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2007 Volvo XC90 3.2 Review

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2007 Volvo XC90 3.2

The XC90 has been a success for Volvo, and that's no surprise. Introduced as Volvo's first SUV in mid-2002, the XC90 combined all of the safety and comfort for which Volvos, especially Volvo wagons, were and are known with more room. It was a hit with both existing Volvo owners who wanted a larger vehicle, and contemporary SUV buyers who liked what it had to offer.

While there has been little outward change to the XC90 since its debut, much has changed underneath. It was originally equipped with a choice of a 2.5-liter, 208 horsepower light-pressure turbo five cylinder or 268-horsepower, 2.9-liter twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engines. Those were the Volvo powerplants of the day, but were designed for smaller, lighter cars. At well over 4,000 pounds, an XC90 is no lightweight, and torque is more appropriate to its mission than horsepower.

So last year the six-cylinder engine gave way to Volvo's first V8, a unique unit developed by Yamaha. It was compact enough to easily fit into the XC90, adding significantly more horsepower and torque with no added weight and no fuel consumption penalty. The old four-speed automatic transmission gave way to a six-speed, benefiting both performance and economy.

This year, the old 2.5-liter engine has been replaced by an all-new 3.2-liter six. Like the old 2.9-liter turbo, it's an inline engine for maximum smoothness. It is remarkably short in order to fit across the Volvo engine bay - it's less than an eighth of an inch longer than the old five-cylinder engine. With the added displacement but no turbocharging, its 235 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque fall between the old five and six-cylinder engines. Like the V8, the new six is matched to the six-speed automatic. An added benefit of the inline architecture, from the Volvo safety standpoint, is its short front-to-rear size when mounted sideways, allowing a larger and better-controlled front deformation zone.

There are a few other changes for 2007, mostly to interior and exterior trim and option package contents. The XC90 has been improved, but its basic nature is unchanged, and that's very good. I've been driving one with the six-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive for the past week, and it is, as always, a Volvo wagon in size Large - with plenty of interior space but not too large outside for easy maneuverability and parking. With more refinement and power and equal fuel economy from its new drivetrain, it is a step forward from the old five-cylinder.

APPEARANCE: A close examination is necessary to tell the difference between and 2007 XC90 and earlier models. There are no major changes to its broad-shouldered, muscular but not muscle-bound lines. With its "V for Volvo" hood line, rounded rectangular grille with diagonal crossbar, and full-height taillights, there is no doubt as to its maker. Grille, bumper, and taillight details are slightly different this year, and auxiliary turn signals are integrated into the outside rear-view mirrors. Bi-xenon adaptive headlights that swivel up to 15 degrees are available, and they improve vision at night.

COMFORT: All of the familiar Volvo interior styling cues are found inside the XC90. It's similar to the smaller wagons, but noticeably larger, especially in headroom. And an interesting seating arrangement makes very good use of all that space. Both front passengers are treated to excellent bucket seats, and the front passenger seat can be folded flat for extra cargo space if necessary. The driver has good visibility and a very good control layout. Both six-cylinder and V8 models feature a 40/20/40 split second-row seat, with each section adjustable fore-and-aft and foldable. The center section is expressly-designed to hold a child seat, and be moved forward for easy access from the front seats. A third-row seat is optional in the 3.2 and standard in the V8. Access is by moving either outside second-row section, and there is reasonable space for two children or medium-sized adults. It folds flat when not needed, as does the second row. There are enough cupholders and power outlets around the cabin to keep all occupants happy. A welcome addition this year is MP3 CD capability for the CD changer and an auxiliary jack for an MP3 player or iPod. Three 12-volt power outlets allow flexibility in use of various electronic devices.

SAFETY: The XC90 is a Volvo, so safety is designed in, with a systems approach integrating active and passive safety devices and even engine position and design for maximum effect. Because the XC90 is higher than a car, its front subframe has a lower crossmember positioned at regular car bumper height that will activate the other car's crumple zones in case of a frontal collision. The XC90 also introduced the ``Roll-Over Protection System'', ROPS. It includes the ``Roll Stability Control'' (RSC) system, an enhancement to the DSTC stability control system to lessen the chance for a rollover in extreme maneuvers and strong boron steel components in the roof for protection if the vehicle does roll.

RIDE AND HANDLING: In construction, the XC90 is a large Volvo wagon, and so has the ride and handling characteristics of a larger, heavier Volvo wagon. No complaints there. Even with its high driving position and good 8.9 inches of debris-avoiding ground clearance, it feels solidly-planted to the road. The fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension gives a moderate ride, neither too firm for comfort nor too soft for control, and the steering effort is light. At nearly 4,500 lbs in 6-cylinder all-wheel drive (AWD) trim, the XC90 is no lightweight, and inertia does make its presence felt when changing direction. But it's no worse in that respect than any other 4,500-lb vehicle, and there's no getting around the laws of physics. The ``All-Wheel Drive With Instant Traction'' AWD system normally operates in front-wheel drive mode, and uses a computer-controlled Haldex device to deliver up to 50 percent more torque to the rear axle much more quickly than with the previous system. This helps maintain traction under heavy acceleration and on slippery surfaces.

PERFORMANCE: With more horsepower - 235 (at 6200 rpm) versus 208, and an equivalent 236 lb-ft of torque (peaking at a useful 3200), Volvo's new naturally-aspirated inline six is a good replacement for the old 2.5-liter turbo five. The new engine uses variable cam phasing, and variable valve lift on the intake cam, for improvements in torque and horsepower as well as decreased fuel consumption and emissions levels. It's matched to the same six-speed automatic as was introduced with the V8, which also helps improve both performance and economy in comparison to the old four-speed. It shifts very well in automatic mode, and gives the driver the option of "Geartronic" manual shifting for more control when desired. The new six-cylinder/six-speed drivetrain is more than adequate for most uses, with good low- and mid-speed acceleration. Only at highway speeds, 65 mph and above, is acceleration a little slow, as the transmission must downshift for the quickest acceleration. Manual shift control can placate the impatient driver at such times. With a ULEV emissions rating and nearly 19mpg average, the XC90 3.2 scores well environmentally for an SUV.

CONCLUSIONS: Attention to detail and a new drivetrain make the Volvo XC90 a first-rate luxury crossover SUV.

2007 Volvo XC90 3.2

Base Price			$ 36,135
Price As Tested	        	$ 45,200
Engine Type			dual overhead cam, 24-valve
				        inline 6-cylinder
Engine Size			3.2 liters / 195 cu. in.
Horsepower			235 @ 6200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 			236 @ 3200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with "Geartronic"
				        manual shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		112.6 in. / 189.3 in.
Curb Weight			4,464 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		19.0
Fuel Capacity			21.1 gal.
Fuel Requirement	                91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				P235/65 HR17 Pirelli Scorpion
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				        ABS, EBD, EBS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Ground clearance	8.9 inches
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 part-time single-range four-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		16 / 22 / 19
0 to 60 mph				est 9.7  sec
Towing capacity				4,960 lbs.

Metallic paint						$   475
Active bi-xenon gas discharge headlamps
  with washers						$   800
Electronically-controlled all-wheel drive		$ 1,850
Premium Package - includes:
  power glass moonroof, power passenger seat,
  leather seating surfaces, 6-CD in-dash changer	$ 2,995
Versatility Package - includes:
  3rd-row seats, self-leveling suspension, 3rd-row
  air conditioning, 2nd-row center booster cushion	$ 2,250
Destination charge					$   695