Work hard, play hard with the XC90
Early this month, Volvo Philippines invited several motoring writers to Subic Bay in Zambales to promote the all-new XC90. However, unlike the usual motoring events, which include test drives of the new vehicles, there was none of that sort in the event. This time, Volvo wanted the motoring media to experience first hand the lifestyle of Volvo owners: what they do after driving their Volvos.
Volvo’s invite called for an exclusive “luxurious maritime experience” featuring the XC90. Initially, we thought it would be the usual sunset cruise around Subic bay after driving the XC90 from Manila to Zambales. Much to our surprise, we were ferried to Subic aboard its little cousin, the XC60. The sport utility vehicle was a tad smaller than Volvo’s flagship XC90, but it still provided most of the luxuriousness of the bigger SUV.
Once we got to Subic, we were dropped off at the well-appointed Lighthouse Marina Resort where Volvo’s marketing team headed by Chris Yu and Paolo Ella checked us in.
After settling in, Chris briefed us on the new features of the XC90. First, Chris explained how the Swedes define luxury: Luxury is when everything is on time and everything just works – you don’t have things that hinder progress. Luxury doesn’t have to feel opulent or ostentatious; but it feels like everything works.
During the briefing, Chris explained how the all-new XC90 symbolizes Swedish luxury: “For us, luxury is not having the most leather or the plushest seats, it is having ergonomically and orthopedically designed seats. They’re not the thickest in cushions, they’re not the broadest in size but they make you feel that they’re meant just for you. That is our definition of luxury.”
Chris cited for example the all-new XC90’s award-winning center console. He explained how Volvo remains minimalists in its designs, keeping it simple but very effective. “We don’t add buttons to clutter the center console, we minimize the buttons to make it easier for drivers to concentrate on driving.”
Chris added that good design is a way of life in Sweden. “It is not an option and an accessory. Design isn’t an after thought. Cars are designed from the ground up to be ergonomic, to be efficient, to embody quality.”
“With the all-new XC90, we redefined the luxury SUV. In Sweden, we find clean and elegant solutions to complex problems. Our job isn’t to overwhelm clients with more features that they can digest. Our job is to make sure that our car serves our clients and addresses their concerns, in a way that they can understand. They’re not supposed to have to learn how to operate the car; the car should adapt around them,” he added.
Volvo is known for its conservative designs. But now that the company is turning 90 years old, Volvo has decided to be more aggressive and leave the conservative, understated layout behind. It is ready to show its true colors and flaunt that it can actually create excellent designs to compete head on with other luxury car makers. Proof to this is the all-new XC90, which now looks much bolder. Although the XC90 is very much recognizable as a Volvo, the lines are more fluidic that makes it look smaller than it actually is (it actually is a seven-seater). Up front, the daylight running lights (DRL) are shaped like Thor’s hammer, which gives the XC90 more character.
Inside is where most of the luxurious features can be found. Having full leather interior is an understatement. The seats, even for big passengers, are very comfortable. Also wrapped in leather, the side moldings blend perfectly well with the textured metal and wood inserts. The nine-inch touchscreen in the center dash are very intuitive and are controlled like a regular tablet.
“This is the most luxurious interior ever designed for a Volvo,” Chris said. “Proudly the most striking thing about it is the center touchscreen, which is really meant to minimize the clutter of the dashboard. Our competitors have 20 plus buttons in the middle; we have five. Everything else is controlled with the center touchscreen.”
“We’ve also worked on little details. We have diamond cut knobs in our interior. Although they’re not the most bold, these intricate touches add that sense of flare that the owners appreciate. What spells the difference between a luxury product and a mainstream product is normally not the shape or the size, it’s the details. It’s the fit and finish. It’s where Volvo really focused a lot of attention in the XC90,” he added.
Also inside the XC90 cabin, Volvo partnered with audio experts Bowers & Wilkins to fine tune the audio system so it can replicate the sound from the Gothenburg Concert Hall. Engineers took 800 individual measurements to most faithfully reflect the purest possible sound.
Volvo has always been at the forefront of car safety. Fact to this is the company being pioneers in the use of safety equipment such as the laminated windshield, three-point safety belts and so on. Most cars nowadays use safety technologies developed and pioneered by Volvo. In fact, one can see a little bit of Volvo is just about any car running on the streets of the world.
As expected, the XC90 has all these safety features, and then some.
Included in the XC90’s list of safety features is the 360˚ camera, which provides a bird’s eye view of the car’s surroundings to make parking and low-speed maneuvering mush easier. There’s also the Park Assist Pilot. It is like having your own valet to park your car for you. Meanwhile, the Pilot Assist automatically maintains a set speed or distance to the car in front, as well as giving gentle steering inputs to keep the driver properly aligned within the lane markings. The City Safety collision avoidance technology also helps avoid or mitigate collisions with other cars, pedestrians and cyclists in your path. City Safety also includes Braking in Intersection – another world-first from Volvo Cars. If a drive should turn into the path of an oncoming car at an intersection, the XC90 will brake automatically to help mitigate a collision or prevent it altogether. Other safety features included are Road Sign Information, Lane Departure Warning and Electronic Stability Control.
Drive E powerplants
Volvo has vowed to stop the production of six- and eight-cylinder engines, and instead develop smaller but more powerful and fuel efficient four- and three-cylinder power plants.
The XC90 is powered by the petrol-fed T6 engine that cranks up a maximum power output of 320 horsepower. There is also a diesel option that comes in the form of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder twin turbo with 225 hp and 470 Newton-meters of torque. Both are mated to an eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission and come with all-wheel-drive.
According to Chris, the whole point of Drive E is to give low emissions and very good fuel efficiency without compromising power and torque. “We are the only brand that has a purely four-cylinder line-up. If you can get 400 hp from a four-cylinder, why bother with a six- or eight-cylinder?”
After all the talk about the XC90, it was time for us experience, even for a day, the life of a Volvo owner. Yes, sometimes we do get to experience the wining and dining of the more privileged few, but to experience first hand how they play is another thing. In a one-hour briefing, two expert yachtsmen taught us, the motoring media, the ins and outs of sailing. But in that one-hour, all the terms the instructors were teaching made us all feel like First Grade students being taught Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. We were thrown heavy terms like “tacking,” “jibing,” “boom,” “halyard,” “bow,” “aft” and those sorts. It felt so alien for guys who normally talk about “torque steer,” “belt line,” “brake bias,” “blipping the throttle,” and “heel and toe.”
When the briefing was done, all of us donned the new boat shoes and rash guards that Volvo provided us, but were still very much clueless on what to do. Our group was split into two, and were tasked to race around Subic Bay onboard the two 30-foot yachts.
Good thing one of the yachtsmen accompanied us on the boat and instructed us on everything we had to do to make the boat move and ride with the wind.
This was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had. The weather was great for sailing, windy and not too hot. It was also enjoyable to share the experience with my colleagues who took turns in the boat duties. Our instructor was very competent and very patient when we made mistakes.
Sailing is both a very exciting and rewarding experience. It does that takes a lot of work and energy but surely does relieve stress and take one’s mind about the pressures of daily life. Now I fully understand why people who work hard, play hard.