2005 Volvo XC90
Easily the largest vehicle from the Ford-owned Swedish carmaker, the 2005 Volvo XC90 doesn't sacrifice control and safety for speed and comfort but does come up short on providing the digital gadgets that can help out on the road. With the industry's first technology for preventing dangerous rollovers, the XC90 always feels safe and secure, with all-wheel drive that grabs the road while the V-8 engine pours on the power. It all adds up to a large vehicle that is versatile and surprisingly fun to drive, as well as faster, quieter, and larger than the less-expensive Chrysler Pacifica. Unfortunately, the model we looked at lacked GPS navigation, satellite radio, a DVD player, and a way to connect a cell phone or MP3 player, options we think should be on every car.
The 2005 Volvo XC90 with a V-8 engine has a base price of $45,395, but after you add in the metallic paint ($475), heated front seats ($625), Touring package ($1,795), Convenience package, and $695 delivery charge, the car tops out at $50,285, or nearly $10,000 more than a decked-out Chrysler Pacifica with GPS, a DVD player, and satellite radio.The combination of leather, plastics, and a gentle brushed aluminum in the 2005 Volvo XC90's cabin has an unfussy feel that does without the profusion of switches, knobs, and screens that are prevalent in the Cadillac STS. In fact, everything that the driver needs is within easy reach, including the well-placed buttons on the steering wheel for adjusting the stereo and the cruise control. The XC90 takes the driver and passenger to a new realm of comfort and support, with some of the best seats available outside of a living room. In a bit of mechanical magic, the five backseats individually fold flat to open up a huge cargo area that can swallow up a 12-foot patio umbrella, 600 pounds of bagged gravel, and a large computer box.
Despite selling for the equivalent of four economy cars, our 2005 Volvo XC90 test vehicle came without the $2,100 GPS navigation option. Although it does without a backup camera, the XC90's parking assistance warns you--with suitably annoying beeps--when you're getting too close to objects and can detect curbs in addition to taller obstructions.
The six-disc CD-changer stereo system sounds a little hollow and lacks satellite radio, an auxiliary jack for an MP3 player, and Bluetooth cell phone integration, putting Volvo behind the digital eight ball. What it does have is an ingenious air-filtration system that uses sensors and activated carbon to block pollen and the nasty smells of the road. It can even render carbon monoxide harmless. It was so good that we hardly noticed when we were cruising past a noxious group of oil refineries and chemical plants. In addition to dual front climate-control knobs, the 2005 Volvo XC90 has three rear vents, as well as no fewer than a dozen cup holders.Power is the name of the game for the 2005 Volvo XC90. Its double-overhead-cam, 4.4-liter V-8 engine has variable valve timing for pumping out 311 horsepower, and it's mated to a supple six-speed automatic transmission. A button marked W next to the shifter puts the transmission into winter mode, which reduces torque to the wheels on slippery surfaces. For those who like to shift themselves, the gearbox has a manual option, but even professional drivers will be hard-pressed to get better acceleration out of the car. It all adds up to an astonishingly quick and agile vehicle with the ability to get to 60mph in just 6.7 seconds, about 2 seconds faster than the V-6-powered Chrysler Pacifica and in the neighborhood of sports-sedan acceleration. This is the people mover for those who get anxious at freeway on-ramps, because the XC90 can go from 30mph to 50mph in 2.6 seconds. Still, it's quiet and serene inside at 60mph, registering a hushed 63dBA, mostly from wind noise.