2016 Volvo XC90: Rebirth of the big Swede (CNET On Cars, Episode 67)
Volvo unveils the beginning of its future.
Android Auto finally hits the road.
It's just like using your phone.
And CNET's top rated cars mid-2015.
It's time to check the tech.
We see cars differently.
We love them on the road and under the hood, but also check the tech.
And are known for telling it like it is.
Ugly is included at no extra cost.
The good, the bad, the bottom line.
This is CNET ONCARS.
Welcome to CNET ONCARS, the show all about high-tech cars and modern driving.
I'm Bryan Cooley.
Well, Volvo, as you know, has always marched to its own beat, and in recent years it kind of marched off into the weeds.
Now they're plotting a course for comeback road and doing it in that guy.
The all-new XC-90.
It's a big launch for them.
Let's drive one and check the tech.
This is the new XC-90 and it's a very big story for them.
Now I can recall not too long ago, well yeah, it was long ago, when Volvo was the number one selling European luxury car in the US.
You didn't talk about Mercedes and BMW and Audi that much in those days.
Of course, times have changed and the first third of this year luxury car sales in the US have gone up about 5% and Volvo sales about 0%.
That's what they aim to fix with these guys.
Now these XC 90s come in two basic flavours, a T6 and a T8.
The six and the eight share the same combustion power train, but then the eight adds plug in hybrid electric motivation on top of that.
They're both three row, seven seat vehicles, and as you can see they've got a new but identifiable Volvo look.
This is their first big project since the acquisition by Chinese money five years ago, so a lot of eyes are watching.
Both T6 and T8 XC90s have the same unusual engine, a small two liter four cylinder.
But it gets bulked way up by not a turbo, or a supercharger, but both.
The supercharger kicks in first, the turbo takes over at higher RPM.
At which point the supercharger disengages to reduce drag.
Then the TH steps it up with more tech.
Because we've added the motor in the back, the battery in the middle and all of our transferring control circuitry.
400 horsepower now, 472 pound feet of torque.
0 to 60 comes down from around 6 second to 5.3, even though the weight goes up about 400 pounds.
Efficiency is expected to be around 59 MPGe, which is typically how you start to look at these cars that can spend a fair amount of time running electric.
But we don't have it fully certified EPA yet.
In front of you is an LCD instrument panel that's becoming almost required in luxury vehicles.
Over here to the right is the one your eye's been tending towards, right?
There's a tablet style interface and it's more than just tablet in it's size and orientation, it's also tablet in its muscle memory.
You gotta home button at the bottom, you drag down here to get your settings, you go left and right to go to specialty screens.
On the left are all your car and vehicle functions.
Go back one more to home Go another one to right, and there's all your infotainment functions.
There's a whole lot of settings for your different driver assist control including parking, including collision avoidance, lane keeping aids, reading road signs to get that up on the heads up display, and things of that nature.
Let's talk about the driver assist now since that's what's controlled there.
The one that's getting a lot of attention handles your injuries, or hopefully prevents them, if you go off the road.
But it doesn't prevent you from doing that, that's already existing in lane keep and lane departure management.
This is one that handles spinal injuries if you go into those ruts on the side of the road at high speed.
So it's going to give you more of a crush zone underneath the seat.
It also cinches up the belt.
They say it's all about spinal compression protection.
There's automatic braking during left turns at intersections.
If you're about to turn into someone and get yourself t-boned, the car won't let you.
It's gonna cram on the breaks.
This is all camera and radar based.
The same camera and radar looking out front for pedestrians and cyclists, both day and night and with automatic breaking.
There's a rear end protection system here.
It's the worst feeling world is you're sitting there a sitting duck and you see someone's about to plow into you.
And if that's the case, it's gonna lock its own brakes to prevent its movement as a projectile and it's also gonna cinch up your belts to prevent your movement.
As a projectile.
Pilot assist is similar to what a lot of car makers are bringing out, which is the first step of autonomy.
