First Drive: Volvo XC90

What’s this? Volvo are re-entering the Sri Lankan market?

Yes! in fact this is the first of four Volvos we were able to test out at a recent media drive event hosted by the newest agents: IWS.

Volvo has had somewhat of a rocky relationship with the Sri Lankan buying public. Despite consistently churning out some impressive machinery, the Swedes, so far, just haven’t been able to garner the following other European marques have. And that’s a shame, because Volvo have been known to translate their Scandinavian sensibilities into genuinely impressive machinery in the past.

But now they’re back, represented by a new sales team, and will soon be opening a dedicated sales and service centre. It’s going to be an uphill battle to re-position Volvo as a serious contender in the luxury car market, but from what we’ve seen so far, things are looking good!

OK, so what’s being tested here?

This is the XC90, and it’s the first car to be built on Volvo’s adaptable chassis platform, which will serve as the basis for each new model that is offered in the coming years. This means that the XC90 will provide an insight in to every model offered from Volvo, and although launched late last year, the XC90 will be the oldest model in the Volvo line up in four years’ time! Yep, it’s a massive shake-up for the Swedes, and it’s imperative that they’ve got the first example right.

The model we managed to get our hands on is the Petrol “T6” Inscription edition, featuring a 4 cylinder 2.0 litre engine and all-wheel drive.

Did you say a 2.0 litre engine? Surely that’s not enough to power such a massive car.

Ordinarily it wouldn’t be. But the T6 is both turbocharged and supercharged, which manages to push the 2.0 liter’s output to an impressive 320BHP. Volvo are moving away from big engines, and in fact all their models (both petrol and diesel) will be based around 2.0 litre engines in various states of tune, with some embracing the dark art of hybrid wizardry too. This strategy coincidently bodes well with the current tax structures in Sri Lanka, but more on that later.

Looks quite different for a Volvo…

Now free of Ford’s ownership, Volvo are going through a Chinese funded resurgence. The XC90, being the first spawn, also sports a brand new design language and family face referred to as the “Iron Mask”. Couple this with the “Thor’s Hammer” (actual name) Daytime running light design, and we’ve got ourselves an unmistakable and striking new look.

Step inside, and you’re greeted with an air of Swedish sophistication. Rich, nappa leather in our test car envelops you in the lap of luxury, whilst the seats can be contorted to any which way you so desire. It’s evident that Volvo haven’t succumbed to the trap of trying to imitate the German market leaders in any regard, including the interior; and thankfully the place where you spend most of your time is unique in a very comforting way.  

So how does the XC90 drive?

When behind the wheel of the XC90, the one overriding sentiment you feel is quite simply: refinement. The steering is feather light when it needs to be, and makes navigating through Colombo’s maze of three-wheelers and motorcycles an absolute breeze. You may be at the helm of a behemoth of a vehicle, but the XC90 has an uncanny way of making you feel as if you’re piloting a much smaller craft.

There is a sport mode, and you can opt to flick through the gears manually, but you get the distinct feeling that it’d rather shy away from any hooligan-like pedal-mashing. Not that the T6 lacks power. With 320bhp and 400Nm of Torque the XC90 does the 0-100 kmph sprint in a claimed 6.5 seconds. But it does so in such a cossetting manner that any notion of speed is lost in what can only be called a drama-less cabin: The XC90 manages to cocoon the occupants so well that speed and acceleration are less of a sensation. This of course is a feat in it’s self, but those looking for a more spirited driving experience may be disappointed.

And you can’t really test the latest Volvo without delving in to the most well known aspect of every modern Volvo: their reputation for building the safest cars in the market. As to be expected the XC90 comes with a plethora of intellisafe features including collision-avoidance technology and systems that brace the car and its occupants for impact should it detect that you’ve left the road or that a car approaching from behind isn’t going to stop in time.


The XC90 has a tough task: not only must it go toe to toe with some of the best SUV’s from Europe, it must also reposition Volvo as a renewed contender in the luxury car market. From our brief test, it certainly seems that they’ve managed to do both convincingly, and is no doubt one of the finest Luxury SUV’s available to buyers.

Competition is of course fierce, with buyers of luxury off roaders spoilt for choice. However, the model tested (T6 Petrol), with a whole host of bells and whistles has been introduced to the Sri Lankan market at 21 Million Sri Lankan Rupees (26 Million for the Diesel) upwards, the 2.0 litre configuration helping keep the price down. This manages to undercut the Volvo’s closest competitors by quite some margin, with the BMW X5 starting at 22.5 million, and the Audi Q7 3.0 Petrol at 26 Million. With the Mercedes GLE Diesel and Range Rover Sport retailing for 29 and 32 million respectively, the XC90 becomes an attractive proposition.

Sadly, depreciation will always be a factor, and it’s yet to be seen how Volvo’s residual value will stack up against the competition. But if you’re prepared to leave that aside, the Volvo XC90 is definitely a force to be reckoned with. The chock-full spec list, coupled with a relatively low purchase cost makes it one of the most interesting and attractive luxury SUVs on offer today!  


Words: Sam Smith

Pictures: Volvo/Volvo Sri Lanka