The air bag: Unveiling the Volvo XC90 in Sweden

The XC90 is the first model produced since Zhejiang Geely Holding Group bought Volvo from Ford in 2010.
Volvo XC90. Courtesy of Newspress Ltd
Volvo XC90. Courtesy of Newspress Ltd

When you walk past the author Stieg Larsson’s house in Stockholm and along the streets where he set his novels, or near tennis ace Björn Borg’s Dh183-million apartment, it’s hard not to be consumed by Swedishness. Naturally, there’s an ABBA museum, created to commemorate 40 years since they won the Eurovision Song Contest.

It can easily be forgotten just how much the people of this self-effacing nation have given the world, but you get an idea as you stroll through the arrivals hall at Stockholm airport, greeted by hundreds of photos of Swedes who have made a major global impact – Ingrid Bergman, Borg, ABBA, Greta Garbo, Dolph Lundgren, Ingemar Johansson, the Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad and, of course, Volvo. Just as Swedish as a few bars of Fernando, meatballs and beautiful people, Volvos, for decades, have driven and looked like Borg played tennis: ice-cool, secure, good-looking, but not necessarily beautiful. Safe.

But Volvo has now shown us its XC90 SUV, which it claims is the safest, most technologically advanced vehicle it has ever produced. Perhaps that does not surprise, but those looks – inside as imposing as a Bentley – hurtle this car into the league of A-listers. “This is one of the most important days in our history. We are not just launching a car, but relaunching our brand,” Håkan Samuelsson, the president and chief executive of Volvo Car Group, said at a lavish global reveal on the Baltic coast.

The carmaker wants to replace BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Audi SUVs in the driveways of Arabian Ranches and JBR. Volvo has made a quantum leap into the ultra-cool premium segment and the auto world is buzzing.

Volvo recently released a limited first edition of the XC90. The 1,927 individually numbered cars (all black) celebrated the year Volvo was founded and, for the first time, were only available for sale via digital commerce. They sold out within 47 hours.

The XC90 is the first new model produced since the Chinese company Zhejiang Geely Holding Group bought Volvo from Ford in 2010 and, in his 2012 financial report, Volvo’s then chief executive, Stefan Jacoby, said the acquisition would provide the means to reach new, bold goals.

“We aim high, with a goal of selling 800,000 cars globally in 2020,” he said.

Geely committed to a US$12 billion (Dh44bn) investment in 2012, which has allowed for the expansion of the Torslanda plant and the development of the scalable platform architecture (SPA) system. China is fast becoming the largest market for Volvo and is set to overtake the United States, with 80,000 sales expected for 2014. That’s why things have changed in Volvoland.

The second-generation model will have 2.0L, four-cylinder engines and a new styling direction that will form the basis of all Volvos. Techies note: the seven-seat SUV is the first to inherit Volvo’s new SPA, creating better driveability and interior space.

Inside, the XC90 is gorgeous. Quality materials and fitted optional items, including a 1,400-watt, 19-speaker stereo intended to mimic sound from the Gothenburg Concert Hall, create a space that is roomy and plush.

Particularly enticing is the XC90’s shift lever, inlaid with glass crystal made by a Swedish glassmaker, and diamond-cut controls for the start/stop button and volume control.

Its maker also says the XC90 leads the SUV segment on safety, including two world-first safety technologies: a run-off road protection package and auto brake at intersection capability. Volvo’s Middle East and CIS general manager, Emre Karaer, revealed that the vehicle would come on stream in the UAE in May 2015.

weekend@thenational.ae

Published: December 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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