Volvo’s XC90 midsize crossover is both a tony vehicle and a solid seller, but the push into electrification that began with the crossover’s second generation will be completed in its third.
The automaker has announced that the third-gen XC90, which arrives in 2022, will ditch gas-only powerplants for good.
You wouldn’t know it, but that’s a heavily refreshed 2020 Volvo XC90 staring back at you from the header image. Good thing the grille still carries a Volvo badge.
Okay, the tweaks made to the SUV’s front fascia are milder than chain restaurant salsa, but the changes to the Swedish brand’s largest vehicle for 2020 are more than skin deep. For the upcoming model year, Volvo rolls out the first of its B-badged vehicles. What’s B? It signifies the presence of a kinetic energy recovery system designed to boost fuel economy by up to 15 percent.
Building on a strategic partnership announced in August last year, Volvo has signed a framework agreement with Uber to sell “tens of thousands” of autonomous driving compatible base vehicles between 2019 and 2021.
While reading the report, it was important for this author to keep in mind the challenge in affixing an actual definition to the words autonomous driving. There have been shouty voices in various parts of the internet disputing the terms autonomous, Autopilot, and self-driving. There is merit to these arguments.
Nevertheless, Volvo is working with Uber to create technology that will allow vehicles to move about without a driver providing input 100 percent of the time.
A few years after Alexander Graham Bell beat Elisha Gray in patenting the telephone, someone conceptualized the telephonoscope and the world became bedeviled by the notion of seeing someone while you conversed remotely. Video phones appeared in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), Jay Roach’s timeless classic Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), and just about everywhere in between. They even cropped up in real life. AT&T tested the waters in the 1920s by pairing mechanical television receivers to telephones before blowing half a billion dollars on the Picturephone a few decades later.
Things are different today. You can easily bring up any number of applications on your hand-held device and video chat with people from practically anywhere on the planet. However, we never really got a dedicated video phone in our cars, creating a compellingly retro-futuristic need for such a thing.
Then Volvo announced that it was adding Skype for Business to its 90 Series cars and I began imagining a universe where I would notify besuited men — face-to-face — that I did not have anymore time to talk because I was much too busy driving. It was a perfect fantasy where I told nervous industrialists which robots should build the smaller robots and who to fire all from the comfort of my mobile office — and while looking them right in their terrified eyes.
No? Never mind.
Following up the SUV is a new large luxury sedan, the S90, sharing much with the big truck.
(There once was a time when CUVs were developed from sedans. What a world we live in.)
Three hybrid powertrains and three performance powertrains bookended Wards Auto’s top 10 engines, which was released last week.
The list included repeat winners such as the Ram 1500 Ecodiesel 3-liter six, Subaru’s turbo flat-four and Nissan’s veteran VQ 3.5-liter V-6. Appearing for the first time was BMW’s replacement for its N55 turbocharged, 3-liter straight six as well as General Motor’s LGX V-6 — which appears in several Cadillac models and in the new Chevrolet Camaro — with cylinder deactivation.
Volvo’s twin-charged 2-liter four and Ford’s famous flat-plane crank V-8 from the Shelby GT350 made the list for the first time in 2016. Volkswagen’s engines were excluded from consideration this year because of the company’s admission that its diesel engine cheated through emissions tests.
The North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year finalists were announced Tuesday and clearly the jurors read our September handicap — and completely mostly disregarded our odds.
According to jurors, the finalists for 2016 North American Car of the Year are the Honda Civic, Chevrolet Malibu and Mazda MX-5 Miata. The finalists for the 2016 Truck/Utility of the Year are the Volvo XC90, Nissan Titan XD and Honda Pilot. The winners will be announced at the North American International Auto Show in January.
Let’s review the finalists and definitively state in each capsule why that car will absolutely win:
Many of you have asked why we bother to review a car we’ve already reviewed based on a few hours at a launch event. The all-new 2016 Volvo XC90 is a textbook example of why more time with a car allows for a more complete review.
At launch events, you have no time to perform acceleration or brake tests of a vehicle (and, of course, you aren’t testing the car on the same circuit that the rest of the cars have been tested upon) and you have no ability to drive the competition back-to-back to get a sense of comparison. There is a reason that first drive reviews tend to be fact based: it’s hard to review a car in a vacuum.
So why is the XC90 a textbook example? Because of my own biases. Biases are interesting things. They can blind you to a car’s faults, or they can lead you to overcompensate and find fault.
After digesting my time with the XC90, I started falling into the latter camp. Edmunds 0-60 tested the XC90 and found it slower than expected. I started wondering if I had been wearing rose-colored glasses and asked myself: “Was it really that good?” Therefore, I had to get my hand on one again so I could run it through our battery of tests and drive it on my own for a week to find the answer.
The answer: It is better.
Volvo announced Thursday that it would make an all-electric car available by 2019 and offer more plug-in hybrid versions of its cars sooner, starting with the S90. Volvo already sells a plug-in hybrid version of its XC90 SUV.
The automaker’s announced plans follow news that it would make a compact crossover by 2018, likely called the XC40, which would eventually share the same architecture as its V40 and V40 Cross Country.
According to the automaker, Volvo expects 10 percent of its sales by 2020 to be of electric cars. The automaker reported 465,000 sales in 2014.
Next year, Volvo said it would make available in Sweden 100 autonomous driving XC90s that will be capable of driving themselves on roughly 50 kilometers (31 miles) of roads near Gothenburg.
The technology, which is dubbed IntelliSafe Auto Pilot, adds self-driving to technology already available in its cars; under 30 mph Auto Pilot will drive an XC90 as long as it senses a hand on the steering wheel.
According to the automaker, the car will notify the driver if it enters a stretch of road where it can drive itself. The driver would need to pull both steering wheel-mounted paddles to engage the autonomous driving features. When the car is about to leave self-driving roads, it alerts the driver that they have one minute to regain control of the car or the XC90 will come to a stop.
This one we should have seen in the cards already: Last month, Volvo announced that it purchased Volvo tuner Polestar to bring in-house and churning out more models for eager hands.
Last year, Volvo announced it had developed a triple-turbo, 2-liter four that could produce 450 horsepower.
It’s entirely likely, TTAC has learned, that the two will meet in a Polestar-branded XC90.
Details about the car were few and far between, but the engine combination and newly branded vehicle would up the ante on what Volvo powertrain chief told Auto Express earlier this year.
Instead of slotting between the 316-horsepower XC90 T6 and the 400-horsepower hybrid T8, the Polestar version would offer the 450-horsepower variant, with a 48-volt supercharger boosting twin turbochargers on the craziest family crossover.
Unless the beautiful details that have been gradually released over the last few months add up to less than the sum of our parts, it appears as though the second-generation Volvo XC90 will be an impressive machine on which to lay eyes.
As mentioned on TTAC earlier today, the new XC90 will be unveiled on August 25. Its screen orientation will be flipped in Tesla-like portrait fashion. It will be fast. The XC90’s shifter is made by Orrefors Crystal. It will possess a host of one-step-farther safety features. It will, for at least a moment or a day or a week, be a headline-grabbing car.
And surely there will be more American SUV buyers opting for the new XC90 than there have been American SUV buyers opting for the old XC90 over the last few years.
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