Volvo turns on the Swedish charm

All-new family lugger gets swankier than ever before

Taking the fight to the Germans’ doorstep, the XC90 premiers in India with two variants that share the same heart

The new Swede in town

Being the original family car and wearing the safety crown didn’t do wonders for Volvo’s image in the past, but a big change is lurking out there. In fact, it’s already begun in the metros where Volvo has plastered prominent vantage points with massive billboards of its sexy S60 sedan or the V40 sport hatch. But now it’s time for a sea change in their attitude, design and positioning. The Swedish car maker is decidedly getting more aggressive with its message that safety can be stylish too and the 2016 XC90 which is built on an all-new platform is the first in this assault. The ‘Made by Sweden’ shibboleth is designed to evoke a sense of simple, yet chic design that is modern as well as timeless. The XC90 is a product of an $11bn investment into the new platform which will allow Volvo to make various iterations of the model that are shorter or longer wheelbase variants. But at Stuff, we’re usually more excited by shapes than numbers.

Old name, new car

In silhouette, the XC90 still looks like a Volvo but the sharpened shoulders and beltline, bolder tail lights, Thors Hammer LED headlights and a more powerful bonnet add up to a delicious design. The choice of 20in or 21in wheels are almost dwarfed by the cars bulk but are massive by any measure in their own right. The suspension can be raised by 40mm with the new Drive selector that offers Eco, Comfort, Sport or Off-road modes and preps the car accordingly. But it’s not until you step into the sumptuous cabin that you realise that Volvo is on a mission. Every tiny detail has been pored over, apparently, and the inviting seats are the best place to start the exploration. Perfectly shaped to the contours of the typical spine and with ample support, they are draped in supple leather, yet hold you in place like a womb. The soft-touch dashboard has a split design and generous lashes of natural wood and aluminium inserts makes it a nice place to be in. Sapphire on the gear knob, diamond-cut dials and switches and a rimless rear-view mirror make it a worthy contender for the most discerning luxo-client who will never take this car off-road. Around the centre console is where the real innovation lies. The tablet-like touchscreen uses an all-new interface system dubbed ‘Sensus’. If you’ve seen any current-gen Volvo, this is a complete U-turn with almost no buttons on the dashboard. All the vehicle, air-con, sat-nav and entertainment controls are handled here but you could also use the 12in screen directly behind the steering wheel for more instant information. Together, they work seamlessly with lesser-used features showing up on the centre screen and the drive-based information directly within the driver's field of vision. Apple CarPlay isn’t yet supported because Apple couldn't have the system finalised before the XC90s global launch, but it could be offered as a dealer update later, we’ll have to wait and watch.

Smaller but more powerful

It’s no surprise that the XC90 is loaded to the gills with creature and safety features. The top-end Inscription variant for instance, gets the 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system powered by a 1400W digital amplifier and has acoustics tuned to the same characteristics as Sweden’s Gothenburg Concert Hall. It also gets cooled front seats and the huge panoramic roof that covers almost 80% of the roof area so even the third row passengers don’t feel claustrophobic. Engines are common across the two models, but potent, Volvo promises. The new i-ART range 2.0litre 4-cylinder engine produces 225bhp and a generous 470Nm of torque. Mated to a new 8-speed transmission, it could be just the right combination of pep and frugality but we’ll reserve our judgement on the fun factor until we get behind the wheel on an inter-city drive.

Safety comes first

Safety is obviously high on the list as this is a Volvo. Innovative features like energy-absorbing spine protectors are used for the first time along with the usual smattering of airbags and pre-safe systems. This might be the safest car in the world on sale today for all good reason.

Making the choice

The two variants, Inscription and Momentum are priced at 77.9lacs and 64.9lacs respectively, both ex-showroom, Mumbai. Volvo is ready to accept orders now and deliveries commence in September 2015. If you’re tired of wielding a German keychain, try the Volvo’s colour-coded leather key to add some pizzaz to your life!