2017 Volvo XC90 R-Design: Beauty Knows No Bounds

The 2017 Volvo XC90 is the kind of truck that will turn heads wherever it goes. From the supermarket parking lot to the downtown core, the XC90’s unique and beautiful lines stand out like no other vehicle.

It was a long time coming too. After twelve long years of the first generation XC90 being on the shelf Volvo revealed the fully re-designed XC-90 to much fanfare (including my own) in August 2014. Volvo had given us some idea of the new look a few months before with the reveal of a concept called the XC Coupe and the SUV followed similar design language.

This particular model shown here is the R Design trim which adds a little extra flair to the look and finishing. R-Design models feature include a number of distinguishing details, such as the unique front grille, lower front spoiler, window surrounds in silk metal, an R-Design dual tailpipe surround, integrated bright roof rails and mirror covers in matte silver. 20-inch or optional 22-inch R-Design alloy wheels complete the look. Every time I parked it and walked away from the vehicle I felt I had to turn around and admire the beauty.

Volvo’s heavy investments in research and development have paid dividends as well. The new powertrains impress me every time I write about them. Volvo calls its new architecture Drive-E and all power plants are now based on a 2.0-litre four cylinder engine. They’ve managed to make those two litres a long way so don’t get discouraged at the size of the motor. The T5 model features turbocharging only and is rated at 240 horsepower with 256 lb-ft of torque. Moving up the chain we find the T6 which is still turbocharged but is also supercharged at the same time (every time I write this fact I’m still impressed). Power output is 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The top of the line power plant is called the T8 which is a plug-in hybrid making 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. In this configuration, the driveshaft is removed to make way for the battery pack feeding the 80 horsepower electric motor driving the rear wheels.

The power in this T6 R-Design is more than enough to satisfy almost anyone. You will notice the distinctive sound of the four-cylinder but who really cares when you’re humming along and saving hundreds of bucks on the yearly fuel bill. You’ll average around 11 L /100 km and that’s pretty good for a large SUV.

Moving on to the interior, the sport seats and perforated leather steering wheel are accompanied by special R-Design details, such as gearshift knob, pedals, floor mats and illuminated thread plates. The driver also gets an exclusive R-Design leather key remote control. Seat comfort is nothing short of spectacular and will rival your living room La-Z-Boy recliner. It remains one of the most comfortable rides I’ve ever experienced.

It’s not all good news, however, as Volvo has chosen the touchscreen interface for many functions and eliminated the presence of as physical buttons whenever possible. In particular the climate controls require as least two taps on the screen in order to manipulate which is something I don’t find acceptable. Climate is something that I tend to adjust very often and having to take my eyes off the road to tap a screen is not only frustrating but also unsafe. Furthermore the climate temperature control is seemingly always on auto meaning you set the temperature and the fan is adjusted accordingly. If I just want to blast hot or cold air, the auto function often gets in the way. Now it’s possible I may have missed something but after testing three Volvos for three weeks I still couldn’t get a manual fan setting. Volvo offers an hours-long course on their infotainment system but this shouldn’t ever be necessary in a vehicle. I did slowly start to the get used to the system but it’s definitely something that I would have to think long and hard about prior to purchase.

The Bower & Wilkins sound system is unlike anything I’ve heard before. Sound clarity is simply phenomenal thanks in part to the open-air subwoofer and dashboard tweeter. Even AM radio sounds great and that’s nearly impossible to do.

The XC90 is also reasonably priced compared to, say, the Ranger Rover Sport, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE. Starting at $56,200 it rings in at least $10,000 less than the starting prices of any of those competitors. At $66,500 for the R-Design it’s already nicely equipped at the base prices of the competition. It’s also the nicest-looking out of all them in my humble opinion.

Volvo is carving a path for itself in every market it’s competing in at the moment. The recent releases of the XC60 compact crossover and XC40 subcompact crossovers are going to cause even more issues for its competition. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.