- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

Volvo has been building big trucks since 1928, so it's no surprise that the Swedish firm's first sport utility vehicle, the 2003 XC90, is a more-or-less equal opportunity vehicle. It's a good go-er on and to a degree off the road.
Although based on the platform from Volvo's S80 sedan, the XC90 has enough trucklike attributes for comfortable off-road sorties under moderate not severe conditions. Its 2.9-liter twin-turbo six-cylinder engine pushes out 268 horsepower with 280 foot-pounds of torque. But while it has respectable slogging-about/load-carrying power, the engine and four-speed automatic are more at home on paved surfaces.
The test XC90, price-competitive with Acura, Ford, Lexus and Toyota vehicles, listed for $39,975 with a $660 delivery fee and options that gave it a total of $44,460.
It immediately became apparent that while its serious-work siblings on the road attract scant attention, the XC90 would swivel heads. It even drew a few gestures of approval from females behind the wheels of other SUVs. (My significant other gleefully reminded me not to take them personally.)
It also became apparent that Volvo is well aware that its potential market wants comfort and luxury. The standard and optional features make the XC90 as comfortable and family/commuter-serving as other SUVs and sedans in its price bracket.
Base models with the 2.5-liter, 150-horsepower, five-cylinder engine start at about $38,000, but their slow acceleration is likely to test a driver's patience.
However, the twin-turbo six-cylinder in the XC90 gets to 60 mph in about six seconds.
While the four-speed transmission automatic with a manual shift feature is smooth enough, it'll jump with a jerk if pushed.
It's easy to get the speedometer like other instrumentation it's easily read to the speed limit, and the Volvo engine doesn't mind reaching for the tach's 6,000 rpm redline. It's got grunt.
Maximum seating is seven, with a nice feature being fold-flat seats to aid cargo-carrying. Safety features and air bags abound. There's even steel roof reinforcement in case of rollover. Note that Volvo has given the phrase "sticker shock" new meaning by adding this standard feature notation: 16 drink holders. Where will it stop?
That's also a good question for the XC90 overall.
Give Volvo some market reaction the degree of built-in safety should be a key factor positively and the XC90 should easily become as common as those other midsize, luxury-minded SUVs. It's easy to drive and appreciate.


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