For months, Volvo has been teasing out details of its all-new, next-generation XC90 utility vehicle. Finally, the whole vehicle was revealed this week in Stockholm, in advance of its public debut at the Paris auto show on October 2.
It's a handsome addition to the mid-luxe CUV/SUV segment, where it will compete with the likes of the Acura MDX, Audi Q5 and BMW X5.
But given the expectations raised by the stylish Volvo Concept Estate wagon at this year's Geneva auto show, some (like me) may be disappointed in the production XC90's ultra-conservative appearance.
It's an undeniably clean design that should offend no potential buyers, even if it does nothing to raise their heart rates. And given Volvo's recent history of declining sales in the key North American market, the company can't afford to offend anyone.
Beyond its look, there's plenty else about the XC90 to impress, beginning with its all-new Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA), which is also expected to underpin the next generations of S60, V70, XC60 and S80.
As the first product built on the new architecture, and the first developed under the brand's Chinese ownership (Zhejiang Geely Holding), there's a lot riding on the XC90.
"This day marks a new era for our company," said Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Car Group. "We are not just launching a car, but re-launching our brand. The XC90 paves the way for a portfolio of exciting new cars to come in the following years".
In spite of, perhaps because of its Chinese ownership, Volvo is promoting the vehicle's Swedish heritage, and incorporating both modern and traditional Swedish design elements, particularly in its interior.
According to Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo’s senior vice president of design, the design "has a strong connection to the key elements of the Swedish lifestyle: generous space, celebration of light and focus on wellbeing."
The focal point of the interior is a centrally located touch-screen that leaves control functions almost button-free. Special touches include a shift knob inlaid with Swedish-made glass crystal and an optional sound system said to replicate the acoustics of the concert hall in Gothenburg, where Volvo is headquartered.
A range of Volvo's new 2.0-litre, four-cylinder Drive-E engines, both gasoline and diesel, will be offered globally. The top-of-the-line powertrain, called Twin Engine, combines a supercharged and turbocharged gasoline engine with an electric motor to generate "around 400 horsepower," while producing only about 60g/km of carbon dioxide (CO2) on the NEDC driving cycle.
Volvo says the XC90 offers the most comprehensive and technologically sophisticated standard safety package available in the automotive industry. It includes two world first safety technologies: a run-off road protection package and auto brake at intersection capability. It brakes automatically if the driver turns in front of an oncoming car.
The XC90 is scheduled to go on sale in North America early in 2015.