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.
Buttons on the steering wheel control music volume and cruise control.
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.
The six-speed transmission includes a manual mode and a button to shift to winter mode.
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.