Why The Volvo XC SUV Range Can Challenge The Market Leaders

Opinion

Is Volvo building the best SUVs on the market right now?

Volvo has been through some big changes in recent years and during this time has revitalized its range of sedans and wagons. It has also been bolstering and improving its SUV range to enable it to challenge the market leaders across the board. The second-generation XC90 ushered in a new era for the brand when it arrived in 2014. The somewhat safe and staid styling design of the first-gen car had been replaced by a modern Scandinavian minimalism that was a refreshing change from the more somber German offerings.

Gone too were most of the old powerplants, replaced by state-of-the-art 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines in an attempt to maximize efficiency levels. For example, unlike the competition, the top-line model makes use of hybrid technology and both turbo and supercharging instead of a big V8. The attention to detail can be experienced in the engineering that has been put into ensuring that all these complex systems work together in unison.

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Volvo XC90

The base Momentum trim comes rather well equipped too and has more standard features than similarly priced European alternatives. It also has a comprehensive list of standard safety features, just like you would expect from Volvo. For your $46,900 you get as standard rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, collision mitigation both front and rear, adaptive cruise control and Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous driving mode. The base T5 engine offers up 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, and the front-wheel-drive version averages 29 mpg on the highway.

The T6 adds a supercharger into the mix and boosts power levels up to 316-hp and 295 lb-ft. This added grunt is welcome as the XC90 is no lightweight. BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz all use large capacity 6 or 8-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engines for their 400-hp SUVs but Volvo has resolutely stuck to its guns and retained the efficient 2.0-liter motor as found in the T6. To achieve the additional power, it adds an 87-hp electric motor which results in a combined output of 400-hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. The claimed highway consumption figure for this engine is a very impressive 27 mpg. 0-60 mph is over in a little over 5-seconds, right in the sporty SUV ballpark.

The more common trim offerings top out at the luxurious Inscription level, this version can be had with the two more powerful engine options and packs the interior with upgraded leather seats with heating and ventilation for the front row, illuminated step plates, unique alloys and an updated infotainment system. At $59,450, even this trim is good value compared to more established rivals. As a comparison, a base rear-wheel drive X5 sDrive35i starts at $57,200. Volvo also has an option for those more accustomed to the luxurious interiors of Range Rovers and Bentleys than German SUVs, it is called the T8 Excellence and this trim foregoes the 7-seater configuration in favor of two ultra-luxury rear seats.

These second-row captain’s chairs offer multiple power adjustments, footrests, folding trays and heating, ventilation and massaging functions too. The extended leather upholstery, adaptive air suspension and superb Bowers & Wilkins audio system further add to the refinement and cosseting luxury levels. The value proposition is somewhat eroded here but the T8 Excellence is aimed at the upper echelons of the SUV segment, hence the $104,900 sticker price. A 518-hp V8 Range Rover weighs in at $108,895. While a very impressive machine, the Volvo has it beat when it comes to the rear passenger experience.

Volvo XC60

The flagship XC90 is impressive but the larger sales volumes happen lower down the price range and the all-new XC60 is well positioned to steal a lot of sales away from the established leaders. The old car looked good but with its underpinnings based on the Land Rover Freelander it was not quite up to the task of challenging rivals like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 in driving dynamics. The second-generation model introduced in late 2017 changed all that, it now features the same slick interior and exterior design language as its bigger XC90 stablemate.

The mechanical bits are shared with this model so the same range of impressive engines can be had here too. The lighter body shell also benefits the economy and performance figures. The 0-60 mph time in the hybrid T8 takes a mere 4.9 seconds. Trim levels mirror that of the XC90 too, features such as a large 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, full active and passive safety systems and available adaptive air suspension help raise the XC60’s game to compete with the best in class. Prices start at $41,500 for the Momentum trim rising to $45,300 for the Inscription trim with the base 250-hp engine.

The pick of the range though is the 316-hp mid-range option and this in Momentum trim is a very competitive $44,900. Although the ultimate Excellence trim is not offered in this package, in its stead is a Luxury Seat package available solely on the top Inscription trim offering. It adds premium leather and upgraded front seats that include heating, ventilation and massaging. The rears however have to make do with a heating function. The latest BMW X3 and existing Jaguar F-Pace and Alfa Romeo Stelvio are strong contenders in this cut-throat segment but the XC60’s superb styling and high safety levels see it match up well to them and while it may not be the top choice in dynamic terms, the beautiful interior and efficiency levels are very impressive.

The XC40 is an all-new subcompact luxury model and is a fresh entrant for 2018 in the U.S. The sole engine offered at the moment is the 248-hp (strangely offering 2-hp less than in the rest of the range) 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four. It provides strong acceleration in the AWD XC40 and the 0-60 mph benchmark time is completed in a very competitive 6.1-seconds. That’s enough to see off the BMW X1 sDrive28i and just about any similarly priced rival.

Either the Momentum or sporty R-Design trim can be specified and despite its entry-level status the standard equipment includes rear park assist camera, oncoming lane mitigation and lane keeping safety systems, leather interior with power driver seat and that expansive 12.3-inch infotainment screen. There is also a unique ownership experience option for the XC40 called Care by Volvo, you essentially pay one flat monthly fee which covers all costs and simplifies the traditional leasing/buying experience.

It is clear that the future for Volvo lies in ever more efficient powertrains and intelligent design and ownership solutions. Another example of this approach is Volvo’s intention to make every single model in their range either fully electric or a hybrid by the 2019 model year. Such forward thinking already shows in the current range and the XC SUV offerings in particular are a refreshing alternative to the usual suspects. If impeccable style and top-tier safety is high on your list of priorities then the latest Volvo SUV range is definitely worth serious consideration.

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