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2007 Volvo XC90 3.2 7-Seat Road Test

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Aging gracefully

(Photo: Philippe Champoux,
Introduced for the 2003 model year, the XC90 has been gaining admirers ever since. It's among the favorite luxury SUVs that many people I talk to aspire to buy if, one day, their household income allows it.

At first, this Volvo was available with a choice of two turbocharged engines: a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder and a 2.9-liter 6-cylinder. Both are gone now. Last year, the inline-6 was replaced by a 4.4-liter V8, good for an extra 43 horsepower and 45 more pound-feet of torque. With 311 horses, the XC90 has become quite a hot rod.

Now, the 2.5-liter engine has been ditched in favor of a new, normally-aspirated 3.2-liter L6 that will also make its way into the new S80 sedan. Although peak torque remains the same, there is 27 more horsepower to play with. The new 6-speed automatic with manual mode works well despite a little tugging during gear changes, and is nicely suited to the engine. Fuel economy has worsened a little on highway driving (10.0 vs. 8.9 L/100 km), but has improved in the city (14.6 vs. 15.0 L/100 km). I personally achieved 14.3 L/100 km, as I spent more time in urban traffic.

(Photo: Philippe Champoux,
Quite honestly, I don't see why I would pay over $10,000 more for the V8. The 3.2L L6 gets this 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) SUV moving along quickly. It sounds good and its power delivery is buttery-smooth. In addition, the V8's thirst for fuel is greater.

On the road, the Volvo feels quite ponderous in every move it makes, but is agile nonetheless. The suspension is soft, but provides a smooth ride, and road imperfections are easily smothered. The all-wheel drive system sends up to 95% of power to the front wheels in the best conditions, and up to 50% to the rear wheels in the worst. This test car is equipped with the optional adaptive bi-xenon headlights that swivel when you're driving the truck through curves and tight turns, so you can better see the twisty road or perpendicular street ahead.

Everybody seems to agree on the XC90's shape: it's a beautiful truck. Unmistakably Volvo, it borrows the overall shape of the carmaker's selection of sedans and wagons: elegant with soft curves and a bulge in the sheetmetal over the door handles that sweeps from the front to the back. There's a subtle amount of chrome around the grille, the windows and on the roof rack, and the taillights have been slightly redesigned. In my opinion, the XC90 looks great.

(Photo: Philippe Champoux,
The same class and elegance is carried on in the cockpit. High-quality leather covers the seats that offer just the right firmness. You're surrounded by rich textures and materials, and stands up to the competition in this regard. The climate controls are pretty simple to operate, which cannot be said for some of the XC90's rivals (the Q7 quickly comes to mind).