What's new about the new Volvo XC90?
The Volvo XC90 now provides a telephonic concierge service to help you get through life. We answer your pressing questions about it
Hold the boat! Did Volvo fly you all the way to Cape Town to drive a "new" XC90 that's pretty much the same as the "old" XC90? I'm confused …
So was I. After scurrying through the halls of Cape Town International Airport (is it actually still called that?) I was met by a large premium SUV that to all intents and purposes looks no different to how I remember it. Luckily there was a helpful marketing man on duty in the underground car park who was ever so kind enough to point out the vehicle's sole new design feature: a concave radiator grille.
There are also new wheels and additional colours added to the paint palette. And that, I'm afraid, is where this aesthetic story comes to an end.
Weird. Tell me that they've at least made more of an effort on the inside?
Again, hoisting myself up into the "new" XC90 brought about a similar fog of déjà vu. "Is there anything fresh in here," I mumbled to my co-pilot, who was too busy with his smartphone to really notice, "Because if there is I'm failing to sniff it out."
Luckily the Marketing Man - now loitering around outside - sensed my obvious vexation and came to my assistance.
Apart from new décor inlays and the option of slate grey leather upholstery, the big deal here is the addition of something called Volvo On Call.
FAST FACTS: Volvo XC90 D5 R-Design
• ENGINE: 1,969cc twin-turbo 4cyl diesel
• POWER: 173kW at 4,000rpm
• TORQUE: 480Nm from 1,750 to 2,250rpm
• TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed auto
• 0-100KM/H: 7.8 seconds (claimed)
• TOP SPEED: 220km/h (claimed)
• FUEL: 5.7l/100km (claimed)
• PRICE: From R1,139,169
Standard on every new XC90 and operated by simply pressing a button situated in front of the rear-view mirror, Volvo On Call is basically a telephonic concierge service designed to help you about your day-to-day travels.
Press the button, get transferred to a call-centre agent and he or she can supply you everything from local restaurant recommendations right through to GPS co-ordinates that they'll beam through to the car's satellite navigation system. It's kind of like Siri but with a human touch - it'll even call the emergency services if it senses you've had an accident just in case you are incapacitated.
Volvo On Call also includes an App for your smartphone that allows you to do all manner of novel things that'll impress your friends. You can see where you last parked; check how much fuel and range you have left, precondition the climate control and even lock or unlock the doors. Not really my thing if I'm honest (I still prefer a key) but if you like tech for tech's sake then consider your basement flooded.
Finally, you can also order your XC90 with the brand's new six-seat configuration that gives you four individual rear seats. Not only does it look slick but it creates an illusion of there being even more space in what's already a very airy vehicle.
Scintillating. I'm guessing it is business as usual under the bonnet then?
Correct. Slip on your X-ray glasses and you'll see that Volvo is still implementing its ubiquitous 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that's available in various states of both tune and fuelling. In the XC90 you can choose from no less than three petrol versions (187kW T5, 235kW T6 and 300kW T8 Hybrid) and one diesel - the 173kW D5. Whatever derivative tickles your fancy all XC90 models come equipped with all-wheel-drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
Before I lose interest, which XC90 is your pick of the bunch?
So if I were in the market I would go for the D5 as it offers a good mix of frugality and easy, lowdown torque. Now while there's nothing wrong with the Momentum and Inscription trim lines, it's probably worth paying extra for the range-topping R-Design version that throws in sportier exterior styling, extra interior tinsel as well as Volvo Drive Mode Settings that lets you tweak the mapping of the engine, transmission, steering and (optional) air suspension.