I originally posted this review on Car & Driver's forum on 10/7/02 however I was asked to repost the same on this board since many of you may be interested in this new SUV. This weekend will be the last for Chicago however I believe they will have one in NY and San Francisco. Suggest you call Volvo to find out whether you can still get in since it's an experience you don't want to miss!
Hopefully this brief writeup is of use to you who are considering an SUV. Suggest strongly you test drive this XC90 because Volvo did an excellent job with it and it has definitely raised the bar for this size SUV for sure.quote:
Before we describe our test driving experience with Volvo's new XC90 SUV due out next month, we want to take this opportunity to say a big "thank you" to Volvo for sponsoring this extremely well executed and elaborate "test driving experience" event this past weekend at the Chicago Motor Speedway. Great job, Volvo and AMCI (see below).
We were invited by Volvo as well as hundreds of potential customers to preview and test drive the new XC90. It's my understanding that Chicago is among the 3 cities selected by Volvo to sponsor such special events. East and west coasts will have similar events too. The Chicago event started this past Saturday at 9am, 12 noon and 3pm. We went to the 10/6 Sunday noon session. The attendees ranged from a few singles to mostly couples and families with kids. About half of the attendees were women. There were about 20 XC90s there for this event.
Volvo hired AMCI, a testing organization to run this entire event. We were told many car companies as well as car magazines like Motor Trend, Car & Driver, .... etc. hire AMCI to do the actual road testing. Volvo staffs were also present to answer any questions the attendees might have. Since we've been looking for an SUV for the last 8 months in this size range, this event really educated us on what features to look for. Volvo said the main competitors to their XC90 is the Lexus RX300 which is the current best seller in this class, BMW X5, MB ML320 and Acura MDX. They even have all these vehicles there for the attendees to compare.
This event consisted of 3 road experience as well as demonstrations as to its sophiscated AWD system for off road and deep gravel situation. Volvo rented the whole Chicago Motor Speedway and it was divided up into 3 road experience sections and attendees could pick whichever first.
The first and probably the most hair-raising was the high speed moose avoidance test. This is the only one attendees cannot drive and we went as passengers. After seeing and experiencing this avoidance test first hand, there was no way I would even want to try it on my own unless I have extra clean underwears to change! One of the AMCI staff told us that this was the same test Mercedes Benz' new "A" class went thru and flipped couple of years ago in Europe thus causing MB to halt the production of this vehicle until the problem was fixed. The driver took the SUV up to about 60mph and with NO braking, he had to steer clear of hitting the moose (like a really sharp S curve). At that speed, the occupants were literally thrown violently side to side. This was done in both directions. Of course this test essentially kill those tires. The driver said they had to replace those tires like every other day. This test helps us to understand the vehicle's capability in avoiding say deers, farm animals and other vehicles that may come out of nowhere while you are traveling at highway speed.
The second test is a dry and wet traction test demonstrating the traction control on this XC90. According to Volvo, the XC90 functions as a FWD however as soon as it detects slippage, the rear wheels kick in. This simulates rain and/or snow or icy conditions. We could tell the attendees have a lot of fun!
The third test was essentially a high speed straighaway run on the track with a U turn at the end and couple of S turns. You can drive as fast or as slow as you like. The SUVs we were given for this portion were the twin turbo 2.9L 268hp T6 AWD. I hit 105mph and jammed on the brakes at the end of the run. I was hoping to do a sharp U turn doing about 60 but I chickened out ending up at about 35mph. I think my wife did better. One husband almost wet his pants while his wife was trying to show him how good of a driver she was zooming down the track at very high speed and making a sharp turn at the end.
What do we think of the new XC90? We believe Volvo has a winner here (same comments from the other participants). In our case, we had test drove the BMW X5, MB ML320, Lexus RX300, Acura MDX and Honda Pilot previously and here are out thoughts:
RIDE: RX300 is still number 1 but XC90 is second tied with MDX. Third is Pilot. The worst is X5 (my wife says if you like riding in a pickup, X5 is for you)
ROAD NOISE (sound insulation): RX300 is still number 1 but XC90 is second and Pilot is third. Worst of the bunch is X5.
PERFORMANCE: XC90 (both the 2.5L turbo and 2.9L twin turbo) is number 1. MDX number 2 and X5 number 3. Worst is RX300.
SEATING: Pilot is number 1 however XC90 is a close second (note the 3rd seat is extra on the XC90). The others don't offer 3rd row seating. RX300 probably offers most comfortable seats though.
STORAGE (behind 2nd row seat back): If we ignor the 3rd row seat, the Pilot is definitely number 1 however the XC90 is a close second as well as the ML320 with huge amount of storage. The worst of the bunch is the X5. We were told by AMCI that the X5 offered the least amount of storage for this size class SUV despite its large vehicle size. One test driver there said the new BMW X3 SUV based on the 3 series car will have much more storage than its bigger brother and a more compliant ride.
SAFETY: XC90 is number 1. It's built like a Sherman tank! The XC90 cutout they had there showed how Volvo used the BORON steel to reinforce the roof structure so it won't collapse. It really looks impressive. I struck up a conversation with a guy who was also admiring the reinforcement and he happened to be a structural engineer. He was so awed with the super beefed up "cage" that he jokingly said this XC90 roof would properly survive if it was dropped from the sky. He said there was no way this roof could collape in a roll-over. While we were talking, a Volvo staff came over to mention that due to the BORON steel used in all the pillars (A, B, C & D) that the "jaws of life" wouldn't work because it couldn't cut or buckle BORON. He said the rescuers would probably have to use the jaws "vertically" buckling the door instead.
FIT & FINISH: We were stunned how good the fit and finish were for a European vehicle. It ties with RX300 for first place (Lexus may have a very slight edge). The Acura comes next, then the ML320 and last is the X5. In fact we found the fit and finish on the X5 very marginally acceptable for a premium price SUV in this class.
STYLE: The women including my wife seem to think the XC90 is too conservatively styled in the front. They love everything else particularly the safety features. However, their number 1 choice seems to be the RX300. If maximum seating, safety and storage are what you are after and if we discount the Honda Pilot, the XC90 is the ideal choice.