Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada 2006 Volvo XC90 V8
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It must have been a little embarrassing for the product planning executives at Volvo Car Corporation (a vehicle manufacturer known for its strong environmental stance) to find themselves introducing a V8-powered SUV/wagon at a time when world oil prices were spiking and SUVs were gaining a ‘bad boy’ reputation with consumers.

How do you say, “D’oh!” in Swedish?

In fact, when the 2006 XC90 V8 was first introduced in July 2005, Volvo’s PR types took pains to point out that this SUV offers “the grunt without the guilt”. Its new 4.4 litre V8 is “the cleanest gasoline-powered V8 on the market today”, and “the most compact V8 engine on the market compared to engines of equivalent volume,” said a Volvo news release. The new V8, Volvo’s first, has four catalytic converters, and it is the first V8 to meet the North American ULEV II (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle, stage II) and the forthcoming Euro 5 requirements in Europe.

2006 Volvo XC90 V8

2006 Volvo XC90 V8

2006 Volvo XC90 V8
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All of this will, hopefully, ease your conscience as you accelerate this 2140 kg (4718 lb.) XC90 seven-passenger wagon/sport utility vehicle from 0 to 100 km/h in just 7.0 seconds, and enjoy official fuel consumption figures of 16.4 L/100 km (17 mpg Imperial) in the city, and 10.7 L/100 km (26 mpg Imperial) on the highway.

However, the XC90 V8’s fuel economy is only slightly better than many of its V8-powered competitors such as the VW Touareg 4.2 V8, Land Rover LR3 4.4 V8, Ford Explorer 4.6 V8, and Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.7 V8, but not as good as some like the Cadillac SRX 4.6 V8. In other words, the XC90 V8’s fuel economy doesn’t really stand out in its class.

Interestingly, the XC90’s V8 engine is not built by Volvo: it’s built by Yamaha in Japan! This is not as odd as it may sound. Yamaha has built engines for other major manufacturers, including the V8 in the Ford Taurus SHO. And this engine was built entirely to Volvo’s specifications with Volvo’s supervision.

It’s a 4.4 litre V8 with dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and dual continuously variable valve timing for improved torque and efficiency at all engine speeds. Horsepower is 311 at 5850 rpm and maximum torque is 325 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm, significantly more than its predecessor, the XC90 T6, which had a turbocharged 268 horsepower/280 lb-ft. straight six cylinder engine. According to Volvo, the XC90’s V8 offers 270 lb-ft of torque at just 2000 rpm, which explains its quick off-the-line and low-speed passing power.

Well, not entirely. In addition to sending the power through a new six-speed automatic “Geartronic” transmission (replacing a four-speed Geartronic) the XC90 V8 has a revised all-wheel drive system that enhances quick getaways and improves traction on slippery surfaces. From a standing start, hydraulic fluid is pre-charged in the AWD system, engaging the wheels faster than the previous system did.

Despite the V8’s increased horsepower and torque, maximum towing capacity is the same as the T6: 2250 kg (4960 lb.) — still a respectable number. The similar capacity is due in part to the fact that the XC90 V8 weighs 139 kg more than the T6. Still, I’d rather be towing a 5000-pound trailer with a torquey V8 than with a windy turbo.

Pricing and features

As mentioned, for 2006 the XC90 V8 replaces the XC90 T6 model while the XC90 2.5T, which has a 2.5-litre, turbocharged, 208-horsepower, five cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic transmission with Geartronic, remains as the base car in the line-up starting at $49,995. The top-of-the-line XC90 V8 five-seat model starts at $64,995 while the seven-seat model is $67,295.

2006 Volvo XC90 V8

2006 Volvo XC90 V8

2006 Volvo XC90 V8
Click image to enlarge

My test vehicle had $8,700 worth of options, including the Luxury Package (Premium sound system w/12 speakers, walnut wood steering wheel, rear parking sensors, mass movement sensor, level sensor, cargo cover, retractable side mirrors $1,800; Michelin 235/60R-18 + Panopea alloy wheels $1,250; Navigation system $2,500; DVD entertainment system with two rear screens $2,500; Titanium grey paint $650). With Freight of $895 and A/C tax of $100, the as-tested price of my XC90 V8 came to $76,990.