It'll handle adaptive cruise.
So, slow speed stop and go and keep you in your lane.
Now your drive controls in the XC-90 begin in a very Swedish manner with an auto force crystal drive control handle, which gets you into your PRND and B, high regeneration mode, because we're in the electrified T8.
Here is your start stop, you rotate this thing.
And behind there is this nice little neural drum which you turn and click to get to your different drive mode.
Now all wheel drive is where you force it to go into AWD using that rear electric apparatus.
Here's a mode that says, don't use the battery.
I want it for later.
Hybrid is, as you can imagine, a mix of both for general use.
Power is your sporty, self-explanatory mode.
Here's a rough road mode.
Again, adaptive suspension, all wheel drive.
This vehicle can stretch itself various ways.
And you can set up and cook your own mix on your individual So not only is that third row pretty incredible.
I mean I've seen much smaller.
Here's a sign of our times the middle seat in the second row can be moved forward and back.
Forward so the little one back here doesn't get separation anxiety.
I wonder which country's market research told them they needed this.
I'm in the T eight right now.
some numbers on it's electrification.
It's got about 17 miles of pure ev range.
What's interesting is it can run electrically under the right conditions up to about 80 miles an hour so it can be a full freeway electric car and your charge time if you've got a 240 volt high amp circuit, which you're going to want for a plug in car.
It's about two and a half hours and of course it regens as you go.
Now with these drive modes I find that they, you know pure eco drives what you would expect, it's quite muted.
As you can imagine, the power mode, the sporty mode is the one that gives you your best engagement, really feels the best, but it won't be the most efficient.
I'm hearing a lot of, sort of, electric power trade Sounds, which sometimes can be oddly intrusive.
But I need to wait until we get a final US spec.
production XC90 in our hands to really judge this power train.
One thing I can tell you now, you will hardly believe that there is a small four cylinder at the heart of this rig.
Really comfortable ride.
It's done a great job dialing in the quality of the ride.
Now it doesn't matter what of the modes I'm in.
It's never harsh.
And it doesn't feel like its weight, to be honest.
This doesn't feel like the poundage that it reads on paper, which is always a nice trick for a car.
And what I'm liking is this T6 that I'm getting a chance to sample is the lane keeping technology that Volvo uses.
It's very nuance.
It's very confident feeling.
That's gonna be important as we roll out semi self driving cars soon.
The vehicle fells like its really in charge and knows what its doing.
It's going to go a long way toward getting people to leave the skeptical range.
You know what?
Let's rap up now: five points that make the XC very noticeable: first of all, you see the whole new look.
It's a fresh face for Volvo and it's gonna have to make a market impression.
Get inside you've got the new look and feel of the sensus connect technology under the hood.
They've made a bold move to four cylinder engines, not even big ones, that have turbos and supercharging.
They've got the plug in technology added to the T8 variant.
And finally they've got the state of the arc driver assist technology that in some cases nobody else has or at least has as aggressive.
These will be important cars to watch when the T6 arrives July 15, the T8 in October.
Find our full take on the XC90 over at car.cnet.com.
There's been a huge amount of tech innovation in headlights in the last ten years or so.
But it turns out one of the biggest needed innovations is not technology, but technique.
That of the smarter driver using those headlights.
We'll get into that when CNET On Cars continues.
Well it's dusk.
you're about to out drive your headlights.
You're probably driving at a speed where what you can hit is out there beyond what you can see.
You can remedy it with better lights and more use of them.
A recent study by the Automobile Club of Southern California, this automotive research center.
says bottom line: better head lines should be standard.
Not a luxury tech option.
They examined the real world performance of three basic families of headlights.
First, halogen headlights like what I've got here on the '88 Ford and what maybe 80% of cars on the road.
In the US today have, as well.
Then high intensity discharge headlights.
Those are the ones give you that kind of whitish-blue really intense beam.
