2008 Volvo XC90 Pricing

Utility 4D 7-Passenger 3.2 2WD

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2008 Volvo XC90
New Car Test Drive

Introduction
The Volvo C70 is a true convertible, converting from coupe to roadster with the press of a button. With a folding steel roof that deploys from its trunk, it converts from an open car to a closed one in just 30 seconds. The C70 helped launch a trend toward true hard-top convertibles when it debuted as a 2006 model, and it was an immediate sales success.

For 2008, the C70 benefits from its first significant upgrades. Among them: more horsepower, new safety features, real wood in the interior, and Sovereign Hide premium leather seating surfaces as a new option. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated City/Highway 18/27 miles per gallon.

The sporty C70 is based on the S40 sedan, but it has more luscious lines. It also has a wider track (the distance between the right and left wheels). The engine, suspension and transmission are proven Volvo components, while the rigid chassis was designed to meet Volvo's industry-leading safety standards.

We found the C70 to be an excellent highway cruiser, smooth and steady at high speeds. With the top up, it's quiet. It's a steel top, so it feels like a coupe when it's up. The C70 drives like a sports car. It has a solid feel and strikes an appropriate balance of responsive handling with a smooth, well-controlled ride quality and fade-resistant brakes. We liked it best with the six-speed manual, but the five-speed automatic is crisp and responsive.

The styling is brilliant, with elegant coupe lines, and the retractable hardtop is an engineering masterpiece. The cabin features comfortable seats, the latest in Volvo interior styling and fabrics, and a clever cubby behind the center dash. The stereo sounds superb. Everything operates as it should, and it's a beautiful piece of work.

Nothing else on the market offers what the C70 does, priced under $40,000. Model Lineup
The 2008 Volvo C70 comes in only one trim level, which Volvo calls T5 ($39,240). The retractable hardtop is standard. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard; a five-speed automatic is optional ($1,250).

Standard features include fabric upholstery, power front seats, leather steering wheel with controls, and a deluxe stereo featuring an in-dash six-disc CD changer, MP3 playback capability, eight speakers and four amplifiers. Seventeen-inch Sadira alloy wheels come standard, while 18-inch Mirzam alloy wheels are optional ($750).

The Convenience Package ($1,595) bundles the Blind Spot Information System (with cameras near the outside mirrors to detect vehicles where the driver might not see them), keyless drive, Interior Air Quality System (IAQS), power retractable mirrors, and rear park assist. The Premium Package ($1,495) combines leather seating with auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, and HomeLink; Premium Package buyers may add Sovereign Hide leather ($995) in a choice of three colors. The Climate Package ($675) comprises heated front seats, headlamp washers and rain-sensing wipers. The Dynaudio sound system ($1,550) features 12 speakers and five main amplifiers, plus two separate subwoofer/amplifiers blasting 910 total watts via Dolby ProLogic II Surround Sound. Stand-alone options include bi-xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps with washers ($700), DVD navigation ($2,120), Sirius Satellite Radio ($295), silver metallic paint ($475), and pearlescent white paint ($625).

Safety features include electronic stability control with traction control, and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake force distribution (EBD). In addition to the required front airbags, there are side airbags in front, and air curtains which activate upwards from the doors, even with the windows rolled down. The Rollover Protection System (a pop-up roll bar), is activated by a pyrotechnic charge, which will smash the roll bars through the glass when the roof is on. New for 2008 is Automatic Hazard Warning: Should any of the C70's airbags be deployed, the hazard lights automatically activate to attract the attention of other motorists. A standard tire-pressure monitor has also been added for 2008. Walkaround
The styling of the Volvo C70 revolves around the roof, developed in Italy by Pininfarina. Its roofline is that of a coupe, and it is the most handsome of coupes, with a solid upward sweeping A-pillar and delicately thin and downward sweeping C-pillar. Stand close enough, and you can spot the two seams that enable the roof to stack into thirds and drop into the trunk, but otherwise there's not a hint of compromise in the graceful roofline.

Because of the C70's strong wedge profile, the roof lands on the rear deck at a point higher than it takes off from the hood. A soft ridge at the beltline sweeps all the way from headlight to taillight, accentuating the wedge, which is conspicuous but not bulky. In short, the C70 was not given a fat butt in order to fit the convertible steel roof under its skirt. The trunk lid is aluminum for reduced weight.

When viewed from the front three-quarter angle, it's clear how short and smooth the hood and nose are, and how aerodynamic the package truly is. When you pay attention to the lines, the brilliant job by designer John Kinsey hits home. Five full inches were removed from the nose of the previous generation C70, and the edges softened, resulting in a two-inch narrowing of the front shoulders, despite an increased overall width.

