Volvo a little late to the fight with the XC90

Written 2 years ago by Rebecca Donnelly


 

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There was a motoring war waged a couple of years ago and it was a simple one: annihilate the competition by doing whatever it takes to win. There were winners and losers but some didn’t even take part. Volvo was one of them.

Volvo instead busied itself with research and design changes, making their weapons bigger and better than everyone else. By the time they were ready to start some posturing and maybe a little sabre rattling, Volvo soon found that the war was over and the combatants had decided to call a truce and divide up the market amongst themselves.

So Volvo has a problem. The XC90 looks great and the cabin is beautiful but it might just be a little too late to the fight. BMW, Mercedes and Audi have all released new cars in the same segment in the last couple of years so has Volvo left it too long to make a meaningful impact?

Volvo has tried to be different and, to some degree, it’s worked and that might save the XC90 from being overlooked. So what’s different?

The styling lets you know it’s a Volvo, while still giving a rather unique look to the exterior. The side profile is slightly boxy but seems to suit the car overall. Of course, to get the car you see in the video, you’ll have to spend on options like LED headlights.

It’s the interior where the XC90 really excels. It feels and looks very Swedish. The little touches of wood and heavy plastic make it really feel like a luxury car. There’s a large touchscreen in the centre console that controls most of the useful features in the cabin – your phone, radio and general settings are all accessible from what looks like an iPad.

This touchscreen is great. There’s so much on it and it’s bright and clear. Unless you’re driving! You can’t change the music while zipping along the back roads without making friends with the ditch. To change any setting, you must stare at the screen and that means you’re not looking at the road. Not since Peugeot’s clever idea to put heating controls in a touchscreen have I felt so frustrated by technology.

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This isn’t Volvo’s fault – it’s what focus groups want. You drive this kind of car because you like touchscreens. It’s true of Peugeot, Tesla cars and we’ll see more this year in the new Volvo S90. The big problem with touchscreens is that there’s no feedback. You’ve no idea what you’ve just touched unless you look at it, take your eye off the road and risk your life.

Overall the Volvo XC90 is a handsome offering. It’s a bit heavy for the lower powered engines and some will miss the five cylinder versions. Those who would love it have bought a big car already and even if the Volvo was the best car on the market, the war is over and everybody’s gone home.

The XC90 is available to test at MotorPark Athlone right now