You know the deal when an automaker reveals a new model — company representatives are liberal with superlatives and self-congratulation. They trumpet that their latest creation marks a new direction, that it is better in every way, and that the competition had better be scared. It was pretty much the same at the unveiling of the next-generation Volvo XC90.
But hang on a second before you walk into an Audi, BMW or Mercedes dealership and ask for the big SUV section. Let us remember that in recent years Volvo truly has taken a new direction. That safe-but-boring perception has changed dramatically. Look no further than sublime performers such as the V40. This is a vehicle I recommend without a second of hesitation to anyone seeking a premium hatchback.
Volvo’s new cars are immensely desirable and decidedly different. And, of course, the aspect of preserving lives is a significant part of the brand DNA. This forthcoming XC90 is an entirely new model. It was engineered and developed independently by Volvo and relies on no engine or platform remnants from past synergies. Those days under the monolithic Ford tower are long gone. Volvo is as Swedish as ever, even though its benefactors now are Chinese.
The wraps were removed and before us stood a gleaming black example of the newcomer. It is a beautiful brute — all bold and confident but without seeming garish and needlessly aggressive. The average Volvo person will appreciate such a delicate balance. Buyers will be able to choose between various styling lines, including an R- Design package for those with racing pretensions. There are novel cues aplenty. For example, the LED headlamps, when illuminated, resemble the hammer wielded by Thor. As always, the Volvo Iron Mark emblem proudly takes centre stage, this time on an imposing grille with sharp-looking vertical slats.
But the most promising aspect is the interior. According to Volvo, making passengers feel special was among its biggest priorities. Another of Volvo’s aims was to simplify, to cut through the clutter that often intimidates users. It has not even tried to model its digital interface on systems such as iDrive or MMI from BMW and Audi. Instead, you get just eight buttons on the fascia; everything else is controlled via a tablet-like touch screen. I spent a good 20 minutes in the plush confines of the big, new Volvo and I can report that it was as cushy as they say.
Swathes of leather, classy polished metal and wood accents all strive to give a sense of modern luxury. One of the best virtues of Volvo cars are their incredibly comfortable seats. And this is no different. But, touching and playing with a show car is one thing, experiencing it on the road is another. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. From these first glimpses, things do look promising for the swanky Scandinavian SUV. The XC90 is expected to go on sale locally in August next year.