Unlike most Audi models, which seem to be following the Dodge Ram in-your-face school of design, the grille of the C70 is small and quiet. The headlamps gently lean inward toward the grille, as the foglamps under the headlamps surround the opening in the smooth fascia/bumper. The hoodline tapers elegantly down to the bottom of the fascia, inches above the road. The effect of the lower three openings is like a reflection of the headlamps and grille, in a pond. Surprisingly, or maybe not, the shape of the C70 was dictated more by aerodynamics than esthetics.

As the roof retracts, it first elevates, and then slides back and stacks itself in its three sections before quietly submerging into the rear deck. Presto: with one button on the console, it's gone in 30 seconds. Up or down, it takes the same time, and the same index finger.

It's rare for a designer of a car to also do the wheels (a sore point with designers), but Kinsey did these as well, and the symmetry and standard shows. They look like what they are: made for the car. The optional 18-inch alloy wheels called Mirzam are stunning. We would say they're worth it for the way they cap the gorgeous styling, but the standard 17-inch Sadira alloy wheels are beautiful, too. They look like premium wheels.

Many C70s were crashed at the high-tech Volvo Cars Safety Centre in Sweden, to determine the optimum deformation structure in both the nose and tail. Volvo even T-boned the driver's door with one of its own XC90 SUVs: Double the data.

The structural safety features of the C70 take thousands of words to describe in detail. From top to bottom, front to rear, side to side, the chassis has been strengthened, tweaked, and made crushable where possible to dissipate energy in a crash. The C70 convertible more than compensates for the loss of the rigidity of a fixed roof; it's stiffer and safer than the previous C70 coupe. The reinforced B pillars, normally connected by a roof, are connected on the C70 by one of five transverse frame members. This dissipates crash forces. The door sills are laser welded, and raised behind the B pillars. The doors have diagonal steel beams. The A-pillars use extra high strength steel, and extend all the way down to the frame rails.

The C70 is based on the S40 platform, and uses the same wheelbase. It uses a wider track for more stable cornering and to carry the additional weight. Because of the strengthening of the chassis along with the retractable hood mechanism, the C70 weighs 3,627 pounds, which is 264 more than an S40 T5 sedan and 104 more than the larger S60 sedan. Interior
Top up or top down, life is good inside the Volvo C70. The front bucket seats are ergonomically shaped and very comfortable. The Flextech upholstery that comes standard is a stylish synthetic material with a wetsuit-like feel. Its quality is way beyond cloth, and it feels as nice as leather against the skin. Genuine leather is included in the Premium Package; and for an additional investment you can choose premium Sovereign Hide in Off Black, Calcite, or Cacao.

The front seats slide forward with the touch of a button to ease the boarding of passengers into the two rear seats. There are a number of storage compartments in the cabin, some of which are lockable, useful when the car is parked with the roof down. Other compartments can be locked with a separate key, when leaving the car with a parking attendant, for example.

Volvo's flat-panel center stack fits in a world of flat panel computer monitors and television screens. It features a horizontal information screen over a column of buttons for radio and climate controls. Four big knobs dot each corner.

For 2008, Volvo has backed off a bit on the high-tech look, replacing last year's sleek aluminum trim with more traditional Laminated Oak (yes, real wood), which also accents the lower console and interior door handles. A clever storage bin behind the panel offers a place for a purse. The panel is unique to Volvo. Also new for 2008 is a space-saving Z-style handbrake.

Overall, interior storage space is in short supply.

The trunk gets crowded with the top down, also. The trunk has 12.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the roof up, and 6 cubic feet when it's retracted: enough room for two sets of golf clubs, says Volvo. Golf club bags have to slide under the roof, so there's an electric mechanism called Load-Aid, which lifts the roof sections and window glass eight inches. There's also a hatch between the rear seats that allows long things like skis to be carried in the trunk, extending into the passenger compartment. There's no room for a full-size spare tire, but buyers can choose (at no charge) between a temporary spare or a compressor bottle with sealant touted to plug a quarter-inch hole sufficiently well to last 120 miles at 50 mph.

In the rear seats, however, the C70 has more legroom than the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series (1.5 and 1.9 inches more, respectively).

The Dynaudio system delivers vivid sound, so we recommend this option. A nice feature: With the top down, as the speed of the car climbs, the volume automatically increases, then decreases when you slow down. The standard system includes an auxiliary audio input for iPods and other MP3 players, plus MP3 playback capability from the in-dash CD changer. Sirius satellite radio is available.

New for 2008 is the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). Cameras mounted in the side mirrors detect vehicles approaching from behind, in daylight or darkness. When an approaching vehicle closes to about 30 feet behind and to the left or right of the C70, the system activates one of two small amber lights mounted just inboard of the mirrors, calling the drivers attention to the situation. Driving Impressions
The Volvo C70 seems to be made for high-speed cruising. The car is very smooth and steady at freeway-plus speeds. And with the steel top, there's no ragtop racket at high speed. The C70 doesn't accelerate that quickly, but its top speed is a mind-boggling 149 mph, and electronically limited at that. We do not recommend this.

