Volvo's Second-Generation XC90

It’s been a long time both in terms of years and corporate changes since the first XC90 was introduced in 2002. Now the company is almost reintroducing itself to the world with the second-generation vehicle, a vehicle that states Volvo is back like never before.

Volvo launched the first-generation XC90 sport utility vehicle (SUV) in 2002. It is launching the second-generation XC90 SUV now. Which, by any measure, is a long time. Of course, there have been a number of issues that the Swedish brand has had to contend with, not the least of which was its sale in 2010 by Ford to Zhejiang Geely Holdings.

But make no mistake: with this second-gen vehicle, this is a full-on Gothenburg execution.

Well, sort of.

You see, the XC90 is a global vehicle, the first to come off of the company’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). A vehicle that is meant for markets around the world. A vehicle that will undoubtedly spawn other Volvos.

So, Dr. Dennis Nobelius, Volvo vice president, Vehicle Line Management (he oversees the XC90, S80, S80L, V70, and XC70), says that they knew that if they determined what was necessary in developing a luxury SUV for the U.S. market and nailed it, they would have a successful global product. “We don’t make cars based on Gothenburg preferences.” They did customer research to develop the SUV, an SUV that Nobelius describes as a “Scandinavian sanctuary,” in . . . Los Angeles.

In addition to which, the chief designer, Interiors, at Volvo, Tisha Johnson, happens to be an Art Center graduate and a southern California girl, born and bred. (Her interests: surfing, motorcycling, bicycling, and yoga. Yes, raised in Orange County.) And if there is any-thing stunning about the XC90—and there are a lot of anythings in that regard—know that the interior exceeds expectations unlike, well, practically any other vehicle out there.

Case in point: The XC90 T8 Twin Engine. It is a hybrid. A hybrid with a powertrain that produces 400 hp (an 82-hp electric motor on the rear axle is combined with a 318-hp supercharged and turbocharged I4) and is expected to return 59 MPGe. It is the world’s first seven-seat plug-in hybrid. A hybrid with a ~25-mile all-electric range. An SUV hybrid that has a 0 to 62 mph rate of 5.9 seconds.

That is remarkable, yes. But not the thing that is really surprising.

Also surprising is the fact that this is a vehicle that has comparatively high levels of autonomous driving capability, as in its “Adaptive Cruise Control with Pilot Assist” that permits driving in stop-and-go conditions by automatically following the vehicle directly ahead; acceleration, braking and steering are all handled, at speeds up to 33 mph. Thomas Broberg, Volvo senior technical advisor, Safety, describes this as “a small and humble step,” but one that holds the promise of fully autonomous driving.

Again, surprising, but not really surprising.

Orrerfors is a glassworks established in Småland, Sweden in 1898. At the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, Volvo introduced a concept car, the Concept Estate, which included a gear shift lever that was Orrefors crystal. After all, it was a concept.

The XC90 T8 has an Orrefors crystal gearshift lever.

That’s really surprising.

That’s exceeding expectations.

This is a vehicle that really needs to be seen.

So let’s look at it.