Standard equipment includes many luxury and safety features — so many that I don’t have space to mention them all. The seven-seat XC90 V8 model includes a folding, two-person third row seat and an adjustable booster seat in the middle of the second row.

The XC90 V8 has standard Xenon headlights, front fog lights, a rear fog light, headlight washers, heated power side mirrors, power glass sunroof, roof rails, and rear spoiler.

Inside is standard leather upholstery with heated, power driver and passenger seats with memory, driver’s armrest, fold flat front passenger seat and folding 40/20/40 split rear seatbacks, walnut trim, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone

2006 Volvo XC90 V8
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climate control, power windows with auto up/down and anti-pinch protection, intermittent flat-blade wipers, rear wiper/washer, rain sensor, cruise control, steering wheel audio controls, and rear headset outlets.

Standard safety features include three-point seatbelts at all seven seating positions, multi-stage front airbags, side curtain airbags for both rows of passengers, front seat-mounted side airbags and Volvo’s integral side impact protection (SIPS) frame, front head restraints with whiplash protection, adjustable head restraints at all seating positions, Iso-fix attachments for second row child seats, ALR child seat locking feature on seatbelts, and rear door child locks.

As well, the XC90 V8 has standard stability and traction control and a roll stability control sensor that detects an imminent rollover and inflates the airbags accordingly.


Interior impressions

As the top-of-the-line model, the XC90 V8’s interior has an expensive look, yet retains the simplicity of its Scandinavian roots, notably its simple round gauges and ordered centre instrument panel. No flamboyant styling flourishes here, just a simple layout with large buttons and measured walnut trim and metal accents. My car also had the optional walnut trim on the steering wheel.

2006 Volvo XC90 V8

2006 Volvo XC90 V8

2006 Volvo XC90 V8

2006 Volvo XC90 V8
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An AM/FM/CD stereo with eight speakers is standard, but my test SUV had the optional Premium Sound System with 12 speakers, amplifier, and Dolby Pro Logic II. The sound is excellent, but I found the green LCD display difficult to read at times because of glare. I liked the small open slot below the radio for storing a cell phone, PDA, or I-pod.

Near the bottom of the centre console are on/off buttons for the DSTC (dynamic stability and traction control) power windows, and park distance sensors.

The instrument cluster includes an illuminated digital clock, outside temperature gauge, and transmission gear indicator directly ahead of the driver in the tachometer gauge. To the left of the speedometer is a driver information display, activated by swivelling the end of the left turn signal stalk. It displays kilometres to empty, average fuel economy, instant fuel economy, average speed, and actual speed.

The standard leather seats are of a particularly sturdy, high quality leather with prominent seat stitching, and excellent support in the first and second rows. The seats feature smooth leather inserts where the body contacts the seat.

With a multi-adjustable power driver’s seat and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, it’s not difficult to find a good driving position.

The second row outboard seats slide forward and back to increase legroom for the second row passengers, or to increase cargo room behind the seats when the third row is folded flat. A centre booster seat can be raised to accommodate young children.

2006 Volvo XC90 V8

2006 Volvo XC90 V8

2006 Volvo XC90 V8
Click image to enlarge

The two third row seats don’t offer much legroom, but they’re great for kids. Third row passengers do get cupholders, covered storage bins, and a flip-over panel that serves as a writing pad.

When you don’t need them, the third row seats fold flat to increase cargo capacity. As well, the 40/20/40 split second rows seatbacks can be folded flat individually or together, and the right front passenger seat can also fold flat to create a very long, carpeted cargo floor. In fact, you could place a ten-foot ladder on one side, and carry two passengers in the second row and one in the third row as well!

My test car had the optional DVD entertainment system, with two rear screens in the back of the front head restraints, a rear DVD player, wireless headphones, and remote control — a nice feature for the kids, but expensive at $2,500.

At the rear, a hatch lifts up easily, and there’s also a small tailgate which flips down — an unusual feature. The only benefit I see of having a tailgate is that stuff won’t slide out if you’re parked on a hill and open the hatch. As well, it makes the hatch lighter and easier to lift.