The C70 uses front-wheel drive and Volvo's well-proven turbocharged five-cylinder engine. For 2008, output for the 2.5-liter light-pressure-turbo power plant has been increased from 218 to 227 horsepower at 5,000 rpm, while torque remains unchanged at 236 pound-feet from 1,500 to 4,800 rpm. The flat torque curve puts the power to the front wheels evenly and makes the car highly responsive. Volvo estimates 0 to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox (about a half-second quicker than last year) and 7.4 seconds with the five-speed automatic (ditto). That's respectable performance, but certainly not scintillating. (We consider eight-second 0-60s to be roughly the dividing line between quick and average performance.)

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated City/Highway 18/27 mpg with the manual transmission, 18/26 mpg with the automatic.

We found the six-speed manual best complements the C70's sports car feel, as well as allowing snappier acceleration and slightly better highway economy. It's such a good gearbox, smooth and tight, and we've praised it in other Volvo models.

On the other hand, we also found the five-speed automatic to be a fine, crisp transmission. And for those who want a little extra control at times, the automatic features a satisfying and obedient Auto-stick mode.

The brakes work well. We found them to be resistant to fade on a winding road that overheated the brakes on some lesser cars.

The C70 doesn't feel heavy when you flick it around in the curves. The rack-and-pinion steering is power-assisted and electro-hydraulic, and provides a solid feel. We wouldn't call it light or nimble, but turning the C70 doesn't require a lot of effort. It simply gives good feedback through the healthy leather-wrapped steering wheel. Solid as a Swede.

The same could be said of the ride. The chassis is stiff, a key to crisp handling and a smooth ride. The current C70 doesn't shake like many convertibles, including the previous-generation model. Summary
The Volvo C70 is gorgeous. It's fun and convenient, and its safety is unbeatable. The engine, transmission and suspension are proven to be smooth and reliable, and deliver even better performance for 2008. The price for this four-seat hardtop convertible is a bargain.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses filed this report from Maui.

Model as tested
Volvo C70 ($39,240)
Basic Warranty
four years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Udevella, Sweden
Destination charge
745
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
39240
Price as tested
42285
Options as tested
Dynaudio stereo ($1,550); 18-inch aluminum wheels ($750)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Volvo C70 ($39,240)
Safety equipment (standard)
electronic stability control with traction control, ABS, EBD, frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, curtain airbags, Rollover Protection System, Side Impact Protection System, Whiplash Protection Seating System, Automatic Hazard Warning, collapsible steering column, seatbelt pretensioners, rear foglight, tire pressure monitor
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
2.5-liter dohc turbocharged and intercooled inline-5
Transmissions
six-speed manual

Specifications as Tested
Flextech upholstery, air conditioning, power front seats, six-disc CD changer, power windows, power locks, console, cruise control, message center, fog lamps, retractable hardtop, 17-inch aluminum wheels

Engine & Transmission
Engine
2.5-liter dohc turbocharged and intercooled inline-5
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
227 @ 5000
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
18/27
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented discs with ABS, EBD
Suspension, front
independent, MacPherson strut, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Tires
235/40YR18
Suspension, rear
independent, multi-link, coil springs, stabilizer bar

Accomodations
Seating capacity
4
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
38.2/53.1/42.3
Head/hip/leg room, rear
36.4/41.5/33.9

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
12.8
Wheelbase
103.9
Length/width/height
180.4/72.3/55.1
Turning circle
38.7
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
2000
Track, front/rear
61.0/61.4
Ground clearance
N/A
Curb weight
3627

2008 Volvo XC90
New Car Test Drive

Introduction
The things that make a Volvo a Volvo just seem to work better in a vehicle designed for family-oriented, all-purpose transportation. The Volvo XC90 is strong on safety, comfort and functionality, and we consider it one of the most successful vehicles Volvo builds.

In the growing-family scheme, the XC90 has it all. Its styling is appealing, without shouting family-mobile. It seats up to seven passengers, with more cargo space than nearly all its competitors and features that allow quick, easy tailoring for cargo, gear or people. The XC90 is not the sportiest vehicle among luxury-class SUVs, but it handles well on city streets and highways. It rides very comfortably and it's easy to park. Any of the three XC90 models can tow just about anything the typical family is likely to pull along.

The standard 235-hp six-cylinder engine that Volvo introduced last year is up to all the demands of daily driving and delivers the best value, in our view. It's smoother, more powerful and more sophisticated than the tried-and-true turbocharged five-cylinder it replaced, and delivers comparable EPA mileage ratings The upgrade 311-hp V8 adds a bit of excitement for those who put a premium on quick acceleration.

