By Clive Funizwe
1959 marked the year when Volvo invented the three-point seat belt. This patent was not hoarded by the manufacturer – instead it was released freely to the market in an aid to save / prevent losses of lives in car accidents. The theme from a safety point of view has always been at the centre of Volvo’s design language and building blocks. This then comes as no surprise that safety and safety tech in the XC 90 is reflective of the aforementioned.
I have always associated cars in this segment with trims that steer away from sporty save that our test XC 90 D5, which is good for 173kW and 480Nm was in R-Design trim and was Passion Red Solid in colour. These exterior ingredients are ones that I would associate with a Hot Hatch on paper but they translated very well on the metal, even on a car of this caliber and class. Speaking of class. The improvements from the previous model are significant. These would mainly be the new engines, all new platform and dash interface which is very classy and works very well. The screen resolution is great and the infotainment is all-round intuitive. The one thing that got me a scanning through the dash feeling like something is missing is the lack of actual buttons for the air-conditioning. The dash has no more than 7 tactile buttons which are mostly for the infotainment. Everything else is digitally operated from the tablet digital display. The buttons and layout make for easy operation and by day two – you can go through the operations intuitively and by only glancing at the screen. You can even control the heater from the middle and rear seats from the front the infotainment. We like this minimalistic and fresh design!
The rest of the cabin has quality finishes which are also stylish and functional. The front seats are fully electronically controlled and also heated. The middle row have seats that recline and move forward and back independently. The third row seats are also amongst the best we have come across. They are slightly raised which is also good for allowing children to see out the windows which do not have a high window line. Like any 7 seater, the boot size will depend on whether or not you’re using the last row of seats or not. It’s a functional compromise between the switch but the boot space has acres of space when the rear seats are not in use. You need not be an expert in Tetris to fit in luggage. Our Salaphezulu is known for not travelling light. The CX90 will ensure that everything – including his hubbly bubbly apparatus does not get left behind.
We managed to do a short trip outside JHB during our test period with the XC90. Though it was not the city, but we managed to paint the country side red. The odometer gave a reading of 8.3L/100km on our way there and dropped to an impressive 7.5L/100km on our way back – as I switched to eco driving mode with autopilot handling about half of the commute but more on this is a bit. This was nowhere near the claimed consumption of 5.7L/100km’s but the rate at which the fuel was being consumed seemed to be a lot lesser than the stated average. All in all – we feel that the fuel consumption is satisfactory for a car of this size and the power output it produces. The autopilot feature was a bit of a nerve wrecking exercise to test – but it had to be done. You activate it whilst driving at a push of a button and the car gains control of piloting itself. Lane keeping and radar guided distance keeping worked well throughout the testing. I always opted to choose maximum distance between cars and tested this at highway speeds. If a car pulled in in front of you – the car would slow down and keep the distance between the two cars as per the chosen configuration. Likewise – when the gap increased, the car would accelerate to the desired speed and maintain it while keeping in the lane even when the lanes were slightly blurry. You periodically have to touch the steering to remind the car you’re still in the seat as it will beep to remind u to do so.
Another feature that was even scarier to test was the autonomous braking. The few times we tested it worked well and was responsive enough. Take note that the car won’t be gradual at applying the brakes so it is better you rely on paying attention on the road like you should. It is however good to know that like seat-belt invention from 1959, Volvo continues to have safety as a key factor with their cars.
I must also add that the Bowers and Wilkins stereo system the car comes with will please any audiophile who understands how a good system should sound. All types of music, bet it ama-piano or orchestral chamber music – sounded great at low or loud volumes. There was no rattles or squeaks when the volume was pushed further north. I literally sat in the car for about 3 hours listening to music via Bluetooth and CD’s. (Yes, I still own CD’s because they better quality than streaming 320kbps) which is what the commercial music streaming services offer.
Back to other reasons why people will buy / consider this car. Is it great value? Or is it just another premium SUV that costs more than some small apartments? In our view, when all things are considered – the XC90 offers great value. Its overall design feels like it was designed by a team of people who are great engineers and are also mothers/fathers who just read about kids in magazines whilst waiting at the dentist for their bi-annual clean up. The practicalities are spot on and everything is where it should be. The XC-90 is definitely needling the competition.
Pricing for the R-Design XC 90 start at R1,083,100 and comes with Volvo’s 5 Year or 100,000 km warranty and maintenance plan.
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