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2016 Volvo XC90 First Drive - It Rocks The Luxury SUV World +VIDEO

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By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

THE HAGUE - February 2015: The new Volvo 2016 XC90 has arrived. Finally, after a life span of 12 years the first generation XC90 has a successor. That it lasted so long was mainly due to the acquisition of the Swedish brand by the Chinese Zhejiang Geely Holding in 2010. The new owner had to make a business plan for Volvo as an autonomous brand, which was aimed at healthy growth and profit.

Well, the wait has been worth while.

The styling of the new model is still bold, but softer than before and not out of sink in the segment of the premium SUVs that is led by the German brands and Land Rover.

This Volvo model has been developed on the new modular Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform and will be available with efficient 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, including a plug-in hybrid drive, each teamed with an 8-speed transmission. There is a D5 diesel, but this model will not be available in North America, where we will see the T6 and the PHEV, which Volvo dubs T8 Twin Engine.

Test Drive XC90 D5

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I started my test drive south of Barcelona in a 2016 XC90 powered by the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine D5 engine, ( 225 hp and 460 Nm/347 pound-feet strong). Its vivid character makes driving the XC90 pleasant and fun. The D5 model has standard AWD and has no problem whatsoever with its weight of more than 4,400 pounds. In the cabin it is really quiet and I could enjoy the excellent seat with spine protection, indeed, Volvo would not be Volvo, if there were not any new safety features in a new model.

Test Drive XC90 T6

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After my drive of the D5, I jumped into the T6 with the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with supercharger and turbocharger. The engine delivers 316 hp and has 400 Nm/205 lb-ft of torque. The T6 is really fast, accelerates in 6.1 seconds to 60 mph. but with respect to pulling power, both the D5 and T6 are hardly a match for the next step up.

Test Drive XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD

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The plug-in hybrid has a 320 hp strong 4-cylinder petrol engine in the front, and in the rear sits the 82 hp/60 kW electric motor, driving the rear wheels. Volvo has especially modified the Drive-E petrol engine and added a turbocharger as well as a supercharger. Combined, the T8 drive line offers 400 hp and, not less important, 640 Nm/472 ft-lb of torque. It provides an amazing feeling, one that you would not have expected from the big Volvo all-roader.

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The Swedes are proud of not having many buttons in the dashboard and center console. One of the few is a knob that you roll to select the modes. In the T8 there is the pure electric mode. Then, the battery delivers energy to the electric motor and offers a range of 40 km/25 miles. Many tests, also from other manufacturers have proven that this is the average distance people drive in a day. If more power is needed, the 4-cylinder engine starts up automatically.

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Pushing the start button, hybrid is the default mode, where the power is automatically delivered by the combustion engine and the electric motor for best overall fuel consumption. Volvo claims it to be 2,5 liter/100 km, or 59 mpg when converted to US norms. CO2-emission is 59 grams/100 km.

Of course, I also chose Power Mode. During my half day of testing the T8, without having to watch fuel consumption, it made for a lot of fun to say the least. What am I saying? The new XC90 is much more than was impressive!

There is the instant response and power of the electric motor, allowing the combustion engine to reach the desired revs. It is really easy to go faster than you want or than you may notice…but the police will…! Also the 8-speed transmission works flawless and shifts are hardly noticeable. When asked, a Volvo engineer told me that this unit is built by Aisin Warner. “But we are proud that many of your colleagues think this is a ZF transmission. ZF is the bench mark, and we are proud that this AW unit is not any less.”

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It is absolutely no surprise that the XC90 T8 will be able to accelerate from zero to 62 mph in less than 6 seconds . When you push the throttle, you really do not have the feeling of driving a big SUV, that is something you get, when you have to maneuver through the narrow streets of one of the villages along the Spanish coast.

The running gear is well suited for our needs, also when the right foot gets really heavy. Firm and never uncomfortable. Isn’t that what people expect from a premium SUV?

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That also goes for the 7-seat cabin. Volvo uses very nice materials, the fit and finish is excellent, the atmosphere is relaxed and the standard equipment is extensive. As well as the safety equipment. Our test vehicles all had air suspension. It means that the suspension is nearly an inch lower compared to a model without this system. When I openly doubted if people would pay a couple of thousand euro (or dollars) extra, Volvo said they expect a large portion of the XC90 will be sold with this option.

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The XC90 T6 AWD will arrive on the market in July in three trims: Momentum, Inscription and R-Design. MSRP prices start from $ 48,900, $ 54.200 and $ 52,900 respectively. Prices for the T8 will be announced closer to its arrival in the fall.

Is the Volvo XC90 perfect? No, but it comes quite close. The big 7-seater drives extremely well, combines beautiful materials with excellent finish and fit and with its iPad-look-alike touch screen gives a high tech impression. Add to this the latest safety features that Volvo has available and viola, that is the XC90.

The established brands will have to brace themselves for this new, very competitive choice in the already very competitive luxury SUV segment.

In subsequent articles I will report on the technology and safety systems of the new XC90, so please stay tuned.