In addition to the new base-level straight-six, Volvo freshened the XC90 last year with a restyled grille, bumpers and lights. Also new was Volvo's optional BLIS system, which uses cameras to search a large area on either side of the vehicle, and warns the driver if there might be an approaching vehicle not visible in the XC90's mirrors.

For 2008, Volvo has made much of the content of last year's Touring Package standard with the V8 engine. And last year's Sport Package has been promoted to a separate trim level.

Volvo's fulltime all-wheel-drive system works smoothly in the daily grind without any penalty in EPA fuel economy, and it's truly welcome when the weather gets foul or the road surface gets rough. Yet buyers who don't really need all-wheel-drive capability can choose an XC90 with front-wheel drive.

Volvo's reputation for safety engineering is deserved. Maybe more than anyone, Volvo devotes impressive resources and manpower to improve occupant protection. The XC90 offers the full array of active and passive safety features, including a Roll Stability Control system designed to keep the XC90 from rolling over, and a rollover protection system intended to shield occupants in the extremely unlikely event that a rollover actually occurs. Less obvious are features like a roof structure fashioned from high-strength steel, or a lower front crossmember engineered to inflict less damage on small vehicles if an accident occurs. It may be the safest SUV on the road; it's certainly one we'd feel reassured seeing our loved ones drive.

The XC90 is not inexpensive, but comes well-equipped, with the standard engine and all-wheel drive, for well under $40,000. Luxury-class shoppers who put a premium on comfort, safety and value should find happiness here. Model Lineup
The 2008 Volvo XC90 is available with a six-cylinder or V8 engine. Both come with a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive (AWD) is standard with the V8 and optional ($1,850) with the six.

The base XC90 3.2 ($36,210) comes with fabric upholstery, but standard features are otherwise premium grade, including an eight-way power driver's seat with memory; a 160-watt, eight-speaker stereo with CD/ MP3 and auxiliary jack; dual-zone automatic climate control; cruise control; trip computer; power windows, locks and mirrors; auto-dimming interior mirror; and 235/65R17 tires on 17-inch alloy wheels.

Option packages bring the XC90 3.2's features up to par with the V8 model, minus the V8 engine. The Premium Package ($2,995) includes leather seating; a power front passenger seat; power moonroof; and a 6-CD changer. The Versatility Package ($2,250) can be added to the premium package and includes the third-row seat, rear air conditioning, a built-in second-row child booster seat and self-leveling rear suspension.

The seven-passenger XC90 V8 ($48,505) is powered by a 4.4-liter V8 developed to Volvo specifications by Yamaha, the Japanese motorcycle builder and auto engine specialist. The V8 generates 311 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, with standard all-wheel drive. In addition to a two-place third seat with rear air conditioning, the V8 adds leather upholstery, an eight-way power front passenger seat, a six-CD changer, a power moonroof, and speed-sensitive power steering. Additionally, many items from the discontinued Touring Package have been made standard on the V8 for 2008, including 235/60R18 tires on 18-inch alloy wheels; Sapeli wood inlays on the dash, gearshift knob and steering wheel; and additional bright exterior trim.

Options for the V8 include a 12-speaker, 650-watt Dynaudio surround-sound system with Dolby Pro-Logic II and Sirius satellite radio ($1,400); and the new Executive Package ($1,995), which upgrades to premium soft leather, premium floor mats, and 255/50R19 tires on 19-inch alloy wheels.

The XC90 V8 Sport ($49,870) promises more athletic handling, with firmer springs, shocks, and stabilizer bars; faster-ratio steering; and low-profile 255/50R19 tires on 19-inch alloy wheels. The Sport also upgrades to unique Calcite leather upholstery and aluminum rather than wood interior trim, while deleting some of the standard V8's exterior jewelry. A Technology Package ($2,295) adds bi-xenon headlamps with automatic level adjustment, plus the high-zoot Dynaudio stereo.

All three models can be equipped with a Climate Package ($675), with heated seats, headlight washers and rain-sensing wipers; and/or a Convenience Package ($1,295) that adds rear park assist, power retractable side mirrors, a compass in the inside rearview mirror, power rear door child safety locks, and Volvo's Interior Air Quality System (IAQS). Stand-alone options include a navigation system ($2,120); a rear-seat DVD system with two headrest-mounted seven-inch color screens ($1,800); 18-inch alloy wheels, with chrome ($1,550) or without ($750); Active Bi-Xenon headlights ($800); a wood-rimmed steering wheel ($325); and metallic paint ($475-625).

