Volvo’s highly acclaimed XC90 SUV is now available in South Africa - well, theoretically, because the company has been allocated 300 for 2003, and has orders for 500...

Volvo’s highly acclaimed XC90 SUV is now available in South Africa - well, theoretically, because the company has been allocated 300 for 2003, and has orders for 500...

Only the twin-turbo T6 model (in both five- and seven-seat configurations) will be offered initially. This model’s 2,9-litre 6-cylinder petrol engine is equipped with two light-pressure turbochargers, lifting power to 200 kW at 5 200 r/min. Maximum torque is 380 N.m, available from as low as 1 800 r/min. A four-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with a manual tip-shift function is standard. Volvo claims a zero to 100 km/h time of 9,3 seconds and a 210 km/h top speed. In January 2004 a less-powerful 2,5-litre turbocharged petrol and D5 turbodiesel will be added to the range.

As has become expected from Volvo, safety was high on the agenda - the XC90 recently became the first SUV to be awarded five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.

In order to help reduce the risk of a roll-over situation, the XC90 is equipped with Roll Stability Control or RSC. The system uses a gyro-sensor to register the vehicle’s roll speed and roll angle. Using this information, the terminal angle is instantly calculated and thus also the roll-over risk. If the calculated angle is so great that there is an obvious risk of rolling over, the DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) anti-skid system is activated. DSTC responds by reducing the engine’s power and also by braking one or more wheels as necessary until the vehicle understeers and stability is regained.

If a roll-over does occur, Volvo has reinforced parts of the roof structure with Boron steel, claimed to be four to five times stronger than normal steel.

The XC90 is equipped with Volvo’s IC or Inflatable Curtain. IC also helps prevent the occupants from being ejected in an accident. In the 7-seater, all three rows of seats are protected by the IC.

Although not aimed at the hardcore bundu-basher, the XC90 has been designed with some light off-roading in mind. Just like in previous AWD models from Volvo, the four-wheel drive system in the XC90 operates entirely independently of driver input; power is distributed automatically between the front and rear wheels for best possible grip on all types of road surfaces. In normal driving on dry roads, almost all power is delivered to the front wheels. If the road surface causes the front wheels to slip, power is proportionately diverted to the rear wheels. With electronically activated four-wheel drive, AWD engagement takes place quickly, after one-seventh of a wheel turn, which eliminates wheelspin and ensures grip.

South African XC90s (sold out for the first year) are all highly specced. Climate control, integrated telephone, parking sensors, trip computer, cruise control, leather and wood trim, power steering, power windows and electronic adjustment for the driver’s seats are amongst the standard features.

Volvo is the first carmaker to launch Dolby Prologic II in a car audio system. This is claimed to create the conditions for optimum audio perception even for passengers in the rear seat, and the sound profile is both broader and more natural. The Volvo XC90 can be specified with 13 loudspeakers, one of which is an 8-inch 140-watt active subwoofer for better bass quality.

Rear-seat passengers have access to their own control unit for the audio system, located conveniently in the C-post. There they can plug in their headphones and listen to a separate audio source - no more arguing about Bach and Britney Spears…

Furthermore, as from October, a DVD player with a 7-inch wide screen can be fitted in the roof, where it can be seen by passengers in seat rows two and three.

The XC90 5-seater sells for R495 000, and the 7-seater for R525 000. A 5-year/100 000 km maintenance plan is included.