The Volvo XC90, due in South Africa at the end of the year, has been named best-engineered vehicle for 2003. Just what makes it so special?

The Volvo XC90, due in South Africa at the end of the year, has been named best-engineered vehicle for 2003.

According to , (AEI) magazine awarded the title to Volvo’s first sport-utility vehicle at the opening of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) 2003 World Congress in Detroit this week.

"The Volvo XC90 was selected because the engineering team sought to address virtually all of the primary criticisms that are leveled at SUVs today," said Kevin Jost, editor of AEI. "This vehicle not only features five engineering ‘firsts' – but the list of significant engineering highlights is very impressive."

AEI mentioned the vehicle’s Boron steel B-pillars and roof structure, variable valve timing in both intake and exhaust valvetrain, interior air quality sensor, and an "ozone eater" radiator that is designed to reduce ground-level ozone as it passes through the unit. The magazine also rated the XC90’s active and passive safety.

AEI said that environmental concerns and SUVs often collided in the minds of consumers, and the engineers at Volvo were focused on correcting that perception from the beginning. "We designed it (the XC90) to meet car instead of truck emission levels," said project director Hans Wikman.

The XC90 comes in three derivatives. The T6 (2 922 cc) generates 200 kW at 5 100 r/min and 380 N.m of torque at 1 800 to 5 000 r/min. It is mated to a four-speed Geartronic gearbox. The 2,5T (2 521 cc) develops 154 kW of power at 5 000 r/min and 320 N.m of torque at 1 500 to 4 500 r/min. The D5 (2401 cc) creates 120 kW at 4 000 r/min and 340 N.m of torque at 1 750 to 3 000 r/min. Both the 2,5T and the D5 are mated to a five-speed Geartronic gearbox.

The XC90 has a load capacity of 914 litres (with third and second row rear-seat backrest down).