Also available is Volvo's blind-spot monitoring system, or BLIS ($695). BLIS uses cameras to monitor an area measuring 10 feet by 31 feet on either side of the car, which is often not covered by the side mirrors, and reports the presence of another vehicle in the blind spots with a prominent warning light in the appropriate mirror.

Standard safety features make the XC90 is one of the best equipped sport-utilities on the market. Standard safety features include dual-stage front impact and side-impact airbags for front passengers, and curtain type head protection airbags for all outboard seats. The XC90 was one the first SUVs equipped with a rollover protection system, which senses an impending vehicle rollover, tightens the seatbelts and deploys the curtain airbags. The seats feature Volvo's Whiplash Protection System, which moves them back and downward if the vehicle is hit from behind, reducing neck snap.

Safety features intended to help drivers avoid collisions to begin with include advanced four-channel antilock brakes, an electronic stability program to help manage skids, and Roll Stability Control, which uses a gyroscopic sensor to reduce the possibility of a rollover by applying brakes and modulating engine power. Walkaround
The Volvo XC90 looks like what it is: a fairly large sport-utility vehicle designed and built by Volvo. If that sounds a bit ridiculous, allow us to explain. The XC90 has the rugged, adventurous, substantial look buyers probably expect in an SUV, but it's also very clearly a Volvo, even without the badges.

The XC90 was freshened last year with some subtle styling changes, which carry over on the 2008 models. These include a new grille, bumpers and taillights, and the overall effect is actually a bit more conservative. The grille looks shorter, so the step up from the contoured fenders, which flow Volvo-style back from the headlight clusters, seems less prominent or pronounced than before.

The tweaks don't substantially change the XC90's character or overall effect. In the rear-view mirror of cars ahead, this SUV still looks a bit like an old convertible with its top puffing up in the air stream. Its hood is unusual among contemporary vehicles. Rather than the more familiar power bulge, the XC90 hood has a horse-shoe shaped crease with the area within that crease pressed lower than the surrounding edge. In other words, this bulge is reversed.

The overall angularity says Volvo. In side view, the XC90's roofline rakes upward dramatically from the windshield to a high horizontal plane, with the arc of the top echoed by the curve of the roof rails. A high beltline enhances to the typical visual image of a tall SUV, and creates the feeling of a protective cocoon inside. The rear glass is inclined toward the front of the vehicle, which shortens the roofline a bit and tidies the XC90's profile.

The XC90's basic stance gives it a well-planted look and promotes handling stability. Its wheelbase is long, but the overhangs are short, so the body doesn't extend very far past the wheels. It has a wide track as well. And despite its height, the XC90 has a lower center of gravity than many SUVs.

The taillights may have been reshaped last year, but they remain as huge as ever. The idea, in Volvo's safety scheme, is to reduce the chance of getting creamed from behind by some half-asleep driver. The same thinking applies to the back-up lights. They seem as bright as the roof lights on an a Baja pickup, making it less likely to back into something at night.

Two other exterior features may enhance safety. All XC90s feature side mirrors with integrated LCD turn signals to warn drivers in your blind spot of your intensions. These are probably more valuable to the XC90 driver than to other motorists, because they make it nearly impossible to forget that a turn signal is operating. All models are also available with Active Bi-Xenon headlights. In addition to generating brighter light, these headlights swivel up to 15 degrees off center in the direction of travel to better light up the turns.

The XC90's rear hatch has two sections, with a larger, upper glass portion that swings up and a lower, steel gate that drops down. The split-line between is about waste high, so if you're just stowing the groceries or dry cleaning, you might not need to drop the tailgate. Larger objects require opening both halves, so this clamshell hatch has its strength and weaknesses.

The disadvantage is that two gates can make more work. On the plus side, the short tailgate lifts and closes easily, and the upper liftgate is less likely to bonk you or someone else on the head when you raise or lower it. Liftgates on some SUVs are hard to raise due to their weight and the angles involved, but that's not the case here. The little tailgate also keeps groceries and other cargo from rolling out when you open the hatch.

The standard V8 model is easier to spot for 2008, with new bright trim added to the lights, mirrors, and C-pillar, in addition to the color-coordinated fender extensions and silver (instead of standard black) roof rails that carry over from last year. (And then of course there's the V8 badge in the grille.) The more subtle V8 Sport does without the new brightwork, but shares the standard V8's fender extensions and silver roof rails. Very sharp-eyed enthusiasts might notice the Sport model's unique front bumper trim. Interior
The Volvo XC90 seats five to seven passengers depending on the seating configuration. It's quiet, comfortable, and above all, roomy. By mounting its engine sideways across the chassis, Volvo has created a cabin with the space and flexibility of a minivan inside a relatively compact exterior. The materials and finish inside are very good, and functionality rates almost as high, despite some Volvo-specific quirks. The XC90 makes an excellent vehicle for families with two or more children growing into their teens.

