Market size dictates. And in terms of automotive market size, the United States reigns supreme. I point this out to lay the blame on the Americans for the oversupply of SUVs today. Because the Yanks are crazy about sport utilities, even BMW and Cadillac now make them. In 2002, two popular carmakers came out with the very first sport-utes in their history: Porsche with the Cayenne and Volvo with the XC90.
Since it was these carmakers' first attempt at making SUVs, you'd think the resulting outcome would suck big-time. But this isn't necessarily so, especially in the case of the XC90. From the get-go, this vehicle got unanimous praises from all around the globe. In 2003, it was voted ‘Truck of the Year' in North America and ‘Best 4x4 Vehicle' by Top Gear magazine.
Six years after the XC90's launch, I found myself behind the wheel of a diesel-powered unit. Word is out that we shall have the current version until 2012.
As I took command of the tall cockpit, I did not smirk like I might inside a new vehicle that is already an improved version of its predecessor. That's because I knew that the XC90 wasn't an exercise in trial-and-error--that Volvo had gotten it right the first time.
Because this first-gen XC90 is already six years old, nothing about its exterior styling wows you anymore. On the road, it looks as familiar as the Volvo logo itself. Yet, to its designers' credit, it still looks somewhat fresh, even more modern than some of the latest premium SUVs these days.
The XC90 D5 is, of course, a diesel unit, pulled by a 2.4-liter five-cylinder turbocharged oil burner. Power delivery is sort of underwhelming. But you almost expect that from a massive 2,054kg vehicle that's hauled by just 185 horses. I don't know if it's the six-speed automatic transmission that's to blame--gear shifts are not very fluid--but the overall engine feel and performance are not as smooth and snappy as a diesel BMW X5's.
Fuel consumption seems pretty okay. We drove this for seven days and still had less than a fourth left of the 68-liter fuel tank when we handed the keys back to Viking Cars. My house is in Parañaque and my office is in Ortigas Center. Add to this the side trips I take on an almost nightly basis and it's safe to declare that the XC90 D5 is not in any way a gas-guzzler.
The bottom line is that this is not a driver's car. This is a family vehicle. Especially when you take into account its heaviness and sheer size. You do get that very sensation you're inside a colossal vessel. Which is good in the sense that you're somehow assured you're wrapped in safety. Enhancing this feeling are ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assistance; front and side airbags; inflatable curtains; whiplash protection; traction control; rollover protection; and roll stability control. Whew! They might have to fire a missile at this thing before you suffer any injuries.
If you're single and you're the one driving, you can drop the XC90 D5 from your car list right now. If you have a family and they mean more than the world to you, look no further.
Source: Top Gear Philippines, June 2008