It’s official: after months of speculation and rumours, Volvo has finally unveiled the second-generation XC90 SUV — the first Volvo SUV to be offered with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain option and the first car in the world to feature two new safety technologies designed to make driving safer than ever before.
In production since 2002 with a mid-cycle refresh in 2007, the first generation Volvo XC90 ended production at Volvo’s Torslanda factory earlier this summer to make way for the all-new second-generation car. While the second-generation 2015 XC90 will be produced in the same factory as the first-generation model however, there’s little else to join the two cars together.
That’s because the 2015 XC90 is the first Volvo to be built on Volvo’s all-new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform, a new design which has not only been built with energy saving in mind but versatility of drivetrains and improved safety.
Less boxy than its predecessor, the 2015 XC90 wears an updated version of the classic Volvo Logo on its narrower, taller front grille. The grill itself — which uses vertical bars rather than the grid-pattern found on its predecessor, gives the XC90 the more aggressive look found in the various concept cars Volvo has debuted at various auto shows over the past few months. In addition, the striking new T-shaped daytime running lights — which Volvo likes to call “Thor’s Hammer” lights — give the XC90 an unmistakably premium feel, while a choice of wheels — up to a massive 22 inches in diameter — give the new SUV a more commanding stance on the road compared to its predecessor.
Under the hood, there’s a choice of different engine options, all of which come from Volvo’s all-new Drive-E engine family. Lighter and more fuel efficient than previous Volvo engines, they have been designed to work in tandem with electric motors to give Volvo as diverse a set of drivetrain options as possible.
The top-spec XC90 T8 for example, combines a two-litre, four-cylinder supercharged, turbocharged gasoline engine with a powerful electric motor, making it capable of both all-electric and hybrid operation.
While Volvo isn’t ready to unveil the specs of the electric motor or the range of the XC90, we’d guess it will be somewhere near that of the Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid already on sale in Europe. With a four-wheel drive through-the hybrid drivetrain similar to that found in the XC90, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid manages between 20 and 30 miles in electric-only mode, so expect something similar for the XC90 T8.
It isn’t just the plug-in capabilities of the XC90 T8 which make the XC90 an interesting evolved form of transport, however. In keeping with its founding principals of making the safest cars it can, Volvo is introducing two new advanced assistance technologies on the XC90 which it says makes the XC90 one of the safest cars on the road.
For a start, each and every XC90 will come with something called “Run-off road protection,” something which Volvo says will actively help prevent accidents where a car drifts off the road due to driver fatigue, distraction or poor weather.
The system works in a similar way to the lane departure warning systems already found on many cars, but instead watches for the edge of the road. If it detects the car is going off-road for whatever reason, the car automatically applies extra steering torque to keep itself on the road, sounds an internal alarm to alert the driver and occupants, and tightens the front seat belts to keep keep the occupants in the best possible position in case of collision.
Volvo’s second world-first safety technology involves an automatic braking system which turns on if a driver turns in front of an oncoming car. Designed to prevent intersection crashes, the system automatically activates if it detects that it is about to cross the path of an oncoming vehicle.
Volvo says it will release full specifications in the coming months following the XC90’s official premiere at the Paris Motor Show this fall, along with pricing for the entire range. So far, the only price Volvo has given is that of the D5 AWD Momentum model, which will go on sale in the UK this October for £45,000 ($74,600). Given the T8 plug-in hybrid is the range-topping model, we should probably warn you that this means the high-end plug-in won’t be cheap and may even end up in Tesla Model X territory.
With the Model X slated to give a range of more than 250 miles per charge with an 85 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack on board, not to mention Supercharging as standard and seating for seven adults, it’s possible Volvo will have a particularly tough time trying to sell its seven-seat XC90 for a similar price.
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