- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

Understandably, Volvo is very proud of the XC90. It has become part of the new standard by which SUVs are judged. Because more than 95 percent of all SUVs on the road never leave the pavement, vehicles such as the XC90 make sense.

Just look at the competitive vehicles in this segment. The XC90 is in the company of such esteemed vehicles as Lexus RX300, BMW X5, ML 320 and Acura MDX. The top three markets for sport utility vehicles in the United States are Los Angeles, New York and Florida. Two out of 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 past few years, there have been many. The trend is moving toward a more sophisticated and refined vehicle, making all in this segment much more carlike than ever. SUVs seem to be 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. With the XC90, Volvo engineers have incorporated many new 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 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. Volvo also has incorporated its vehicle stability control system into the XC90 to assist the driver in remaining in control in emergency situations.

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. 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. Boron steel is considered to be one of the strongest steels known.

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