Standard interior trim is a mix of brushed aluminum around the door pulls, wood trim on the center console and dark, matte-finish plastic behind the switches in the center stack. Volvo steering wheels have some of the chubbiest rims in the business, and they're so thick that drivers with small hands might find them a bit too hefty. The steering wheel is covered in rich, grippy leather.

It requires a small step up to slide into the XC90's driver's seat, though well-placed grab handles make getting in easier. Those aluminum door pulls are not so effective, however. They're fairly narrow, and seem to be made for people with little hands (in contrast to the fat steering wheel rim).

The front bucket seats are comfortable, with good, adjustable lumbar support. While Volvo leather is some of the best around, the fabric upholstery in the base XC90 3.2 is soft and attractive.

Headroom is exceptional, thanks to the high roofline, and the big windows create a feeling of space, with excellent forward visibility. Unfortunately, Volvo's emphasis on safety has drawbacks in this regard. Large, tall headrests restrict forward visibility for passengers in the second- and third-row seats. More significantly, the headrests can reduce what the driver sees in the rearview mirror. Another minor annoyance is the perpetual reflection in the windshield from the big subwoofer in the top of the dash and the red button for the four-way flasher.

The instrument panel is canted upward toward the windshield, creating a stronger cockpit effect than one finds in the typical sport-utility vehicle. The gauges are simple and easy to read. Window switches are on the doors, right near the fingertips when the driver's left arm lies on the armrest, requiring no hand or wrist contortion to operate. Other controls are concentrated in one of two spots: on easy-to-use stalks flanking the steering wheel, or in the stack rising from the center console. Here you'll find some of those Volvo quirks, which are neither good nor bad. They're just a bit different than the convention in most cars.

The switches that direct airflow for the climate controls, for example, are fashioned with a now traditional Volvo icon that looks like a seated person set over the top. Push the person's feet and all air flows through the floor vents; push the head, and air flows toward the windshield. The audio controls are even more unusual, with a twisting knob that cycles through menus and a keypad that looks like telephone buttons. They all work quite well, once a user gains some familiarity, and nearly all are large and easy to locate, even at night.

Seating and cargo arrangements inside the XC90 are enormously versatile, allowing 64 different configurations, including six of the seven seats folded flat, including the front passenger seat. Equally impressive is the ease with which the seats slide, fold, change and vanish.

The second-row bench seat is split 40/20/40, and each section slides forward independently, adjusting the amount of legroom for the second and third rows. Headrests don't have to be removed when the seats are folded flat. The console between the front seats can be easily removed, allowing the center section of the second row to slide way forward between and just behind the front buckets. With the optional integrated booster cushion for that seat, tending to a toddler has never been easier.

The two-belt third seat is standard on the XC90 V8 and optional on the 3.2. Getting into the third row is easier than it is in many SUVs, because sliding and flipping the second-row seats is a breeze. Of course, with the second row positioned for adult-sized legs, there's only enough leg room in the third row for kids.

Still, for 10-year-olds the third row is a cozy and convenient little world all its own, with a storage console, cup holders, and separate climate controls and registers. Kids actually want to sit way back in the wayback. Headphone plugs are provided, meaning second- or third-row headphone users can listen to a CD while the front-seat occupants listen to the radio through the speakers.

Given the XC90's overall family friendly design, an overall lack of storage for smaller items (particularly in front) seems more glaring. This is a gripe we often have with Volvos. The door pockets are narrow and the small center console compartment is slim and difficult to access. If you slide a few CDs in the slots, there's no more room at all.

Bigger items are another story, because the XC90 can carry more stuff than most of its competitors. With all six passenger seats folded down, it offers 93.2 cubic feet of cargo space, or more than what's available in the Mercedes M-Class (72.4 cubic feet), BMW X5 (61.8), Acura MDX (83.5), Lexus RX 330 (84.7), Cadillac SRX (69.5) and Infiniti FX (64.5). Even with all three rows of seats in place, there's room in the Volvo for two or three stacked duffel bags behind the third row.

Moreover, the XC90 accommodates long objects easily. Lowering the center portion of the second-row seat opens 9.5 feet of unobstructed space between the instrument panel and the rear liftgate, and this applies with the third-row seat in place, thanks to passage space between the seatbacks. As a result, the XC90 can take four surfers and two long boards to the beach. It's a good vehicle for trout fishing because it will accommodate rigged nine-foot fly rods, allowing the angler to move to a new spot without having to break them down Driving Impressions
The Volvo XC90 is one of the most appealing vehicles Volvo builds. Beyond its family friendly design, functionality and flexible seating/cargo configurations, it's generally a pleasant vehicle to drive. It isn't particularly bulky or even hard to park, nor mundane in a people-mover, family wagon fashion. Many of the driving characteristics common to Volvos, including a hefty, solid demeanor, deliberate steering and a soft brake pedal, seem to go better in this sport-utility than in a sport sedan.

