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.
At a time when the largest wild card is how much gas will cost tomorrow, the 2005 Volvo XC90 is rated by the EPA to get 14mpg in the city and 20mpg on the highway. In the real world, we got a surprisingly high 18.1mpg for a 380-mile range on a tank of gas. Unlike so many new cars, the XC90 gives the user access to all major parts of the engine, so checking fluids is not a hassle.In line with Volvo's heritage of safety engineering, the 2005 XC90 has the expected reinforced passenger cabin, crash-absorbing interior, and collapsible steering column. The vehicle breaks new ground with its Roll Stability Control, a system that takes traction control to a higher level. The setup has gyroscopic sensors that tell a computer the instant the vehicle is prone to rollover and corrects the situation by reducing the engine's output and braking the outer wheels to tip the XC90 back on to all fours. While trying to tip over a two-ton SUV can be foolhardy, we found the XC90 to be remarkably stable. Our only concern is that the XC90's suspension is stiffer than most and feels as if it can loosen fillings, plus it might seem jarring to those who plan to use it as an urban assault vehicle.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the 2005 Volvo XC90 a four-star rollover rating, as well as five stars for occupant protection. The car has front and side bags for the driver and front passenger, as well as curtains in the back. It's kid-friendly as well, with a fold-down booster seat in the back and a weight sensor for the passenger seat for deciding whether it's safe to inflate the air bag.
The 2005 Volvo XC90 comes with roadside assistance, and the four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty lasts a year longer than most, although its guarantee against rust is a year short of Chrysler's. It doesn't include basic maintenance costs, as is the case with Audi and BMW vehicles.