2009 Volvo XC90 V8
2009 Volvo XC90 V8. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Volvo XC90

Passion Red? I’m thinking more along the lines of Mustang Ranch Red for this particular hue of XC90, the Top Juice R Design edition with the V8 thrill mill. At an MSRP of $72,095 as tested, this reporter is starting to get a little concerned, considering that the base XC90 gets the ball rolling at a respectable, and Volvo crazy-safe $48,595. (Prices shown do not reflect freight, taxes, or regional incentives.) Here at Inside Story, I’m expecting some pretty ingenious cubbies and cargo configurations for that $23,500 bump. Let’s begin.

The cockpit/The centre stack

2009 Volvo XC90 V8
2009 Volvo XC90 V8
2009 Volvo XC90 V8
2009 Volvo XC90 V8. Click image to enlarge

The blue-backed gauge faces are just what the night vision doctor ordered. Intelligent lighting takes care of the headlamp functions, making the switch almost redundant. The column receives manual tilt and telescopic placement, while the three-spoke wheel incorporates audio and cruise control tabs. Note to music lovers; the cruise control on/off tab is placed exactly where the left hand would be finger tapping, especially during Trooper retrospectives. The turn signal stalk adds a twist dial, which accesses the driver information screen options.

Tired of finding the perfect intermittent windscreen sweep? Simply press the top-mount switch on the wiper stalk, engaging the rain-sensing wiper function. Real world testing returned sweet sweep reports, bordering on artificial intelligence (much like my intelligence.) A simple toggle at the end of the stalk controls the rear wiper sweep.

Oversized switchery makes quick work of the six-CD audio head unit, while the HVAC unit is classic Volvo, almost a little too classic for this price scale. While sporting dual zone frontal adjustments, it is still a manual dial array. Below the HVAC controls are switches for power rear door child locks, adaptive headlight operation cancel, parking assist sensor cancel, and the on/off for the Blind Spot Information System. (BLIS) BLIS is not as blissful in everyday operation as the safe-nik’s would hope for, with many of its lower A-pillar lamp warnings seemingly unwarranted, especially for those of us who actually use their side-view mirrors.

Those side-view mirrors are heated, power-folding, and equipped with both puddle lamps and exterior turn signal indicators. The six-speed Geartronic automatic allows for manual up/downshift inputs, at the shifter gate only. The driver’s door pod provides Auto up/down for the front window panes, and dedicated on/off switches for left and right power exterior mirror adjustment.

Cubbies!

The glove-box hold is a lockable void, with flock lining and two slight cupholder indents, best suited for stationary sips. Half of the useable space is eclipsed by the owner’s literature wallet. The second row provides front seatback mesh storage pockets, a tip-out tray below the 12-volt DC powerpoint, and a drop-down dual cupholder, with manually-adjusted C-clamp cinchers. All this cubby talk makes this a good time to point out the integrated centre booster seat, shown in boost position. Up front, a flip-top cover reveals the dual cupholder, each with four rubber tab cinchers. It’s a strange location for the auxiliary audio jack, protected by a rubber tab at the rear of the cupholder cavity.

2009 Volvo XC90 V8
2009 Volvo XC90 V8
2009 Volvo XC90 V8
2009 Volvo XC90 V8. Click image to enlarge

The console top can articulate to the rear for second-row platform use, while the secondary tray flips up to reveal a cavity with CD holder slots. A 12-volt powerpoint is found ahead of the shifter, while a gumpack-sized cavity exists below the audio system display. Front and rear door pockets are bottle-friendly. Even the third row gets into the cupholder act, with two separate side panel-mount holders, flanking flip-top storage lockers.

The overhead

The primary rear-view mirror includes a compass, self-dimming functionality, and the display for the status of the front passenger airbag. The Homelink transmitter tabs are found on the driver’s side visor. Both visors include backlit vanity mirrors, without the ability to slide for additional sunblock protection. Topside, the R Design keeps the roof panel clean, sans roof rails. There are obvious plug-in points for future accessory rack systems, and a rear-mount black patch, made of some form of anti-scratch material. The moonroof uses a proper wind deflector, instead of the mesh screen scene that dominates many SUV’s in this segment.

Seat treat

There’s sweet two-step heat for the front passenger buckets, with three-occupant memory settings for the driver’s power seat. The front passenger seat includes power glide and recline, while both buckets employ dial-style lower lumbar bladders. The XC90 folds as quickly as a first-time Texas Hold-Em card shark, with EZ-Think/Effort levers.

2009 Volvo XC90 V8
2009 Volvo XC90 V8. Click image to enlarge

The second row provides manual fore and aft travel, though tests with the IS Comfort Dummy returned minimal legroom space for second and third row passengers. Check out the unique stowage for the third seat lower cushions, sliding aft and downwards to provide a true-flat rear cargo area.

Cargo embargo

The XC90’s two-part liftgate/tailgate combo is a handy load assist feature. Cargo tiedowns are easily accessed, and provisions do exist for a retractable cargo cover, strangely absent from this Luxury Package-equipped model. Volvo fans will probably remember the cargo area shields of days past, in sturdy chromium steel. It would be rather difficult to stow in a seven-passenger behemoth, hence the folding mesh unit, which is about as enjoyable to erect as a three-room canvas tent. A 12-volt DC powerpoint is found on the passenger side of the cargo area wall. Like most Volvo wagons, the rear cargo floor has a flip-up panel, with tether straps and integrated bag hooks.

2009 Volvo XC90 V8
2009 Volvo XC90 V8
2009 Volvo XC90 V8
2009 Volvo XC90 V8. Click image to enlarge
Spare care

It’s time to tell the affair of the spare that isn’t there, mon frere. It seems that there would be plenty of room beneath the cargo floor for a wind-down temporary style of rubber biscuit. Instead, Volvo has opted for the compressor/Wonder-Inflation goo combo. Volvo will assist you with your goo, during the first four years of ownership, with no mileage limit.

The mill

The 4.4-litre DOHC V8 whips up 311 horsepower, with a transverse mount. It is surprisingly compact, which should benefit future service intervals. Fluid fill points are easily identified and accessed. Speaking of access, the hood release is to the far right of the hood, or the extreme left from the vantage point of the driver.

The Verdict

I’m curious as to whether or not the all-seeing eye of the Volvo Blind Spot Information System could have forseen the safety quotient that exists amongst current sport utility vehicles. A quick scan of the Top Safety Pick awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org) confirms that the XC90 lives in a category where 17 competing models meet the same crunch factor performance, with many of them possessing higher equipment levels and lower MSRP’s. Volvo’s safety legacy is a worthy mention in the footnotes of automotive history. As of 2009, it is simply over-priced for the XC90. Two-and-a-half stars.

Next week: Ford Flex Limited AWD

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