Driving Impressions

The XC90 is more of a tall, car-based wagon than an SUV, and it drives more like a car than many SUVs. Because of its higher ground clearance and tall seating position, the driver has an elevated seating position and good visibility — and step-in height isn’t too high.

After starting the engine, the V8 powertrain is immediately identifiable by its throaty, menacing burble. Once you put your foot into it, the XC90 V8 takes off without any of the hesitation of the previous turbo six. In fact, it’s very responsive at almost any speed. Acceleration is very quick for a vehicle of this size, and the throttle may be a bit too sensitive on take-off.

2006 Volvo XC90 V8

2006 Volvo XC90 V8
Click image to enlarge

The V8 engine is lazy on the freeway in sixth gear, which in part explains why its highway fuel consumption is the same as the previous 2.9 litre turbo six cylinder.

There is a psychological barrier to overcome for Volvo owners used to the whine of Volvo’s five cylinder, and turbocharged five cylinder and six cylinder engines. This V8 sounds American, even though it’s Japanese – but it doesn’t sound Swedish. For Volvo owners used to getting the most out of a small displacement engine, the V8 is a bit of a culture shock.

The standard six-speed Geartronic does a great job of sliding from gear to gear, and it can also be shifted manually, forward to shift up, back to shift down. That’s fun for a while, but the car is very responsive in automatic mode, so I just left it there most of the time.

With its fully independent suspension, (front MacPherson strut/rear multilink with coil springs) and beefy optional Michelin MXM4 P235/60R-18 inch all-season tires, the XC90 V8 handles well with surprising stability and minimal lean, but I found that pavement cracks and road markers expose its sensitive shocks. Where the asphalt is smooth, the ride is smooth, and its four disc brakes with ABS stop this hefty wagon with ease and very little nose-dive.

I found the XC90’s speed-sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion steering accurate but vague, and the vehicle’s turning circle of 12.5 metres (41 feet) is wide.

I didn’t take this test vehicle off-road, but with a minimum ground clearance of almost nine inches, and front and rear bumpers that sweep upwards, the XC90 V8 should have plenty of ground clearance to clear boulders, ruts and logs. A front skid plate is standard while a rear skid plate is optional.

Still, this is not the type of vehicle designed for wilderness adventures. It’s an all-weather wagon with lots of cargo space, plenty of power, and a high level of quality, safety and luxury features.


Verdict

With its combination of a powerful new V8 engine, new six-speed automatic transmission, and an improved all-wheel-drive system, the 2006 XC90 V8 offers improved performance and better poor weather traction than its predecessor. Whether or not it’s the right time for Volvo to introduce a V8 engine remains to be seen.


Technical Data: 2006 Volvo XC90 V8

Base price (5-seat) $64,995
Base price (7-seat) $67,295
Options $8,700 (Luxury Package: Premium sound system w/12 speakers, walnut wood steering wheel, rear parking sensors, mass movement sensor, level sensor, cargo cover, retractable side mirrors $1,800; Michelin 235/60R-18 + Panopea alloy wheels $1,250; Navigation system $2,500; DVD entertainment system with two rear screens $2,500; Titanium grey paint $650).
Freight $895
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $76,990 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type four-door, seven-passenger SUV
Layout transverse front engine, all-wheel-drive
Engine 4.4 litre V8, DOHC, 32 valves, CVVT
Horsepower 311 @ 5850 rpm
Torque 325 lb-ft. @ 3900 rpm
Transmission six-speed automatic Geartronic w/manual mode
Tires P235/60R-18 Michelin MXM4 all-season
Curb weight 2140 kg (4718 lb.)
Wheelbase 2857 mm (112.5 in.)/td>
Length 4798 mm (188.9 in.)
Width 1898 mm ( 74.7 in.)
Height w/rails 1784 mm (70.2 in.)
Towing capacity 2250 kg (4,960 lb.)
Ground clearance 226 mm (8.9 in.)
Payload capacity 610 kg (1345 lb.)
Cargo volume 1,225 litres (43.3 cu. ft.) behind 2nd seats
  2410 litres (85.7 cu. ft.) behind 1st seats
Fuel consumption City: 16.4 L/100 km (17 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 10.7 L/100 km (26 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Premium unleaded
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

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