We think the base XC90 3.2 is the best deal. Its naturally aspirated (that is, non-turbo) inline-six lacks the immediate rush of acceleration generated by the previous (pre-2007) turbocharged five-cylinder, but peak horsepower is increased, and it's far more flexible. The torque flows more evenly, meaning there is more even acceleration at any engine speed, and the six feels much smoother in all circumstances, from idle to full-throttle acceleration. Forward momentum is further improved by the responsive six-speed automatic transmission that arrived with the new engine. It includes a Geartronic manual shift feature that lets the driver shuttle up and down through the gears if he or she is feeling racy; this is sometimes useful to reduce shifting in hilly terrain.

Perhaps best of all, the more powerful six-cylinder/six-speed automatic combination gives up very little fuel efficiency to the old five-cylinder/five-speed. That combination was rated 17/23 mpg city/highway by the EPA test procedure in use at that time, but because of the newer and ostensibly more realistic testing the EPA uses now, the government agency has since downgraded the turbo-five's rating to 15/21. That's the apples-to-apples score that needs to be compared to the new six-cylinder's current rating of 14/20 mpg, city/highway.

We averaged just over 20 miles per gallon in a mix of city and freeway driving, and we'd call that pretty good in an all-wheel-drive vehicle as heavy as the XC90. We recommend the optional all-wheel drive for owners in the Snow Belt, and in climates where it rains a lot. So equipped, the XC90 3.2 will still retail for well under $40,000.

The all-wheel-drive system operates seamlessly, and the driver will almost never know when it's working. In normal, good-traction conditions, 95 percent of the engine's power goes to the front wheels. If those wheels lose traction, a multi-plate clutch begins routing power to the rear, to a maximum split of 65 percent to the back tires. This frontward bias leaves the XC90 with a default understeer condition. (Understeer is where the front tires start losing grip and sliding before the rear tires do.) This push is much easier to handle than a skittish rear end, because a driver's natural instinct is to slow down, and that basically solves the problem.

The XC90's optional V8 engine was developed for the U.S. market, where about 30 percent of all SUVs are sold with V8s. Because Volvo has no history with V8s, it worked with Yamaha to develop one compact enough to fit in the XC90's engine bay. With the V8, Volvo also made some changes in the all-wheel-drive system. In normal circumstances, the V8 system sends more power to the rear wheels for better take off from a standing start, and it incorporates a fast-reacting Instant Traction system to minimize wheel spin.

We spent several hours in the XC90 V8 and found it well-suited to the sort of driving done by many American SUV owners. On one hand, we enjoyed its quick acceleration and no-sweat passing capability; although it doesn't turn the XC90 into a lightning-quick hot rod. It does increase the XC90's tow rating by nearly 1,000 pounds (4,960, vs. 3,970), and probably makes towing lighter loads easier. But unless you absolutely need that towing capacity, we'd call the V8 a luxury in this vehicle, rather than a must-have piece of hardware.

Regardless of which engine was chosen, the XC90's silky smooth feeling at 80 mph impressed us. Its chassis closely follows the design of Volvo's Cross Country wagon, though it's wider and the components are beefier. The XC90 handles bumpy roads with dips and gullies well, without crashing loudly or bottoming when driven hard. It doesn't offer the sporty handling of a BMW X5 or Infiniti FX35, but some of us prefer it. The Volvo's power rack-and-pinion steering is on the heavy side, and not particularly quick in sharp curves yet the XC90 doesn't wallow or sway excessively under hard cornering. The electronic stability system, called DSTC, stepped in a few times when we were thrashing down a particularly ornery road, and applied the brakes at one wheel without cutting engine power. It worked as intended, and helped keep the XC90 going where we intended while driving at rate few owners will care to undertake.

Ride quality in the XC90 is very good, and stiff at the wheels but not in the cabin. It doesn't exactly absorb the ridges and bumps, because you feel the suspension working over them, but it doesn't transfer any harshness to the arms or seat of the pants, either. Speed bumps in particular are interesting: It's as if the suspension challenges them and hammers back, protecting us from jouncing even when we hit them at 15 mph.

