For 2006, the Volvo XC90 SUV comes with a major change: it’s available with the company’s first production eight-cylinder engine. This new engine also pushes the six-cylinder turbocharged T6 model out of the line-up. As well, all models receive Instant Traction, which uses a non-return valve to prevent fluid drain, and a “pre-charge” of around 60 ft-lb upon acceleration from standstill, for faster engagement of the system when necessary.

The XC90 comes in two engine choices, starting with the 2.5T, which uses a 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder inline engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with Geartronic manual shift. The V8 is built in Japan by Yamaha and arrives in Sweden for final assembly as a unit, coupled with its Yamaha-built six-speed Geartronic automatic. The 4.4-litre V8 has only 60 degrees between its banks, instead of the traditional 90 degrees, to keep it compact enough to slip into the XC90’s engine compartment.

Both models use a Haldex electronic all-wheel-drive system that’s 95 per cent front-wheel bias, but is capable of transferring up to 95 per cent torque to any one wheel when needed. Both models are available in five- or seven-passenger seating configuration.

Features on the 2.5T include roll stability control, stability and traction control, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake distribution and emergency brake assistance, 16-inch alloy wheels, front and rear fog lights, headlight washers, heated mirrors with puddle lights, roof rails, roof spoiler, “leatherette” and cloth upholstery, heated seats, power driver seat with memory, fold-flat passenger front seat, foldable 40/20/40 split rear seat, dual-zone electronic climate control, tilt and telescopic wheel with audio controls, power windows with auto up/down on front, rear washer/wiper, rain sensor, cruise control, trip computer, cargo net, and CD player with eight speakers. The seven-passenger adds power sunroof and leather upholstery.

The V8 adds 17-inch alloy wheels, speed-sensitive steering, bi-Xenon headlights, leather interior, power sunroof, colour-coordinated door handles and mouldings, polished exhaust tips, power passenger seat, leather shifter knob, walnut wood inlays, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Homelink garage door opener, and six-CD stereo.

The XC90 boasts a beautiful interior, numerous safety features and plenty of cargo space, although the third row on seven-passenger models is cramped for adults and is best left to the small fry. The new V8 engine is pricey, but it’s creamy-smooth, powerful and quiet, and should be a fine match for anything the competition wants to send its way. It also features variable air conditioning compressor and generator for a four per cent fuel savings, and it meets the American ULEV II (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle Stage II) requirements; Volvo claims it’s the cleanest gasoline-powered V8 currently available.

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