And finally LED headlights, which to be honest are still pretty exotic They examined each kind of headlight technology for its reach.
That would be how well it can illuminate something non-reflective like an animal or a typically dressed person, on a road without overhead streetlights.
Which by the way accounts for something like 40% of the miles we drive each year.
Well first of all halogen just doesn't cut it.
You can overdrive them as low as forty miles an hour.
High intensity and LED low beams extend illumination by about 25% beyond halogen.
Highly intensity and LED high beams and got out to nearly 500 feet and that covers you to about 55 miles an hour.
and both those advance types put out less light here in the U.S than the same ones on cars sold in Europe.
It's a regulatory thing
.Now the behavior piece is interesting they also found that most of us are kind of shy about using our high beams we're afraid to blind the guy in front of us or we're to lazy to sit there and flick on flick off all the time So we overdrive our low beams typically.
But this is kind of a shame because your high beams can buy you 28% or so more reaction time.
That's really a big deal.
So three take aways.
First use your high beams.
See if the next car you buy offers auto high beams to do all the flicking for you.
Second, opt for high intensity or LED headlights.
They really do make a difference in reach.
And third, check your car for cloudy head lamp lenses.
They don't just reduce your range, they also scatter more glare at the other guy.
It pays to double check if your car has the most modern lighting technology, especially if you're buying a new one.
Know if you're using your high beams and not getting lazy and ignoring them.
And realize that no matter what mode you're in, you're very likely outdriving your lights.
Welcome back to CNet On Cars, coming to you from our home at the Mount Tam Motor Club, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Well it was almost exactly a year ago, we told you here on the On the show of the announcement of Android Auto.
And now, it's actually coming to showrooms for the first time.
In 2015, Hyundai Sonatas.
It's a big step for the car maker and for the industry, as this is part of the new vanguard of what you'll see in the dash and how it's gonna get there Let's see how Hyundai has done it first on the Road to the Future.
Well here I am in my car with my android phone.
Now that combination normally means Some hodgepodge Bluetooth connection for streaming and calling, some contacts transfer, some variable basket of apps with different interfaces and this thing clipped on the windshield or worse juggled in my hand.
Here's how we go into the future.
This new Sonata has the first production roll out of Android Auto.
In an affordable car, and it all starts down here.
You cable your Android phone into the system as if you were gonna charge it let's say.
Not wireless right now.
Then you lose the phone and look up here on the dash.
That icon just changed to Android Auto.
When you press Press that, you're about to enter the wold of your phone, but on the dash.
For example, right here your home screen if you will, is kind of a Google Now look.
Things you done or looked at recently are relevent to where you are right now.
Your round home button, you recognize that from your phone.
Your phone icon, your nav icon, here's music, and here's a return to main screen.
You get over here to navigation, you recognize that interface, that's Google Maps, your Google search box.
And this is live and connected through your phone.
Plus the voice command to do that beautiful free form search that we love.
That goes from the steering wheel.
AT&T park, San Francisco.
Here is AT&T Park.
And of course the routing and traffic calculation the same ones you have on your phone, but notice it's not literally taking the whole screen and putting it there.
It's artfully translating.
To the automotive experience and limiting it to these main hits of apps.
Calling is very straight forward, again touch to call.
Nice big clear button interfaces as well to get things done on the touch screen.
Over here under music It goes to your last streaming source from several on your phone, and if you wanna get to other choices it's got a drop down next to it.
Here are some music services with more to come.
Now if you were listening to say radio, before you hit Android auto, it respects that and doesn't force you to suddenly switch to streaming.
Customers have told us that's what they want, so they want the phone experience.
That's where their life is in a lot of ways.
Their music Their calendar, the places they want to go, it's in their phone.
So they bring that into the car and they bring it in a way that minimizes driver distraction.
The beauty of this is that is lets you live with your phone the same way in the car as you do outside the car.
So your initial take-away on this is how consistent it is with the experience on your phone, how it strips away things that aren't essential to driving.
