wheels Car of the Year 2016: Best Premium SUV - Volvo XC90

It keeps pace with the big boys from Germany in every aspect and then trounces them on price
By Dejan Jovanovic, Features Writer
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November 07, 2016
Source: Malek Fayoumi

Totally against wheels tradition, this year is the first out of seven times we’ve done this on the trot that all the drivers are huddled freezing in front of wheels HQ on time. We could call it bright and early, except that it’s more plausibly pitch black and late depending on your point of view. Half past five it is though, and also for the first time there is very little arguing over keys — almost everyone gets what they want to start the day with, and certainly Tim isn’t moody about ending up with a McLaren, nor is Kinan moaning about his C 63.

So the first leg is an initiation run just to see if we are even capable of staying in a somewhat orderly convoy and not getting completely lost on a dead straight run from Safa Park to the chosen Emarat 37.3km down south. Again, you’d be surprised…

98 Octane, McMuffins, and the first of what’s likely to be many coffees of the day go down, but the weak machine stuff doesn’t have the desired effect — when you’ve got seven or eight V8s on call it’s absolutely impossible to stop a bunch of grown men from acting like children, and the other punters don’t seem to mind the chorus of revs echoing under the petrol station’s enveloping roof.

It’s never too early for immaturity, and Sony seems to be the only one with a rational head on his shoulders (I note this while revving the bolts off a 1.5-litre Mazda) as he jumps into the sense and sensibility of a Volvo to shut himself off from the juvenile idiots. The Volvo is a vault, and it makes no excuses for its styling. In a rare collective opinion shared by all the judges this box on wheels actually looks good — it’s kind of hilarious how so many other premium manufacturers try to dress up their SUVs with coerced surface treatments. Volvo, smartly, worried only about proportions, fit and finish, and national character — the XC90 looks as Swedish as pickled herring.

And it’s our Best Premium SUV of the year, despite a humble air of modesty about it. Leaving aside the fancy crystal gear lever and stuff… “Look here,” notes Sony, pointing at the Since 1959 engraving on the Volvo’s seat-belt clasp. “Other expensive SUVs want you to know that they are the fastest, quickest, or downright most expensive.” Volvo just wants to remind you that it invented seat belts, not even bothering with a patent for what’s arguably the most significant automotive-related invention of all time, in order to better the entire industry, and not just its own chances of success. That kind of selflessness still fairly describes Volvo, a company that is, however unfathomably, committed to death-proofing its cars by 2020.

The XC90, the first all-Volvo Volvo since the gloomy Ford days, is the first step towards achieving that ridiculous goal, sitting on the company’s all-new modular architecture that’s the result of a Dh38 billion investment. It’s not merely a car, but a statement of intent. It keeps pace with the big boys from Germany in every aspect and then trounces them on price. Boy, the Swedes sure can build a sensible car…

Specs

Model:XC90

Engine:2.0-litre four-cyl supercharged and turbocharged

Transmission:Eight-speed auto, AWD

Max power:316bhp @ 5,700rpm

Max torque:400Nm @ 2,220rpm

Top speed:230kph

0-100kph:6.5sec

Length:4,950mm

Width:2,008mm

Height:1,776mm

Wheelbase:2,984mm

Weight:2,166kg