The new Volvo XC90: Wait for it [Updated]

Cancel that booking, this is the game changer you’ve been waiting for

The new Volvo XC90, exterior

[Update 3rd Dec 2015: Volvo Car Malaysia officially launched the XC90 T8 PHEV today with a price of RM453,888 (including GST, without insurance). This price applies to the initial batch of 100 units (all spoken for) which are fully imported from Sweden. CKD local assembly will begin in the third quarter of 2016 with prices expected to be slightly more attractive. The all-wheel-drive XC90 is only available in one variant – the top-of-the-line Inscription grade, so it comes with goodies such as 20-inch diamond cut alloys, Nappa leather interior, gear knob made of Orrefors crystal and 10-speaker premium audio. The XC90 comes with its own charging apparatus (stored in the trunk) that can be hooked up to a standard 3-pin socket, however, each home or office will first be inspected by Volvo-approved technicians for suitability. An optional charging wallbox made by Hager is available from RM8,480.00, including installation.]  

[Update July 2015: A visit to a Volvo dealership along with a potential purchaser has revealed the price of the CBU XC90 T8 PHEV to be RM460,000 (including GST, without insurance), at least according to the sales consultant in attendance. We were also told that the CBU units are expected to arrive by October this year, with local assembly to start in the second half of 2016. Still want that X5, M-Class, Q7 and Range Rover?]  

If you had recently made a booking for one of those large, pricey Anglo-Saxon SUVs, you might want to ask for a refund. In a few months’ time, Volvo Car Malaysia (VCM) will launch the long overdue replacement of the XC90 – the new-from-ground-up seven-seat SUV that went on sale in selected markets earlier in the year, the same one that’s raking up awards and accolades for fun. And oh boy, does VCM have something in store for Malaysia.

Like fellow Ford alumni Jaguar-Land Rover which has thrived under India’s Tata ownership after divorcing Big Blue, Volvo too has steadily recovered after China’s Geely acquired it in 2010 for USD$1.8 billion. From what was a near-death experience triggered by the Wall Street meltdown, Volvo is now primed for growth, aiming to renew its entire range by 2018 spearheaded by the new XC90 you see here.

The all-new Volvo XC90

What’s so special?

The all-new Volvo XC90 - SensusThe new XC90’s design remains a form follow function exercise – a study in the harmonious balance of minimalism and functionality, all presented tastefully. A Volvo is rarely ever an exhibitionist, there is nothing flashy about the XC90. Instead, subtle elements are used to define its character and origin, like the daytime running lights shaped after the hammer of Thor (association with Marvel comics is unfortunate). Next to XC90, some rivals might look as if they’ve slapped on too much make up.

The all-new Volvo XC90 - new steering wheelIt’s more of the same inside, the attention to detail is immaculate, the folds and choice of overlays are always complementary, and you can count all the buttons and switches with your fingers now that there’s a tablet-sized display to govern over every function, including your iPhone’s via Carplay. Less successful is the cream-hued steering wheel with a curious black outer rim, it looks like a throwback to the 70s when Abba ruled the vinyl charts in their bell bottoms and headbands, or was that Bjorn Borg? We’ll stick with black.

Anyway, the clutter-free and elegant cabin appears to be a place occupants can cover lots of miles and not tire of it, at least that’s what the press images suggest. Of course, the new XC90 has grown in size, Volvo claims a third row that’s able to accommodate two passengers who are of 170cm (or 5 feet 8 inches) in stature. Perfect for Asians then.

The all-new Volvo XC90 - charcoal interior styling, side view

The centre of attraction

You’ve probably read about the new XC90, maybe even heard that it will show up sometime this year, but to ensure that it blows away the competition (no need to be shy now), Volvo Car Malaysia has seen fit to offer only one powertrain, and that is the T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid system comprising a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct injection petrol engine, aided and abetted by an electric motor, with all-wheel drive as standard. Take a look at the stats below:

The connector for the all-new Volvo XC90 Twin Engine charge cable is located above the left front wheel arch.Petrol engine output: 320hp, 400Nm
Electric motor output: 80hp, 240Nm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 5.6 seconds
Top speed: 230km/h
Fuel efficiency EC combined: 47.6km/l (not a typo)
CO2 output: 49g/km

So yes, the XC90 coming to Malaysia will be a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), and while those manufacturer numbers are always optimistic, the big Volvo should easily be the least polluting and least thirsty in its class, if not one of the fastest.

What’s a PHEV again?

Think something along the lines of a hybrid such as the Toyota Prius, but with a battery pack large enough to power the vehicle on pure electricity on short trips, and able to receive charge from an external source such as a power socket in your porch (the plug-in part). In the case of the XC90 T8, its rated EV range of 40km is derived from a 9.2kWh lithium ion battery pack housed in the centre of the vehicle. It sends drive to rear wheels via a compact electric motor located over the rear axle. Forty kilometres might not sound like a lot, but your more-than-two-tonne SUV could conceivably emit zero emissions over nearby school runs and short trips, at least from the tail-pipe point of view, and that’s pretty cool.

The all-new Volvo XC90 Twin Engine is a plug-in electric car, hybrid car and high-performance car rolled into one. A two-litre, four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged Drive-E petrol engine powers the front wheels and an 80 hp (60 kW) electric motor drives the rear wheels. The battery pack is located in the centre of the vehicle.

This is the first PHEV SUV in Malaysia then?

Volvo XC90 ExcellenceThe title of the first PHEV launched in Malaysia belongs to the BMW i8, in fact, the XC90 won’t even be the first PHEV SUV because that honour belongs to the recently-introduced Porsche Cayenne S E Hybrid (starting at RM770,000). But unlike the two Germans, the new Volvo XC90 will be locally assembled (just like its predecessor) and from what we understand, it stands to reap tax breaks not only because it’s a CKD, but also as an “energy-efficient” hybrid that will be exported to another ASEAN country. Like Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Nissan and Toyota, Volvo is leveraging on the fact that it assembles CKD cars in Malaysia and if the XC90 turns out to be the success we think it will be, Volvo Car Malaysia will look back on its decision not to shut its assembly plant during those difficult years with quiet satisfaction.

How much and when?

The all-new Volvo XC90, which will be revealed later this year, will offer drivers one of the top audio systems available in the automotive world after engineers at the Swedish car company joined forces with their counterparts at the renowned British audio equipment company Bowers & Wilkins.In the words of a Volvo executive, the XC90 will be a “game changer”, and we might have to agree with that assertion.

A check with a Volvo dealer reveals an asking price of “below RM500,000” for the XC90 T8 PHEV. Since it’s a flagship SUV and that Volvo doesn’t compromise on safety, we expect a full suite of features that includes City Safety (to detect and respond to pedestrians and cyclists), Adaptive Cruise Control and Queue Assist (for stop-start conditions), premium B&W audio system and Park Pilot Assist.

The all-new Volvo XC90 - crystal gearknob and charcoal interior styling

If the above is realised, the flagship T8 model will outperform and out-spec the usual suspects including the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Audi Q7 and even the Land Rover Discovery or Range Rover Sport, by some margin. However, what is more interesting is the opportunity to offer a moderately spec-ed but affordably priced T8 PHEV variant with perhaps a starting price of under RM400,000. Lexus RX, watch your rear view mirrors.

We are also told that the XC90 will arrive late in the year, and that early adopters who place their bookings now will be able to choose from a range of exterior colours and interior trims, indicating that the initial vehicles will be in CBU form, followed by CKD units when production ramps up. Wait for it.

The new Volvo XC90 T6, exterior