Buying a vehicle is one of the major purchases we do in our lifetime second to buying a house. Considerations such as looks, fuel economy, and space are usually high on that list. Car marques know that they can make or break it if they don’t get this right and usually spend a lot of R&D resources on it. But what about safety?
With the slew of brands and new models coming in our shores, the majority of the local motoring public still does not seem to really care about a car’s spec sheet in terms of safety. We appear to be contented with the standard ABS, SRS systems, and Airbags. As long as the car looks great, doesn’t chug fuel down like a drunk, and can ferry the entire barangay around we are pretty happy. But for those who have experienced being in a major car accident, priorities suddenly change. And most, if not all, of the folks that I have talked to that have mention this one Swedish marque that made their bones around that one important variable – safety.
Queue in Volvo and the 2016 XC90 D5 AWD. Volvo Philippines confidently lent us this sophisticated bruiser over the weekend to see how it is like to live with it. Nothing like a habagat filled airing to see how it fairs right?
Table of Contents
The XC90 has that simple elegance that grows on you over time. One needs to be able to notice the details that they have incorporated in order for it to be fully appreciated, specially in this gloomy and wet weekend setting.
At first glance, it’s shape and body lines do not entice much emotion. The word that actually popped in my mind to best describe it was… vanilla. In a world where designers draw inspiration from aggressive mediums Volvo has clearly taken the opposite direction. No flaring arches, aggressive roof lines, or extreme pillar orientation. Why, you ask? Safety.
The entire front end of this SUV was designed to reduce pedestrian fatalities by placing the engine at a lower position and widening the internal structural components to allow it to “flex” in the event of any foot traffic collision. With this smart design Volvo was able to save weight and eliminate, ironically, their own groundbreaking technology – hoods that lift up and deploy ped-protecting airbags to soften a person’s landing.
That bland side profile also has a practical justification – Volvo engineers matched the side-impact performance of the front passenger cell area in the rear by using compliant solutions like thicker doors and a stronger C-pillar. This well thought out “vanilla” suddenly doesn’t so bad does it?
Where the designers were given a lot of creative free reign was with the execution of the XC90’s DRL system. Once you take a closer glance, you will see the intricate details that they have infused in it. It is even aptly called “Thor’s Hammer”. Coolest. DRL. Ever.
Stepping into the XC90 it’s clear that the interior is an exercise in Swedish minimalist design. Compared to its other rivals it isn’t overwhelming – even with it’s impressive 12.3 inch driver display and 8 inch infotainment unit.
The one aspect of this interior that you will evidently perceive is the fit and finish: from the consistent stitching of the 12-way power assisted front seats to the real brushed aluminum that flanks across the dashboard, everything in it screams premium quality.
Equipment and Tech
The D5’s laundry list of equipment is a lot. So much so that the brochure font size was set to 6 or 7!
I want to start by highlighting Volvo’s utilization of an infotainment system with Apple’s CarPlay installed. I have never seen any other local marque bring this in yet so huge kudos to them for opting on this system. Like any Apple device, the layout is simple and intuitive. What it lacks in certain functionality and customization it makes up for over-all experience. I never witnessed any system delays or “freezing” during the entire time I was connected. The only qualm I have on it is the version installed in our test unit did not support Waze yet.
One often overlooked equipment are the front seats. While having power seats aren’t really new, Volvo’s execution on it’s 12-way system is on par with seats that are made by bespoke brands because it also includes lumbar and leg support. For those who travel long distances this translates to reduced lower back and leg pain or discomfort. Huge comfort plus for Volvo!
A worthwhile mention for those who don’t know is that Volvo pretty much pioneered a lot of the safety equipment we have in our normal cars, specifically the seat belt pre-tensioner and load limiting system that’s often taken for granted. During our trek up north this became very apparent when a patch of road on the NLEX was being mended. This meant that there were unexpected undulations that one would not normally drive on which caused us to go airborne for a few milliseconds.
Any normal seat belt would just lock up during this scenario but Volvo’s system took it a step further by actually pulling its occupants back in the seat. I have never experienced this in any of the cars that I have driven so it was a very welcome surprise. I am hoping that this trickles down to entry level brands in the near future as I’m certain that it can save more lives in the event of an accident.
While I can go on about how amazing the XC90 D5 is, it also has it’s drawbacks. The test unit we drove did not have any rear back-up camera. It is an option that does not come as standard. For a car that has some of the world’s most advanced safety equipment I expected this not to have been ticked off.
Driving Experience and Performance
Sitting in the XC90 inclines you to focus on driving. It’s driver assisted safety measures, while still a bit annoying on EDSA gridlock traffic, is not overly intrusive compared to the other models that we have tested. The controls are very intuitive and will make you familiar with most of its bells and whistles in no time. You can even set some of its functions (front collision mitigation and proximity sensors) at the bare minimum sensitivity or completely turn it off (automatic start/stop, traction and stability control, etc.) if you choose to do so. I highly advise against doing the latter though.
The D5 model we tested did not have the renowned air suspension installed but we were able to sample the ultracompact multilink rear suspension during our traverse up north which was a treat. To those who are not familiar, the other vehicle that has a similar suspension system is the new Corvette Stingray! While it was not adjustable and a bit firm, specially with the 19 inch light alloy wheels shod in Pirellis, it inspired a whole lot of confidence in this AWD guise especially in the wet. Driving it is akin to those street specced rally cars that hug the road no matter the condition.
Volvo’s new 2.0 liter Diesel engine with it’s 8 speed transmission is also in a league of it’s own. Aside from being a very lively and responsive engine/drivetrain combo, it also very efficient.
During the entire weekend – 3 hour gridlock EDSA traffic because of the torrential habagat downpour, 300+ km trip to and from Subic, and the Monday morning grind coming back into the city we averaged about 17.2 km/L. That’s with semi spirited driving and AC on all the time.
When it comes to filling fuel, we noticed that it can pose some issues since the Euro spec safety filler cap cannot accommodate our rudimentary filler hoses. So you get a plastic funnel as an added tool to aid in this scenario. Not very safe.
As tested, the D5 AWD’s price tag is a hefty Php5,995,000. Now before you freak out, remember the segment in which this vehicle competes in. It is actually the cheapest, and I can proudly say safest, of the Euro SUV class locally. It’s next rival costs about Php400,000 more.
For all the advanced Swedish engineering that you get it is definitely worth every peso. Just remember to make sure to have that crucial back-up camera included when you purchase.
The Volvo XC90 D5 AWD is definitely a good choice for your first Euro spec’d SUV. It has good on road manners and is practical for everyday use. If safety is the top variable you are considering in your next car purchase look no further beyond the Volvo brand.
Any successful Doctor, Lawyer, or businessman will appreciate the added assurance baked in this Swedish engineering marvel. Unfortunately, while I consider safety as a huge consideration and I greatly enjoyed my short time with it, it isn’t for me.
Volvo marque synonymous with safety.
Laundry list of standard equipment.
“Thor’s Hammer” DRL
Infotainment unit has Apple CarPlay – local industry first.
Frugal Diesel with 8 speed mated to capable AWD system.
Elegant interior layout and premium materials used.
Price tag still doesn’t include back-up camera.
Vented seats only heated.
Fuel filling can be a hassle – especially if you lose that plastic funnel.
Firm suspension not for everyone.