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The 2015 XC90: Volvo goes all-in on strong lines and high technology

Images of Volvo's newest flagship SUV.
Images of Volvo's newest flagship SUV.
All images courtesy of Volvo Car Group

“This is one of the most important days in our history. We are not just launching a car, but re-launching our brand. This day marks a new era for our company. The XC90 paves the way for a portfolio of exciting new cars to come in the following years,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Car Group.

Volvo introduces a new logo, or iron mark, with the new 2015 XC 90
Volvo Car Group Global Media

On August 27, 2014, Volvo launched into a new generation of cars and technology. The 2015 Volvo XC90 is the first result of an $11 billion dollar investment in new product architecture, engine technology and vehicle production infrastructure.

This isn't a normal launch spun by Volvo's PR people. The 2015 XC90 is their vision of how it will compete in the future. In fact the carmaker is building 1,927 numbered special 'First Edition' SUVs to commemorate this turn in strategy.

Why 1,927? 1927 is Volvo's founding year.

With the new XC90, Volvo introduces a new brand new logo, seen directly left. It's a much larger badge, or 'iron mark' as it is officially called. The new iron mark is bigger, bolder and carries a little more attitude than the average Volvo.

The rest of it is bigger and bolder as well. Take a look at the head-on image in the slideshow.

The 2015 XC90 is squat and muscular, with an imposing grille. It sports menacing lower air intakes. Sweden has finally made a car bad guys can drive.

Don't think so? Compare it to the 2014 model in the slideshow as well.

The badge looks big on the 2014, but only because the grille is so small. There is no prominent lower air intake. The headlights are conventional, and the hood is much more angular. The roof is tapered and tall. Bad guys would use the 2014 to rob cupcake stores.

What else does Volvo have cooking in the 2015 XC90? Hybrid power. From not just one, but two available 'Drive-E' 4-cylinder hybrid power trains assisted by a beefy electric motor. According to their technical specifications, the gasoline hybrid generates 320 horsepower and 400 lb/ft. of torque at 5,700 rpm. The diesel hybrid is weaker on horses, but generates 470 lb/ft of torque. 0-60 times are 6.9 seconds and 7.8 seconds, respectively. Not bad for a 4,450 lb vehicle.

“There are no compromises when you drive an all-new XC90,” said Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President Research and Development of Volvo Car Group. “In the past you could either have power or low CO2 emissions. But with the all-new XC90 you can have both. With our new Drive-E powertrains, we have created a family of intelligent petrol and diesel engines with power curves that give exciting driveability at the same time as delivering world-beating fuel economy. With seven people in the new XC90, carbon dioxide emissions per person and kilometre are outstandingly low."

Volvo's engineers estimate the hybrid assist helps the gasoline engine achieve 31 MPG on a combined road/city test loop. Fuel economy for the diesel is a whopping 41 MPG. These claims haven't been vetted by European or American regulators, but final MPG numbers are expected to be in this range.

The XC90 is the first vehicle to be built on Volvo's newest platform, called Scalable Product Architecture, or SPA. SPA is modular and scalable architecture, allowing Volvo to use a new common platform to create different types of vehicles and ranges within vehicle lines. SPA makes it easier to implement new technologies across lines. Since everything shares the same foundation, SPA also helps ensure consistent manufacturing quality. According to a Volvo press statement:

The benefits of SPA are twofold. First, the flexibility of SPA liberates Volvo’s engineers and designers, allowing them to devise and introduce a wide range of new and alluring design features at the same time as improving driveability, introducing world-first safety features, offering the latest connected car technologies and creating more interior space.

Volvo has always been one of the safest vehicles in the world. Volvo took this opportunity to introduce 2 new updates to 'City Safety', their new brand for all auto and brake safety equipment.

“The new technologies will take us a significant step closer to our vision that no one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020,” says Dr Mertens. “Our starting point on safety is the same today as it was when the company was created almost 90 years ago: real-life situations. We study data. We crunch numbers. We innovate. The result is one of the safest cars ever made.”

City Safety offers two new ways to protect driver and passengers. The first protects occupants in a run off road scenario. To help offset the shock when a vehicle lands hard off road, the XC90's seat belts automatically tighten. New seat and seat frame cushioning absorb more vertical force, lessening stress on occupants' spinal columns. The second new safety feature is unique to Volvo. The SUV will brake if the driver attempts to turn in front of an oncoming vehicle.

Inside, the XC90 is what a person would expect in a Volvo flagship: efficient design, space, luxury and technology.

“The new interior is pure and uncluttered, while still radiating the sophisticated confidence and formality that luxury SUV customers expect. The simplicity is perfectly in tune with our Scandinavian design heritage. It opens up generous surfaces and gives us the opportunity to create a modern, luxurious interior architecture,” says Thomas Ingenlath, Senior Vice President Design of Volvo Car Group.

Systems are controlled at a new and very large touchscreen. Volvo will use Apple's CarPlay as well as Android Auto for a seamless technology experience. Combined with an optional 1,400-watt 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system, and Volvo has created one of the most flexible and powerful musical experiences available in an automobile.

The screen is reminiscent of Tesla. Notice the bold and easy-to-read font in the picture above. This should make the screen easier to operate at highway speeds, or in flowing urban traffic.

“As cars increasingly become more connected to the Internet and are able to offer a far wider range of functions and entertainment services, the way in which the driver interacts with the car’s systems is becoming progressively more important. It is essential that these services are offered in a way that does not reduce safety levels and in a manner that is easy to understand and optimized for the driving task,” said Dr Thomas M. Müller, Vice President Electrics/Electronics & E-propulsion engineering of Volvo Car Group.

Volvo also found a way to engineer more space for passengers. Seven seats in the XC90 are individually engineered to comfortably support and take up less space. The new XC90 features a four-zone climate control system. No one should ever complain about the vehicle being too hot or cold.

Their engineers claim the two rear seats should easily accommodate passengers up to 5'6. Which is good for kids, less so for adults. Rear and middle seats can be stowed, and there is under-seat storage as well. This gives the 2015 XC90 67 cubic feet of cargo space. In the slideshow you will find a roof cutaway shot with stored third row seating.

The 2015 Volvo XC90 is expected to hit showrooms in Spring 2015. With a estimated starting price of $48,900 the XC90 is positioned to give the other marques a run for value. If you are a big fan of Volvo, the First Edition XC90 will go on sale on August 28, 2014. They will be sold online only, at Volvo's special 'First Edition' ecommerce store.

All images from Volvo Car Group.

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