In an earlier test, A Wheel Thing had the then brand new Volvo XC90 up against Audi’s Q7, with the German narrowly taking the win. Since then, Volvo’s R-Design group have waved a wand over the XC90, an award winning car, with its 2.0L turbocharged and supercharged four cylinder 400 Nm/235 kW powerplant, adding some very stylish touches to the $101950 plus on roads and options behemoth. Here’s what you get.Up front, a glossy black grille insert, along with the standard multiple parking sensors. You’ll get colour matched sills below the door and bumpers, with the front and rear gaining sportier extensions to the lower extremities, shiny twin exhaust tips, 20 inch rolling stock in a five spoke design (with Michelin rubber) and a larger rear spoiler.Underneath the square acre of sheet metal that masquerades as a bonnet, there’s the aforementioned four cylinder petrol engine, not that you’ll know visually, hidden as it is under a plain black plastic shroud. There’s also the aforementioned 400 torques and 235 kilowatts….note the title. It says Polestar Optimised. In layman’s language that’s an extra eleven kilowatts, taking the total to 246 @ 6000, up from 5700. Torque increases to 440, at a peak rev point of 4500, compared to 400 between 2200 to 5400. Consumption?Amazingly, it stays the same at 9.8/7.0/8.0 litres per 100 kilometres for the urban/highway/combined cycles from the 71 litre tank whilst hauling the 1965 kgs (dry) to one hundred kmh in just over six seconds. Emissions sit at just 186 grams per kilometres and there’s auto stop/start tech attached. Transmission is a smoother than Belgian chocolate eight speed auto, with paddle shifts which look like proper metal, but are plastic.
Under any throttle application there’s no appreciable feeling of gear change, but you can hear the system double clutching, slurring through the ratios around town and when the slipper hits the go pedal with some extra urge, the XC90 surges forward, pinning you back in the Nappa leather seats and watching the needle on the digital screen’s tacho flick as each gear is picked up. It’s an amazing feeling, especially under rapid acceleration, to not feel anything change but knowing that it does. Also, it has to be pointed out that the Polestar upgrade is an option any XC90 owner can ask for to get the same feeling.Inside, it’s an experience; you’re greeted and cossetted by a mix of that black leather, high quality tactile plastics, carbon fibre look finishes, a 12.3 inch portrait oriented touchscreen, subtle LED interior lighting including the door scuff plate having the R-Design logo, a B&W sound system (yeah, it’s ok…cough), seven seats, and space enough to fit a weekend’s shopping. From IKEA. With ALL seats up there’s still 436 litres of space at the rear.You’ll also enjoy Volvo’s CleanZone climate control system with separate controls (four zones) for the rear cabin, three memory positions for front seat passengers, with those seats gaining lumbar and extendable thigh support cushioning adjustments via toggle switches on the lower seat sides, and flat fold second & third row seating, providing 2427 litres of cargo space. There’s the usual nooks and bottle/cup holders spread throughout the cabin. The front seats also have heating but that’s $650 option, an odd choice by Volvo to ask extra coin for that feature. The rear glass is also laminated and tinted, also an optionable pair of costings at $850 and $525.
Outside, there’s the “Bursting Blue” metallic paint (albeit a $1900 option), the black painted 20 inch alloys (which can be replaced by optionable 22 inchers at $3850 inchers…pass), LED headlights that swivel and housed in a design that harkens to Swedish folklore. Entitled “Hammer of Thor”, it’s a striking and eyecatching look at the front, balancing the tall vertical LED tail light cluster found at the rear. There’s also the soft touch powered tail gate opening up to that cavernous cargo section.
It looks big, and is. There’s the 4950 mm overall length, a 2008 mm width, which accounts for the interior space being as large as it is, and stands tall at 1776 mm on a 238 mm ride height. The fact that Volvo have kept the starting weight to below two tonnes is stupendous, as a result. Rubber is 275/45 at each end of the 2984 mm wheelbase, bookending 1665 mm and 1667 mm tracks front and rear.Being at the top end of the XC 90 range (which, by the way, starts at $89950 MRRP), there’s plenty of safety and technology to play with. The touchscreen gives you full control over the aircon, satnav, tells you what the seats are doing, shows the user manual and offers up AM/FM/Bluetooth but….no DAB. But it does attract fingerprints quite nicely.
However, there’s more safety systems than there are letters in the alphabet: airbags all around including driver’s kneebag, corner traction control, blind spot information system, roll stability control, drive mode settings (found via the chromed knurled dial in the centre console, which also houses the Star/Stop mechanism), hill start assist and hill descent control, understeer control, whiplash protection, cross traffic alert and rear collision warning, adaptive safety and more, with most covered by umbrella terms such as CitySafety and Intellisafe Surround. The crash sensing system is sensitive, somewhat overly as it also picks up stationary cars parked roadside, depending on the angle of approach, flashing the red warning lights embedded in the dash and readying the brakes for an emergency stop.On road, apart from horizon blurring and forcing eyeballs to the rear of heads, you’ll find one of the best rides out there, thanks in part to the electronic bewitchery underneath. It’s a suspension that’s tuned for sporty comfort, or comfy sportiness, depending on your wont, giving a beautiful and supple ride to start before firming up and smoothing all but the bumpiest of road surfaces. Undulations become non existent, car park traffic bumps are nodded at, and the road holding prowess thanks to the track and the rubber’s width, not to mention the double wishbone front with coil springs and gas shocks and multi link rear, is so confidence inspiring you’d think you were in a smaller and lower Polestar badged vehicle….And that nimbleness belies the sheer size and heft of the XC90.
Srvice and warranty are 12 months or fifteen thousand kilometres (you’ll be seeing the latter first) and three years with unlimited k’s.
At The End Of The Drive.
The XC90 R-Design Polestar fettled machine is missing two things. A fridge and a shower. There’s more than enough room inside to use it as a granny flat, with the added benefit of being able to motorvate in crisp, quiet, luxury. It’s a pearler drive, looks damned good in the blue and with the Hammer of Thor lights, with plenty of heads on swivelling stalks attesting to the visual appeal, sounds good inside and will whisk you to the next timezone in an eyeblink.
At a tick under $102000 plus on road costs and options, it’s a heckuva lotta machine for the kronor. But yes, it’s still up against the Germans, such as the Q7. Does this mean that the Swedish brand must put aside its neutrality in the battle against its fellow European based competitors?
Head to Volvo Cars Australia to check out the range and book a test drive to make up your own mind.