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2006 Volvo XC90 AWD Review

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ENGINE: 4.4-liter V8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 311 hp @ 5850 rpm/325 lb.-ft. @ 3900 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 112.6 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 188.9 x 74.7 x 70.2 in.
TIRES: 235/60R18
CARGO VOLUME: 85.1 cu. ft.
ECONOMY: 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway/17.7 mpg test
PRICE: $51,475 (includes $695 destination charge)

Volvo’s XC90 midsize sport utility vehicle is an anomaly for Volvo.

First, it’s an SUV, and Volvo made its reputation with safe sedans and station wagons. The SUV grew out of an all-wheel drive station wagon and it has made the grade.

Second, the XC90 has a V8 engine, and Volvos have traditionally been powered by inline five-cylinder engines.

Even though the XC90 appears to be out of place, on the highway and in tough road conditions, like those that are covered with ice and snow, it does the job well. I don’t think I’d want to take the XC90 on a serious off-road adventure, but for on-road adventures with less-than-ideal road conditions, it’s very capable.

We had an opportunity to drive the XC90 on both snow and ice in a special Volvo Winter Driving Experience. While I wasn’t thrilled to be headed north in January, Volvo put us in vehicles that made the experience warming, especially with great heaters and heated seats.

In a more normal test on local roads, the XC90 exhibited very good handling on hills and winding roads. Our tester didn’t have an optional manual shifter connected with the 6-speed automatic, but nevertheless the 6-speed handled twisting roads and hills quite well. Since the XC90 still tends more toward the luxury end of the spectrum, one really wouldn’t expect sports car-like handling. But still, for a relatively top-heavy vehicle, it does the job.

The V8 engine, rated at 311 hp, offers very good power. The XC90 weighs in at 4,450 pounds, but there’s still enough power for most applications. Again, it’s not a drag racer, but the power is there for most normal applications. We had very good acceleration away from traffic lights and never had any problems keeping up with the ambient traffic on Interstates.

Inside, the XC90 was luxurious, with full power accessories, leather seats, tasteful wood trim, etc. The steering wheel is an interesting wood-and-leather combination with thick hand grips at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions. Cruise and audio controls are on the wheel. The audio system (AM/FM/CD) was okay, but I found it difficult to tune the radio to the stations I preferred, which aren’t always the strongest signals in my area.

I liked the simple black-on-white instrument panel that also included a readout for fuel management. This readout told us what our fuel economy was (17.7 mpg during our test), and how many miles remained before we ran out of gas. In the old pre-cell phone days, I often found myself stranded somewhere looking for a gas station, thanks to poor planning.

The XC90 offers seating for seven, ideally, but the third row seat is tight. Legroom is adequate in the second row, though, thanks to indents in the backs of the front seats. There was a VCR screen located in the backs of both front headrests for the amusement of rear seat passengers, a $1,995 option.

The rear rows of seats fold flat for increased carrying capacity. The XC90 offers more than 85 cubic feet of cargo volume, which is extremely convenient.

The rear hatch is unique in that it is a clamshell design. There’s a large window-plus-hatch that opens upward revealing most of the cargo area. It’s convenient for loading almost everything in back. But with the big hatch open, there’s still a smaller lip to negotiate if you’re loading large or heavy objects. This drops downward with the pull of a handle to fully open the cargo area for loading.

Small storage areas consist of a nice cubby in the dash to accommodate cell phones, a deep center console that is great for holding CDs, two cup holders in the front center console. Small cup holders in the door pockets, and two cup holders in the rear center console.

The XC90’s styling is typically Volvo, with a waterfall grille up front and Volvo’s tail lamps that have “shoulders” and meld beautifully into the rear fender. Most Volvo designs are conservative, which appeals to me, so I was pretty certain I’d like the XC90 even before it appeared in my driveway.

With a base price of $45,840 and a bottom line of $51,475, the Volvo XC90 isn’t inexpensive. It is, however, very capable for most of the driving situations its owners would encounter (no, make that ALL of the driving situations a Volvo owner would encounter, because I can’t see any Volvo owners taking these SUVs far off road). As such, it’s a winner for Volvo.

2006 The Auto Page Syndicate