- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

Understandably, Volvo is very proud of its new XC90.
Volvo feels this is the new standard by which sport utility vehicles will be judged. In their words, "The XC90 is the first of the next generation of SUV." Since more than 95 percent of all SUVs on the road never leave the pavement, the XC90 makes a great deal of sense.
Just look at the competitive vehicles in this segment. The XC90 is in the company of such esteemed vehicles as Lexus RX 300, Mercedes-Benz ML 320, BMW X5 and Acura MDX. The top three markets for sport utility vehicles in the United States are California, New York and Florida. Two of the three areas would not be places you would think SUVs would be in high demand. If you are not aware of the changes in the SUV market in the last few years, there have been many. While there are plenty of rough-and-ready sport utes available, there are certainly many that do just fine at taking Junior to school or baseball practice.
The trend, however, is moving toward a more sophisticated and refined vehicle, making all in this segment much more carlike than ever. They seem to moving toward becoming glorified station wagons. But don't you dare use that description around any auto execs. They'll have a coronary. That is unless they are from Volvo; these folks are quite secure with the vehicles they offer.
Looking quickly at the XC90 you would think it is styled in the station-wagon tradition. But this Volvo stretches this concept to the max. As with every Volvo, safety is a major priority in the development of each vehicle. With the XC90, Volvo engineers have incorporated many innovations.
Christor Gustafsson, chief engineer for safety, told me as we walked around a special cutaway display of the XC90 body: "We at Volvo feel it is just as important to help keep an accident from happening as it is to protect the vehicle's occupants in the event of a mishap."
The XC90 is the first of any vehicle to have an electronic rollover-protection system. The XC90 has gyroscope technology that reads roll speed and roll angle to determine if the vehicle is in danger of rolling over. Through minute and timely pulsations of an individual wheel's brake, the system stops all but the most aggravated rollover.
Volvo also has incorporated its vehicle stability-control system into the XC90 to assist the driver in remaining in control in emergency situations. Swerve around an object in the road or a vehicle appearing unexpectedly from a blind spot and the XC90 assists you in maintaining control. Volvo understands that these situations can occur and has given the XC90 driver every advantage to keep occupants as safe as possible.
However, there are times when you cannot beat the laws of physics or the miscalculations of other drivers. At every seating position there are three-point shoulder belts and each one is equipped with pretensioners. These devices pull the occupant back firmly into the seat in the event of a collision, lessening the chance of injury.
Another first for Volvo is the full-length side air curtain. Knowing that the third-row seat is usually the spot for children, our most precious cargo, Volvo engineers installed a full-length side curtain. This goes well beyond the usual side curtain that protects just front- and second-seat passengers.
In the unfortunate event of a rollover, the XC90 also has a body cage that is fortified by the use of boron steel bracing. I could easily see these additions as Mr. Gustafsson pointed out the areas on the cutaway body.
Boron steel is considered to be one of the strongest steels known. Placing this bracing in the roof and side pillars greatly reduces the possibility of roof collapse during a rollover.
Certainly convenience and versatility are needed with every vehicle and are major factors in considering a SUV. Volvo has you covered here equally as well. Within the passenger compartment there are more features than ever. The three-way split second seat helps the XC90 show off its versatility. The center section of the second seat converts into a child's booster seat and slides forward to make it easy for a parent seated in front to reach the child.
The XC90 offers an alternative to the big, bulky package offered by the traditional sport utility vehicle. The XC90 also offers the quality and safety expected of Volvo.
With those attributes and the versatility offered by this non-wagon, the XC90 is a refreshing addition to the market.

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