You basically get, what, the big three here on the screen, imported from Android.
Also, your interface is rock solid.
You've got a bigger screen Screen mounted with good touch response and integration to the voice command button on the wheel.
Though blessedly, the voice command is still handled by Google in the cloud, not by a car system.
Now specific to this car, the cost will be nothing.
If you've got a 15 or one of the pending 16 Sonatas, This is a free retrograde or upgrade.
Now that upgrade has to be done at the dealer right now, but later this Summer Hyundai says they'll make a download available at myhyundai.com.
And that it will be simple enough that you won't have to fear breaking your ride.
It takes a little bit of time, it re flashes the head unit.
You basically plug it in and you do nothing until you remove it when it's done and it will tell you it's done.
So really almost no interaction.
Other cars will follow later within their line-up.
The other thing is you don't lose the Hyundai features, not in this car.
If you already have nav in the vehicle, you get back your Places icon and you can drop back down to Hyundai navigation.
All the Hyundai media.
The Hyundai radio choices.
So this is a dual stack strategy.
Later on Hyundai will have something called a display audio system where they're gonna strip out navigation and a few other bells and whistles and you get a lot of the Google goodness in there as a primary function, not an added function.
And one of the most interesting things about this is that it may signal the beginning of car makers.
Admitting to some degree that they don't do mobile as well as the mobile companies.
It would be essentially impossible for us to keep up with every infotainment option out there so by letting Google handle that we're able to bring just a variety of apps into the car and meet the customer
Send a message to Amy Johnson.
Now the other shoe to drop soon is CarPlay.
Which does basically the same things in the same way but on your iPhone.
Hyundai has that coming in early 2016.
And the day after Hyundai put Android Auto in showrooms, Chevy announced virtually all its 2016 will offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
By 2020, it's expected that 40 million cars will be running Android Auto.
And nearly that many CarPlay, according to a recent estimate by IHS Automotive.
So here's our first taste of the new vanguard.
Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, together they are a massively important story of mobile
Becoming consistent in the dash.
And finally here hitting the market at a very affordable price point.
In a moment, pick your tech, turbo diesel or turbo gas.
And top five high tech cars we've loved so far this year.
When CNET On Cars returns.
The GT3 has always had a special place in a lot of people's hearts.
Whether other 911s offer a great experience on ground, the GT3 offers a more hardcore time without.
Without being an actual racecar.
In the back there's no real sign of any seat.
Just a big old roll cage.
It is quite noisy in here which for some it might be great.
For others it might grate.
Find more from the Xcar team of CNET UK at cnet.com/xcar.
Welcome back to CNET on Cars.
I'm Brian Cooley.
It's that point in the show when we take one of your emails.
And this week it comes in from Bob D., who has a diesel versus gas truck question.
He says, Hi there Brian.
I'm considering the Ram diesel versus the up and coming Ford F-150 with the 2.7 EcoBoost and expect 10-speed transmission.
I wonder about the price of diesel long long term and well as the upcharge for diesel engine vs.
the cost of a turbo V-6.
Well Bob, there's a few things I can look at here for you and a few I don't know the only you can answer.
First of all, you go to take a look at first the upcharge for the engine type.
It's about 4,000.
to get a EcoDiesel in a Ram but 800 to get a EcoBoost V6 in the Ford.
Look at the fuel cost in your area and you can do that very well from the governments energy information administration website wh- When they look at gas and diesel prices and do a nice job of showing them by region and by trend.
And of course look at the different fuel uses between the two power plants.
The best way to do this is to go to the EPA's fuel economy website and look at the fine print where it talks about gallons per hundred miles.
That's the best factor to use.
It's a lesser known metric, but that's the best way to say how much fuel am I going to eat up across a given amount of driving.