The brake pedal in the XC90 can feel a little soft until the driver gets familiar. But once that occurs, that driver can stop the XC90 smoothly and progressively, and very quickly if necessary, with no drama. Substantially sized brakes are one reason for the V8's substantial maximum towing capacity of nearly 5000 pounds, which is more than enough for family duty such as towing a camper, ATVs or a couple of watercraft. Summary
The Volvo XC90 packs a lot of space into a good-looking, manageably sized vehicle. It's better than most competitors for hauling children around, with superior cargo and seating flexibility, and it's loaded with Volvo's trademark safety technology. It's available with fuel-saving front-wheel drive if a buyer doesn't really need all-wheel-drive capability. The upgrade XC90 V8 is appealing and invigorating, but the base XC90 3.2 six-cylinder is better than adequate for nearly all purposes, and it represents a much better value.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses reported from the Columbia River Gorge, with Larry Edsall in Gothenburg, Sweden, Mitch McCullough in Los Angeles, and J.P. Vettraino in Detroit.

Model as tested
Volvo XC90 3.2 ($36,210)
Basic Warranty
4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Gothenburg, Sweden
Destination charge
745
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
36210
Price as tested
45325
Options as tested
Electronically controlled all-wheel drive ($1,850): Premium Package ($2,995) includes power moonroof, power front passenger seat, leather upholstery and in-dash six-CD changer; Versatility Package ($2,250) includes third-row seat, rear air conditioning, second-seat booster cushion and self-leveling rear suspension; Active Bi-Xenon Headlights ($800) with washers; metallic paint ($475)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Volvo XC90 3.2 ($36,210); XC90 V8 ($48,505); XC90 V8 Sport ($49,870)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-threshold front airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags, curtain style head-protection airbags (for all outboard seats), rollover protection system with roll stability control, dynamic stability control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, tire-pressure monitor
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
3.2-liter dual-overhead cam inline 6 with fully variable valve timing
Transmissions
6-speed automatic with Geartronic manual mode

Specifications as Tested
fabric upholstery with genuine wood trim, 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory, flat-folding manual front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, 160-watt AF/FM audio with single CD, auxiliary jack and eight speakers, power-adjustable heated exterior mirrors with turn-signal indicators, power windows, cruise control, remote keyless entry, illuminated vanity mirrors, trip computer, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, universal garage-door opener, grocery bag holders in cargo area, three 12-volt power outlets, rear wiper/washer, roof rails, fog lamps, roof rails, steel front skid plate, 17-inch alloy wheels

Engine & Transmission
Engine
3.2-liter dual-overhead cam inline 6 with fully variable valve timing
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
235 @ 6200
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
14/20
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/disc with four-channel ABS, EBD and Brake Assist
Suspension, front
independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, hydraulic shocks, stabilizer bar
Tires
235/65R17
Suspension, rear
independent, multi-link with self-leveling Nivomat system, stabilizer bar

Accomodations
Seating capacity
7
Head/hip/leg room, middle
38.4/54.1/34.6
Head/hip/leg room, front
39.7/55.4/41.0
Head/hip/leg room, rear
35.5/44.5/30.1

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
93.2
Wheelbase
112.6
Length/width/height
189.3/74.7/70.2
Turning circle
40.0
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
3970
Track, front/rear
64.3/63.9
Ground clearance
8.9
Curb weight
4464


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Rough Trade-In - Rough Trade-in values reflect a vehicle in rough condition. Meaning a vehicle with significant mechanical defects requiring repairs in order to restore reasonable running condition. Paint, body and wheel surfaces have considerable damage to their finish, which may include dull or faded (oxidized) paint, small to medium size dents, frame damage, rust or obvious signs of previous repairs. Interior reflects above average wear with inoperable equipment, damaged or missing trim and heavily soiled /permanent imperfections on the headliner, carpet, and upholstery. Vehicle may have a branded title and un-true mileage. Vehicle will need substantial reconditioning and repair to be made ready for resale. Some existing issues may be difficult to restore. Because individual vehicle condition varies greatly, users of NADAguides.com may need to make independent adjustments for actual vehicle condition.

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Clean Trade-In - Clean Trade-In values reflect a vehicle in clean condition. This means a vehicle with no mechanical defects and passes all necessary inspections with ease. Paint, body and wheels have minor surface scratching with a high gloss finish and shine. Interior reflects minimal soiling and wear with all equipment in complete working order. Vehicle has a clean title history. Vehicle will need minimal reconditioning to be made ready for resale. Because individual vehicle condition varies greatly, users of NADAguides.com may need to make independent adjustments for actual vehicle condition.

Clean Retail - Clean Retail values reflect a vehicle in clean condition. This means a vehicle with no mechanical defects and passes all necessary inspections with ease. Paint, body and wheels have minor surface scratching with a high gloss finish and shine. Interior reflects minimal soiling and wear with all equipment in complete working order. Vehicle has a clean title history. Because individual vehicle condition varies greatly, users of NADAguides.com may need to make independent adjustments for actual vehicle condition. Note: Vehicles with low mileage that are in exceptionally good condition and/or include a manufacturer certification can be worth a significantly higher value than the Clean Retail price shown.