REVIEW DATE: 11 Jun 2007
Does Volvo Really Need An XC90 With A V8 Engine? The Market Would Seem To Think So. Andy Enright Reports
Volvo, that most caring and environmentally-oriented of car companies, would seem a rather odd candidate for developing a hulking great V8 engine. Surely these Swedes with an unimpeachable green reputation would be better served developing alternative fuel technology instead of relying on good old fashioned cubic capacity? On the surface it would appear that parent company Ford has corrupted the Scandinavian gene pool but, as is so often the case with Volvo, not all is as it seems. The XC90 V8 AWD is a luxury 4x4 with a conscience.
That may sound a little trite given that we're talking about a 311bhp bruiser of a powerplant but this 4.4-litre engine is one of the smartest of its ilk and Volvo almost felt a responsibility to develop it. The market for seriously powerful all-wheel drive SUVs has taken off in the past few years with vehicles like the Porsche Cayenne and the Mercedes ML dramatically upping the ante. Volvo could either sit back and watch its rivals cleaning up or enter with its own take on the genre.
The 322g/km of carbon dioxide that the XC90 emits may not make it quite the environmental poster child but compare it to the alternatives. The BMW X5 4.4i chugs out 335g/km, the Mercedes ML500 emits 339g/km and the Porsche Cayenne S spews out 361. That's probably not enough to tip the balance in the Volvo's favour if you're a sceptic, but consider this. It meets stringent American ULEV II (Ultra Low Emission Vehicles II) standards thanks to four catalytic converters, a lean air/fuel mix for cold starting and a higher idling speed at cold start. Volvo's engineers had identified that the first 15-20 seconds after starting was when the majority of harmful emissions were created and have worked to quell this occurrence.
Volvo's philosophy of trying to convert potential V8 customers to their way of thinking instead of plumping for more profligate rivals is a smart piece of thinking. We can but do our bit. After a weekend spent circuit racing and riding a two-stroke motocross bike, I realised I'd probably done more damage to the environment than Virgin's entire 747 fleet but by using a 'clean' V8 on the way home, I was suffused with a rosy glow of environmental smugness. I was also rather taken with the fact that when you're not so concerned with the limits of winter pack ice, the XC90 V8 will get to 60mph from standstill in under seven seconds with a hefty 440Nm of torque chiming in nicely at 3,900rpm.
"The XC90 V8 AWD is Volvo's admission that just saying no is a counter productive philosophy"
The Swedish company's first V8, this is the same powerplant that's offered in the S80 V8 AWD and it's something rather special. Its narrow V-configuration means that it's possible - as with all Volvo engines - for it to be mounted transversely and still offer excellent crash protection space in the front crumple zone. With the block and the head cast in aluminium, this engine weighs in at just 190kg. Low weight means better handling, sharper acceleration, improved fuel economy and lower emissions.
The introduction of this pivotal engine also coincides with some tweaks to the XC90's styling that are worth taking another look at. The exterior design of the XC90 has long been one of its strong points. It's imposing without ascribing to the neo-brutalist school of vehicle architecture popularised by the likes of the Land Rover Discovery and Jeep's Commander. Instead, it mixes slab sides with smooth curves in a way that's beautifully resolved. It's recognisably a Volvo yet remains one of the best looking 4x4s money can buy.
The latest car emphasises the curves of the XC90's 'shoulders' with a redesigned tail light section. There's also additional chrome detailing, a full-width rear scuff plate and a bumper that incorporates a little more body colouring to visually lower the rear of the car. The front also adds a splash more chrome and colour-coding while revised 18-inch alloy wheels and colour-coding for the side mouldings, mirrors and door handles give the flanks a cleaner look. Volvo is also offering a palette of more modern exterior colours including a very striking White Pearl finish.
The interior has been given a makeover too with the aim of giving the XC90 a more luxurious, premium feel. The cabin was already extremely good in terms of functionality and ergonomics, if lacking a certain elegance that buyers in this market have increasingly come to expect. That's fixed now. New materials and upholsteries including opulent Sovereign Hide soft leather, Sapele wood trims and aluminium detailing are all on offer to shunt the XC90 that little but further upmarket. An RTI satellite navigation system that works from a hard disk rather than a DVD is true next generation technology, it's also quicker and easier to use than previous Volvo systems.
Given that Volvo is Latin for 'I roll', it's important that they give this tall 4x4 some outstanding safety credentials. Parent company Ford were, after the Explorer/ Firestone debacle, glad to hear that the XC90's innovative Roll Stability Control (RSC) system received the World Traffic Safety Symposium Manufacturers Award. Volvo has approached this thorny issue with a three-pronged attack. In order to prevent the XC90 going dirty side up in the first instance, sophisticated gyroscopically-controlled stability software steadies even the most radical lane changing behaviour. Should you hit a kerb or ditch and roll the XC90, it features a boron-reinforced roof to prevent the upper body deforming. Finally, the XC90 also features curtain airbags that stay inflated ten times longer than normal bags in order to ensure passengers are kept away from flying glass and insulated from doorframes during a roll.
The XC90 V8 AWD is fast, well-equipped, offers more than a nod to environmental responsibility but does so without imposing a severe financial burden. Consumer research shows that many of us want to be green but don't want to make any sacrifices in doing so. Here's the solution. It's big, bold and has a Volvo badge on the back.
The results below show the top XC90 deals on buyacar
|Volvo XC90 2.4 D5  SE Lux 5dr Geartronic diesel estate|
|Price £34,110||Save £9,135|
|Volvo XC90 2.4 D5  Executive 5dr Geartronic diesel estate|
|Price £36,057||Save £9,388|
|Volvo XC90 2.4 D5  ES 5dr Geartronic diesel estate|
|Price £28,446||Save £8,399|
|Volvo XC90 2.4 D5  SE 5dr Geartronic diesel estate|
|Price £31,168||Save £8,752|
|Volvo XC90 2.4 D5  R DESIGN 5dr Geartronic diesel estate|
|Price £32,871||Save £8,974|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT XC90 DEALS|
|OVERALL||7.7 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
Let our car quote assistant help you configure your ideal new XC90 - it's 100% free and easy to use...
Click below for more information: