Volvo Car Corp. on Tuesday unveiled its 2016 XC90, a luxury crossover three years in the making that will hit U.S. showrooms in the spring. The model is the Chinese-owned company’s prologue to a new era it hopes will reinvigorate the Swedish-made brand in the United States.
First introduced in 2002 as a departure from Volvo’s boxy design, this second-generation XC90 is “hard evidence of the ‘Volvo by Volvo’ strategy,” the Stockholm-based company says.
The “Volvo by Volvo” slogan is the company’s conscious effort to relay two messages to the world. One: The 2016 XC90 is the first Volvo to be free of Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) parts four years after Ford sold Volvo to China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. Ltd. at a $4.65 billion loss. Secondly, Volvo wants to allay concerns Geely has had anything to do with the engineering and design of the vehicle. Considering the poor reputation domestic Chinese automakers have, Volvo wants to preserve its autonomy, and so far Li Shufu, Geely’s billionaire founder and chairman, seems happy to oblige.
Volvo’s continued operational autonomy is likely to hinge on the success of the XC90 in China and the United States. If the luxury crossover sells well in both markets, Volvo will be under less pressure to craft a car to Geely’s specs, something that would raise development and operating costs amid an already expensive $11-billion, five-year transformation plan.
Central to Volvo’s transformation is its new Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) – a cost-efficient way to affix different drivetrains and body styles onto the same platform –that is partly a nod to Chinese expectations. Luxury car buyers in China prefer longer wheelbases for more ample back seat room and the SPA would allow Volvo to efficiently develop Chinese-specific models if the need arises.
Along with a new range of turbocharged four-cylinder Drive E engines with rear-wheel electric motor assist, Volvo says it’s committed to carrying on its safety first tradition. The company is showcasing a bevy of standard safety features in the 2016 XC90, including seat shock-absorbers that protect the spine from vertical impacts, seat belts that automatically tighten when the car detects it has accidentally veered off pavement onto rough terrain and a front-end pedestrian and cyclist detector with auto braking.
The 2016 XC90 specs:
Base price: $48,900.
Engine options: A 316-brake horsepower (bhp), turbo-charged and super-charged gasoline engine; a 222-bhp D5 diesel turbocharged engine; or a 390-bhp plug-in hybrid powertrain, which includes an electric engine to power the rear wheels. Wheels: 21-inch alloys with option to upgrade to 22 inches.
Interfaces: Tablet-like touchscreen dash control with an Ericsson navigation system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
Sound system: 1,400-watt amplifier, 19 speakers designed by Bowers & Wilkins.
Lights: LED headlights and daytime running lights.