Now the unknowables for me are which kind of torque do you prefer the kind that comes from that ran diesel or the kind that comes from that turbo gas v-6 in the Ford.
they're both good grunty motors but they get there differently What kind of towing capacity do you need and will you have in the way you configure either one of those trucks with your options and your bed and your engine and all that.
And you've also gotta look of course at the total bottom line price, because you're not just gonna buy an engine and try and earn that back with fuel savings.
You gotta pay off the whole truck, that's the real world calculation.
And the unknowable for all of us right now is what MPG boost will the Ford get when it has the expected ten speed automatic?
Will it catch up to Ram, go from 26 to 28?
Or will it surpass it and get all the way to that magic 30 on the highway?
Hard to say, but it's also hard to imagine that a ten speed transmission alone could make that happen.
Well it's that time of year.
We turn that corner into the summer months and while a lot of folks take a vacation to a degree so does the car industry.
New car introduction quiet down quite a bit for the next couple on months, which gives me a chance to look back.
Here are Top 5 highest rated CNET review cars of 2015 so far.
Number 5. The 2015 Audi S5.
Getting a CNet score of 8.3.
The V8 engine is gone, but we love the 2015's supercharged V6, and of course, the essential quattro all wheel drive.
On the down side, this cars infotainment rig was a step or two behind other Audis.
No really big LCD.
[UNKNOWN] won't care, otherwise, you should.
4. The 2015 BMW 740Ld xDrive.
It'd be number one on a list of most bowels.
It gets a score of 8.3.
BMW has proved best that modern turbo diesels can be tuned for sporty performance And even this big car proves it.
That diesel torque feels like it shaves about a third off the car's perceived heft.
While the cabin delights with iDrive 4.2 that has connected NAV and about the best HUD in the business.
Number three: the 2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet, 8.4 score, also an editor's choice.
That's right, the lowly A3 ranks a couple notches above that S5.
It's a great driver that doesn't just rely on its convertible top to make friends.
And the A3 was the first US Audi to bring us integrated 4G, which utterly transforms Google Earth, and Street View and live search.
Oddly enough, no voice commands.
You would have figured a company this smart would have found some other place to mount the ceiling microphone when the ceiling went away.
Number two, the 2014 BMW i3.
It's a lofty 8.9.
This one's going to be a little controversial, especially since there isn't an 8 after the letter I. It has carbon fiber under pinnings though and a dwell magazine like interior combining with I drive and those interesting coach doors.
That make the I3 feel a lot bigger than it is.
It's a lot more money than a Nissan Leaf for about the same range But we got the range extender option, which Nissan doesn't even do.
Along with several other aspects of this car.
Before I get to number one let's take a look at dead last.
Our lowest rated car reviewed so far this year is the 2015 Chevy Trax mini crossover at 6.3.
Not so much that it failed at its mission.
It's that it's mission is rather Spartan.
It's LTD head unit doesn't even offer factor navigation.
There are almost no driver safety assists.
MPG wasn't even quite that good.
And that ugly black body cladding all around screams this is all I could afford.
But if that is the case you'll move a surprising amount of people and stuff for a little over 20 grand.
The number one car we've checked out so far this year is the 2015 Tesla Model S P85D, and amazing 9.3 score and an editor's choice.
Adding a second motor to this car gave the big battery model S insane acceleration.
It says so right on the dash.
More importantly it gave it all wheel drive.
This is also the Tesla that ushers in their big move toward autonomy, mostly via an over the air software update.
It's a near perfect car if you buy into ED religion at all.
The downsides include a $120,000 price done up CNET style.
And the fact that owning a Model S today is becoming kind of like owning a BMW in the 80s.
If you know what I mean.
Thanks for watching.
Hope you enjoyed this episode.
By the way a few of you asked, where can I find a particular top 5 or car check 101?
Those are all waiting for you on CNETOnCars.com.
Along with our full episode.
So you can dive into each one of those specific areas and find just the topic you want if you haven't looked there already.
Check it out.
We've got a lot waiting for you.
I'll see you next time we check the deck.