Thursday, September 8, 2016

Volvo SUV is a complex, invigorating piece of work

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo reviews of the latest motor vehicle models also can be seen on The Sacramento Bee’s website at

A similar version of this review first appeared in the August 2016 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California I know what you’re thinking: How in the world does a 2016 Volvo sport-utility vehicle rate an AutoGlo review at a time of year when hot, new 2017 hardware is showing up on dealer lots?

Well, let’s start with this:  Of the hundreds upon hundreds of motor vehicles I have tested over many years, the 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design is arguably the most technologically complex auto that I’ve driven.

You know things are going to be different when the folks dropping off the XC90 start with: “Wait, we have to show you a few things about operating this SUV.”  Say what?

So, they explained.  How to start the vehicle.  What it can do.  How to operate the NASA-like central command system.

After a half hour or so of pushing buttons to snap open the glove compartment, drop the rear-seat headrests out of sight, maneuver the front passenger’s seat from my cockpit seat, activate the bird’s-eye 360-degree view created by four hidden cameras and utilize the FOUR-zone electronic climate control system, it was time to drive.

Well, the Volvo sort of let me drive it.  I say that because the vehicle is equipped with technology that lets it take over as needed. That includes a collision-avoidance system called “City Safety” (it can detect bicycles veering into the SUV’s path), an anti-rollover system, a “Road Sign Information” system with a front camera that can recognize signs and display those images on the speedometer or head-up digital display, automatic brake-activation to avoid that crash you’re about to have, a mind-blowing adaptive cruise control system that can be adjusted to numerous driving tastes and on and on and on …

The tested XC90 T8 R-Design is equipped with a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine that is both supercharged and turbo-boosted, and it’s mated to electric motors that throw another 87 horsepower onto the pile.  The whole package generates a max 400 horsepower and 472 foot-pounds of torque.

It also makes the Volvo sport-ute move like a scalded cat.  The tester blazed off the line from a standing start, and its freeway manners were downright sports car crazy.

I’d tell you that I burned rubber but – you guessed it – the tester had a system that balances torque perfectly, negating any premeditated burnout.

And oh, did I happen to mention that this hybrid system is a plug-in, complete with an easy-to-use charging cable to juice up the powerful on-board battery?  Strategic use of that will get you 53 miles per gallon.

If you opt for this SUV, you might want to read the owner’s manual for about 10 days before driving, because the center console command touchscreen has about a zillion options that might include sub-orbital spaceflight for all I know. On top of all this is an extensive luxury/convenience package that includes leather everything, 10-way power front seats with heat and power cushion extensions and opulent metal inlays.

The tester was likewise loaded with Scandinavian touches, including a small blue-and-yellow Swedish flag in the seat stitching, an Orrefors crystal gear shifter and daytime LED running lights in a T-pattern resembling the hammer of Thor.  I’m serious!

All this was wearing a sticker that read $82,405 on the bottom line, which I actually thought was reasonable given the engineering marvels of the machine.

I’m not sure if this XC90 T8 R-Design was my cup of tea (or yours), but it was incredibly fun to drive and packed with enough oomph to earn it a special AutoGlo run.

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