Originally published June 17, 2015
Review by Jacob Black, photos by Jonathan Yarkony
A different set of classical music played in my head every time I walked towards the 2016 Volvo XC90. Sometimes, it was the “da-da-daaahh” of Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor. Sometimes it was “Fate Knocking” from Symphony No.5. Sometimes, if it was hidden around a corner and I was walking toward it very slowly, I’d hear Also sprach Zarathustra (aka: that bit from 2001: A Space Odyssey).
The XC90 is enormous. Imposing. Gargantuan. Large. Big. Huge. A behemoth. The headlights are imposing long before the silhouette of Volvo’s tribute to Mjölnir embedded in them becomes apparent. The Volvo logo slashes across the grill, but cut off as it is makes it look like the sword couldn’t reach across its full width – this only makes the front look bigger than it is.
And it is big, in both size and stature. So big, in fact, Volvo had to give it two separate aspiration systems. Some say they hired the guy from South Park who liked to cross-breed weird animals, some say Doctor Emmet Brown wasn’t shot by Libyans at all and actually lives hidden in a Volvo bunker. Either way someone in Sweden decided to graft a turbocharger and supercharger together like some sort of unholy forced-aspiration doomsday device.
Available with an AWD powertrain for the first time in the XC90, the Drive-E format uses the two different types of force-feeding to give the most efficiency alongside the most pleasing throttle response. The supercharger is there to provide torque early in the rev range and the associated chuckle-inducing throttle response. Up top, the turbocharger winds up providing efficient, effective combustion to keep the 71L fuel tank from emptying too fast.
The two chargers mean Volvo could get away with a paltry 2.0L four-cylinder engine in this otherwise enormous car. The power plant is good for 320 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque and when plied in “Dynamic” mode I found it more than adequate. On one traffic-light launch to get across to a slip lane, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the 1,993 kg XC90 hustled off the line.
On the fuel economy front, I expect large SUVs to end up between 10-12 L/100 km on account of all the city driving I do. Parking several floors below ground level at both home and work doesn’t help either. This one finished the week at 11.7 L/100 km – a hair below the 11.8 L/100 km city rating given by the EPA. Highway and combined ratings are 9.4 and 10.7 L/100 km respectively. That’s not mind-blowing but it is pretty tidy for a large, seven-passenger SUV with a huge frontal area.
Did I mention this is a big car?