We’re a growing family here at CarAdvice, so it made sense that we should look to a family car as the newest member of our long-term fleet.
A flashy, blue, family car – swathed in carbon-fibre and packing 22-inch wheels... we're not made of stone, you know.
The 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design is two tonne of Swedish school-run presence. The $101,950 (before options and on-road costs) T6 R is the temporary top of the range XC90, until the twin-engine T8 model arrives in the coming months.
It sounds like a big step up from the $70-odd thousand dollars that would secure you the previous-generation XC90 (the 2016 range starts from $89,950), and is a distinct gauntlet thrown at the feet of the $96,300 Audi Q7.
That said, the new Volvo XC90 is a big step up from the old car.
Since launch, it has won over 70 awards around the world, including a number of design accolades – and when you're taking in the stunning Bursting Blue metallic paint ($1900 option) it is not hard to see why.
It's a very good looking bus, and the R treatment doesn't hurt it one bit.
Like a quote from Ron Burgundy, the Hammer of Thor LED headlamps give the XC90 an unmistakable signature. It’s big, modern, stylish – and very Volvo.
The R-Design trim level offers a gloss-black grille, unique colour-matched sills and bumpers, sportier front and rear lower valances, twin exhaust tips and a bigger roof spoiler. The car is offered with 20-inch five-spoke wheels as standard, but ours has the optional ($3850) 22-inch rollers. To be honest, you could do without those.
Inside, the nappa leather front seats are specific to the R-Design, and the trim is a carbon-fibre style that reinforces the sportier nature of the R. There’s a dark headliner, subtle interior illumination package, and plenty of goodies and gadgets to keep everyone entertained.
From the 12.3-inch central touchscreen in the dash, to the sensational Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system ($4500 option), large panoramic sunroof ($3000) and of course the two rear rows of child-friendly seats and storage cubbies, wherever you sit, there is luxury and comfort. Or, as the Swedes say, bekvämlighet. In abundance.
There is no shortage of tech, either, we have the $4000 driver support pack fitted (which arguably should be standard on a car with such safety credentials as a Volvo), adding lane departure warning and steering assistance, frontal-collision warning, 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, heads-up display and speed-limiter functions to the standard city-safe pre-collision braking, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and seven airbags fitted to the XC90.
Volvo claims it as the world’s safest SUV, which we’d rather not put to the test, but we will use all of the systems available and assess them within standard driving conditions.
As the XC90 is predominantly a family car, we’ll put its offspring-carting configurability to the test by regularly loading it up with children, pets and clobber.
With hooks, nooks and a 436-litre boot even behind the third row, there is no shortage of practicality with the XC90.
You can fold the two passenger rows flat to open up 2427-litres of space, or arrange the 40:20:40 and 50:50 split second and third rows to accommodate people and luggage as you need.
Under the bonnet is a 235kW/400Nm 2-litre twin-charged (both super and turbo) four-cylinder petrol engine. In addition, our car has received a tuning upgrade from Polestar, Volvo’s performance and motorsport partner.
This increases top-end power to 246kW and torque to 440Nm. Improvements are felt across the rev range, and Volvo claim a tenth of a second gain in the 0-100km/h sprint (6.4-seconds) while maintaining fuel consumption of 8L/100km on mixed cycle.
We’ll see how this goes on some dedicated fuel-use runs, as well as taking performance measurements using the GPS-based vBox.
Fair to note, though, that opening the bonnet on the XC is a pretty disappointing experience. There is a very boring and very black plastic engine cover – and that’s about it. Given the Polestar fettling, we had hoped for more... so we'll put resident bearded-creative, Mike Stevens, on the case to see what can be done about some utterly unnecessary graphics.
Underneath is a Haldex all-wheel-drive system and an eight-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Our XC90 is also fitted with a crystal-like rolling drive-mode switch that allows you to alter throttle, steering, traction and economy settings to suit the conditions.
Given the time of year, we’ll take 'Big Blue' to the snow and see how it performs in slick conditions. Not sure how we’ll find chains to fit those wheels, though…
You may get the feeling that we’ve detailed a lot of functions in this write up, but the truth is we haven’t even touched on half of the features of the XC90. The brochures and spec sheets are awash with acronyms and specific systems, so we’ll keep these in mind and focus on anything that works outside of our expectation – good or bad.
You will have also noticed we’ve mentioned a range of options fitted to our car. A mighty $19,275 worth, to be precise. This makes our car list at $121,225 (before on-road costs) - or roughly 1362 IKEA Riggad LED desk lamps. Yikes. We’ll pay specific attention to the options in subsequent updates and let you know if they are worth the addition.
While it has been highly praised and generally well received, the 2016 Volvo XC90 still has a number of challenges ahead of it.
Sales are progressing well, with 323 cars finding homes so far this year, against just 94 at the same time in 2015 - but with the Audi Q7 more-than doubling the numbers of the new model (953 units) – the Volvo must work hard to cement its position in the market.
We are looking forward to living with the big Swede and, of course, if you have any questions or specific areas you would like us to look at, please let us know in the comments below.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.