legroom and of course seating for seven with impressive levels of practically thanks to its boot that grows from 314-litres to 1 947-litres with the second and third rows down, the biggest gripe remains its engine.

Less but more yet still not enough

Displacing 2.0-litres, the Drive-E twin-turbocharged diesel engine has come under scrutiny since its launch for its rather agricultural soundtrack and for having to haul the 2 000 kg XC90 along. Although Volvo will soon phase-out diesel power completely for hybrid assisted petrols, it has nonetheless continued developing its oil-burner with the inclusion of PowerPulse technology. Part of a mid-life revision two years ago, the addition of PowerPulse also came with an uptake in power from 165 kW to 173 kW, with torque rising by 10 N.m to 480 N.m. Connected to the slick workings of the eight-speed Geartronic gearbox, the powertrain is more smooth than explosive, although some lag was still traced and the exact two-ton weight being felt through the corners.

Outfitted with Volvo’s Drive Mode selector that offers five settings; Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Off-road and Individual, the XC90 spent the majority of its stay in Comfort mode with occasional spells in Dynamic, yet despite careful driving in mixed conditions, could only amass a best consumption of 9.0 L/100 km, well and truly off of the optimistic 5.7 L/100 km claim.

Conclusion

The Volvo XC90 might still make a very compelling case for itself, especially in the tech and safety departments, yet the inclusion of PowerPulse will do little to silence the criticism of having a big SUV powered by a 2.0-litre engine. However, with the trump card of seven-seats, those looks, a comfortable ride and left-field choice appeal, the XC90 still rates as one of Volvo’s standouts, though we would rather opt for the more luxury focused Inscription and the R17 000 credit it comes with.

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