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2012 Volvo XC90 Overview
The Volvo XC90 will return in a Base and sportier R-Design trim for 2012. If you are looking for a V8 version of Volvo’s 7-seat XC90 this year, however, you’ll be disappointed. The midsize luxury crossover SUV has discontinued its bigger engine in favor of a single 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder offering. The 3.2-liter is matched to a 6-speed “Geartronic” automatic transmission that allows for driver manual shifting. The 6-cylinder system can generate 240 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, with fuel economy estimates of 16 mpg city/22 highway for both the standard front wheel drive (FWD) and available all-wheel drive (AWD). The AWD option, available for any of the XC90s, comes with Instant Traction, using a Haldex system to shift torque to the rear axle as needed (e.g., when taking off on a wintry surface). Volvo clocks the 3.2-liter at 8.7 seconds for a 0-60 mph time, with a stopping distance (from 62 mph) of 138 ft.
Other changes for 2012’s XC90 include the addition of audio streaming to the standard Bluetooth hands-free phone interface. More significant, however, is the conception of what Volvo calls its new trim-level strategy—deleting the Multimedia and Dynamic packages and adding the Premier Plus and Platinum packages. Premier Plus includes a grocery bag holder, compass for the rear-view mirror and HomeLink garage door opener. The base XC90 3.2-liter also gains active dual xenon headlights (now standard in the R-Design) and a Classic Walnut wood gear shift knob. The Platinum package adds all of the Premier Plus features, as well as the Volvo Premium sound system and a GPS navigation system with rear park assist camera.
In addition to the new options packages, the Climate package will carry forward for both trims this year, bundling heated front seats, headlight washers, rain sensing windshield wipers and an interior air quality system designed to block detected carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone and nitrogen dioxide. Individual add-ons include a blind-spot information system with power-folding outside mirrors as well as a dual rear seat entertainment system for playing DVDs (although an auxilliary jack also makes it possible to play games).
The R-Design XC90 will again distinguish itself from the base 3.2 with a sport-tuned chassis, steering and stability function. The R-Design’s suspension provides firmer shocks and stiffer stabilizer bars to the front and rear. Servotronic power steering adjusts the amount of assistance given to the driver depending on speed, with firmer steering on the highway and lighter, easier steering at slower speeds. While all XC90s come equipped with front fog lights, aluminum roof rails, a power moonroof and power-adjustable heated exterior rear-view mirror, the R-Design does offer trim-specific exterior details, such as 20-inch chrome wheels (the base offers 18-inchers), chrome tailpipe and grille. Inside, the R-Design includes aluminum inlays, blue-faced instruments, sport leather steering wheel and R-Design floor mats and leather upholstery.
Otherwise, the R-Design and base 3.2 offer similar features, with a cargo capacity of 85.1 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats folded (43.3 with the third row folded and 8.8 with all seats upright). In addition to the dual-zone electronic climate control, the third-row seating gets its own manual air conditioning controls. Standard audio and cruise controls are integrated into the leather steering wheel. The driver’s seat comes with 8-way power adjustment and 3-position memory (8-way power-adjustable passenger seat). The second row is also adjustable front and back, with the outboard seats able to move up to 100mm, according to Volvo, and the center seat able to move forward about three times farther, bringing a child in the integrated booster cushion closer to the adults in the front. However, the third row is not for the larger members of the family, and even Volvo notes that it can accommodate up to two passengers of up to 63 inches in height (about 5.25 feet).
Each trim also comes with Bluetooth—now outfitted with streaming audio functionality—and a 6-month subscription to Sirius satellite radio. Although the audio can be upgraded to a Dolby ProLogic II surround sound system with 12 loudspeakers in the Platinum package, the standard high-performance audio system includes an MP3- and WMA-compatible CD player, amplifier, 8 speakers, HD radio and both an Aux input and USB port.
Safety is consistently a Volvo strong point, and the 2012 XC90 comes fully equipped with a whiplash protection system for the front seats, dual-stage airbags, front side airbags and an inflatable curtain to protect the front and side outboard positioned passengers. The rollover protection system uses a gyroscope to monitor the vehicle’s lean, activating the seatbelt pretensioners and inflatable curtains as needed. A Side-Impact Protection System (SIPS) includes a steel framework designed to shift the impact of a side crash away from the interior of the car’s cabin. Each XC90 also includes roll stability control, which cuts engine power or brakes wheels to regain the car’s balance. Antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and electronic brake assist are also standard features for the 2012 XC 90. Although the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet tested the 2012 XC 90, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has already given both the AWD and FWD XC90 high marks, with 4 out of 5 stars in the rollover category.
Early reviews admire the stylish interior of the Volvo XC90, as well as its firm ride and numerous safety features. However, the weight of the XC90 affects acceleration and steering response. Additionally, while the front offers comfortable seating, one review notes that the flat seats may cause some lateral sliding if the driver takes a corner too quickly. The rear two rows are not for the faint of heart, with the second row reportedly offering adequate space for 2 adults (not three) and the rear remaining essentially a child-only zone. Nonetheless, for families looking for safety, quality and a competitive price (when the new packages stay in the factory), the Volvo XC90 will likely merit a look.
by Jessica McCombe
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