After the boring Germans come the swede Swedish cars. Recently while watching the rerun of the hit movie “3 Idiots”, I just happened to ask one of my friends if he knows the red vehicle that Chatur drives in the Himalayas. He very coolly replied that it must be some imported car. Can’t blame him. The Volvo XC90 in India is actually an imported car and this car isn’t seen too much on the Indian roads. Infact, other than the movie, I am yet to see a XC90 in flesh, until now. Yes, I have finally got hold of the Volvo XC90 in India for a test drive. Sorry folks, as of now there would be no review on Volvo XC90 as the car is set for some minor changes and a new version is all set to be introduced in India. I think that the “3 Idiots” movie did a lot of free publicity for this car as also demonstrated its ability to tackle the off beaten path. How capable is this car against its competition is something which we (you and me) would find out during the course of this testing.
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Look wise, the car would seem very boring in front of, say a BMW X5 or even the Audi Q7. Why the Germans, even it would seem very boring in front of its smaller sibling, the Volvo, XC60. The Volvo XC90 in India as of now gets a small grille which is rectangular in shape and has that strange diagonal strip with the Volvo logo on it. It has got head lamps which sadly feel as if they are after market strips and glass. The reason been that they seem sort of faded. I was checking out the grille to check if any camera is lurking anywhere inside or not. You never know, it’s a Volvo after all. There is an aluminium skid plate covering the lower bumper, thereby masking the small fog lamps as well and nevertheless, whatever I would say about its looks, there is no denying that it has road presence in plenty.The XC90 gets 225 / 65 R17 as the tyre configuration. These tyres are puncture resistant and do the job well of covering the wheel arches. The ORVMs have turn indicators embedded in them and are big enough to show most of the vehicles coming from behind. The rear in the meanwhile displays typical Christmas tree tail lamps. I have an indication that these would look good during night driving. However I missed the L shaped tail lamps of the new XC60. The boot has a split operation and even for the V8 engined XC90, there is only a single shunky tail pipe. The reflectors find their way to the sides of the lower bumper.
Moving onto the interiors, they are made of high quality materials and ones built to last. Volvo’s Ford past shows in some of the switches which resemble the ones from the Endeavor. The steering wheel is a wooden unit with leather coverings exactly at the place where one would be holding the wheel. Needless to say, the steering wheel has audio, cruise as also Bluetooth functions to it. Some switches in the central console feel very cheap in their presentation. Even the gear lever knob is half leather and half wood. I am sure sweaty palms would have a hard time gripping the gear lever. Front seats did take some time in getting adjusted to but the electric seat adjustment put everything right. There is a 4 zone climate control option. The front two passengers can keep their own individual settings whereas the rear ones can think of their own settings as far as the AC is concerned. A European option namely heated seats is also present. No wonder, Chatur had those “gas” troubles. Now, this SUV is a 7 seater and the middle row of seats with its flat floor makes sense. Under thigh support was a bit lacking and the feel was the same as one would be in a Tavera. The rearmost seats surprisingly aren’t for kids but usable for elders as well. Not for me though. I would be bundled into a small pack if I sat there for a long time. But for the average Indian build, it is good. Once seated there, you can adjust the super cool climate control as well. The seats split all the way and so cargo capacity shouldn’t be a problem. Equipment wise, this car would trump some of its German competitors with a cool box, In Car Telephone, LCD screens for the rear seat passengers and many more.
Ride and handling parameter cannot be judged on a test drive but for the short time that I had the car with me, it was apparent where Volvo’s priorities lie. They have preferred ride over handling. The ride is cosseting but unlike the S80, the high speed ride is a bit problematic. The SUV does tend to pitch a bit when braked from high speeds. Also road undulations cause it to have a problem at higher speeds. High speed cornering is better left to the BMWs and Audis. This heavy vehicle cannot corner with the ease at which its German competitors can actually do. It is best to take corners at a sedate speed in this car. The AWD traction is good for a bit of off-roading but the 213 mm ride height will remind most that this isn’t your regular off-roader. NVH is of very low order but then immediately switch to the diesel and it would feel ages older than the modern diesels on offer today. The V8, only when you really step on it, lets out a welcome roar.
The Volvo XC90 in India is available with three engine options. Two petrols and a diesel. The petrol one is a 3.2 liter unit which has 6 cylinders and DOHC configuration to boast of. This unit produces 237 Bhp of peak power at a lofty 6200 rpm whereas the peak torque of 320 Nm is generated at 3200 rpm. The biggest of the motors and one of the few V8 motors in India has a 4414 cc to displace. This Yamaha built unit makes 315 Bhp of power at 5850 rpm whereas the torque figure reads as 440 Nm at 3900 rpm. The sole diesel option gets a 2.4 liter engine which has 5 cylinders and produces 184 Bhp of peak power at 4000 rpm whereas the 400 Nm of torque comes in as low as 2750 rpm. The transmission option for all is a 6 speed geartronic system. The one that I had with me was the diesel version and the one which is expected to sell in more numbers. The gearbox is a delightful unit and delivers excellent kickdowns and upshifts. Since the torque is available from a lower rpm, the engine is always stress free and is never bogged down. Volvo said that the 0-100 kmph figure is around 11 seconds and top speed is restricted to 190 kmph. For the smaller capacity petrol engine, the 0-100 dash is achieved in only 9.5 seconds whereas the top speed is limited to 210 kmph. The V8 rumbles from 0-100 in a claimed 7.3 seconds whereas its top speed is restricted to 235 kmph.
Braking is achieved via discs all around. To aid these, there are more electronics than the entire population of Vatican. If I put in the safety features, then Vatican would have to multiply its population within a year to match up the figures. Okay, I was joking on that part but then asking Volvo a list of the safety features is like getting an entire town’s phone book directory. It has got everything to keep you safe as also in the right direction. Have you ever heard of any car which screams when the security level reduces inside the cabin? If the answer is no (which I am sure everyone would unanimously agree to), then you need to take a closer look at the Volvo XC90.
The worst part of this car and one which may be the main reason for its dismal sales figures – fuel efficiency. The diesel that I had failed to deliver double digit figures even at the highway. Can you believe it? For the records, the city figure was 6.0 kmpl whereas the highway figure read 9.7 kmpl. Forget about the small petrol and be in a state of amnesia about the V8. For the info, the small petrol returns 5.4 kmpl in city and 8.6 on the highway whereas the V8 gives 4.5 kmpl and 7.7 kmpl respectively.
The test drive completed and the car back to the dealer, it is now time to ponder as to if I personally would go for the Volvo XC90? I wouldn’t. Unless Volvo bring in a new car with better looks, less drunkard engines and a better interior packaging. Oh, did I forget more show rooms, PR exercise and also more service outlets. Some pricing, if it can be reduced would also be a more than welcome change. By pricing, I am reminded that the Volvo XC90 isn’t as pricey as its German rivals. The Volvo XC90 price in India starts at Rs.45,00,214 for the Volvo XC90 D5, Rs 46,00,184 for the Volvo XC90 3.2 Liter I-6 and Rs.52,00,000 for the Volvo XC90 4.4 liter V8. All these prices are ex-show room, Mumbai.