Once in a while, there is an opportunity to drive the same vehicle in England as in the USA. I recently had the opportunity to drive a Volvo XC90 Sport with V8 in England
. My daily driver happens to be a Volvo XC90 Volvo Ocean Race V8
. So with the exception of some cosmetic tweaks and right hand drive, the English example was about as close to my Volvo in the USA as it could be. While you couldn’t lose the brilliant red XC90 in the parking lot, its “colour” did not seem to garner much respect from other cars on the road. But driving the XC90 for ten days in England certainly does bring home the differences in the driving environment.
Right Size in USA – Titanic in Britain
In the USA, the Volvo XC90 is surely a Luxury Crossover Sport Utility Vehicle, but in Britain it is a Chelsea tractor open to sneers and ridicule by the hoi polloi
. In some places, there are restrictions on driving vehicles like this in the city center. In the USA, the XC90 is the right size. In Britain, it is huge having to hug the shoulder of the road to let a Daewoo Matiz micro mini squeeze by. How many times did I feel like I was going mirror-to-mirror with approaching traffic? Many!
Having a discussion with an elderly gentleman in Henley, he said to count the number of 4x4s driven by women. As in the USA, the proportion of female drivers was as high or higher than males. As in the USA, these vehicles have become the suburban transportation for children. Safe, secure, somewhat ostentatious, thirsty and open to ridicule. But the XC90 is just the right size to swallow a ton of luggage and transport you safely though any type of terrain or weather.
Fill-ups Stop the Heart
One thing I was terrified of was filling the XC90 V8 with petrol. The first fill-up was over $140 – double what it costs in the USA. Luckily I was using regular and not premium. The second fill-up was slightly less. Let’s do the calculations…
There are 3.8 liters to the gallon so this fill-up was 55.99 litres or 14.7 gallons – it seemed like a lot more. Petrol was 120.9 pence per litre or £1.209 per litre. So, this particular fill-up was £67.70. Now, sometimes I pay that much in dollars, but in pounds it is a dramatically different situation. The dollar is $1.991 to each £1.00 British Pound. So this fill-up was $134.79. Now you understand why Europeans drive dramatically smaller cars than we do.
Pricing in Britain – Twice as Much as in USA!!!!!!!!
Not only do the British pay much more for petrol than Americans do for gasoline (mostly due to taxes), but they pay a whopping premium for the cars they drive. Take the XC90 for example. IIn the USA, the base price of the XC90 is $36,950. In Britain it is £32,845 (I’m not doing a feature by feature comparison – just base to base). So, that is $65,394. The Volvo XC90 Sport is $50,615 in the USA and the top of the line Executive model is £54,550 in Britain – $108,609. I don’t know about you, but thinking of paying more than $100,000 for a Volvo blows my mind. Now, probably I’m over estimating something here – like VAT – is it in or out of the British price? Don’t know. But even taking out a VAT amount, their prices still are a hugely stiff premium over USA prices.
Gillian Strikes Again
Every navigation system voice requires a name. This one is “Gillian”. One of the first things I do in Britain is to set the navigation system to exclude all motorways – limited access highways like interstates. I like to lump along on scenic byways rather than on a high speed highway. Over the years I have been experiencing ever improving direction capability and the Volvo navigation system was no exception. It never put the XC90 on a motorway. It kept the directions on A-Roads and B-Roads for the most part, but occasionally a road without number would pop up. Invariably, this road would be little more than a cowpath. It would have one lane roads through picturesque villages or include a toll-bridge (even though NO TOLL ROADS was programmed into the system). By day seven, I learned to ignore all directions that lacked a number like A36 or B3094. Those were safe and navigable, but without a number, all bets were off. This is a lesson to be heeded even here in the good ol’ USA.
Such a Deal! Last July, I leased a Volvo XC90 Volvo Ocean Race Edition (Number 71 of 800). Reacting to a radio ad saying come on down to your local Volvo dealer you can get a Volvo XC90 V8 for $389 a month for 24 months with $3,000 cap cost reduction. How could you pass up a $54,000 SUV for that monthly payment?
Remember, I make my leasing decisions on horsepower per lease dollar so the AWD XC90 with 311-horsepower pencilled out pretty well. In fact, the dealer dropped the monthly payment to $370 without me even asking. But that’s another story.
Frankly, price was the thing that brought me to the XC90. It had not been high on my list of SUVs to consider, but it has turned out to be great vehicle – not without flaws however.
What makes the XC90 great? Its size is just about optimum. Not too big. Not too small. Compared to the four Ford Expeditions in row I had driven previously, the Volvo is the right size. From the driver’s seat forward and side visibility is excellent. The seats are very comfortable and the color combo was outstanding.
This XC90 is the Volvo Ocean Race Edition in a bright blue with a light tan interior. Very distinctive – not a vehicle you’d lose in a parking lot.
So, what are the nitpicks?
Tire Relationship to Wheel Lips.
Have you ever looked closely at an XC90 from the side. It looks like a stork sitting on spindly little wheels and tires with a huge gap between the top of the tire and the wheel lip. Why? Well, Volvo design specs require snow chain clearance. Understandable in Sweden, but I’m willing to forgo that spec for Southern California.
New York Show is Backdrop for Reveal
Volvo‘s current XC90 was introduced for the 2003 model year, and is due for a bit of a refresh. As the U.S. accounts for about 50 percent of all XC90s sold, it is no surprise that the minor change for 2007 model year was introduced at the 2006 New York auto show. Brought to you by AutoPacific and VehicleVoice, below is a first review of the changes, complete with before and after photos.
Among the most significant aspects of the update, which include some new safety features as well, is an all-new 232HP 3.2L in-line six-cylinder engine to slot between the 208HP 2.5L turbocharged I5 and the 315HP V8. The new six launches in the S80, though quickly followed by installation in the XC90, and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The new engine will figure prominently in Volvo’s range over the next several years.
Worldwide Introduction Set for Geneva
The aging Volvo S80 gets a major update for the 2007MY, and Volvo has released some initial data ahead of its auto show introductions in Geneva (March) and New York (April). Sales in the States don’t begin until the end of 2006. Though AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents won’t have the opportunity to get our hands on the updated S80 for several months, we do have some first impressions to share.
The original S80 established the modern Volvo design motif that has evolved through the lineup from S80 down to the upcoming C30. Elegant and expressive, the Volvo cues have given the cars an at-a-glance identity. The new S80 is clearly a Volvo, but may be too close in execution to its smaller stablemate the S60. Volvos are known as practical, safe, family cars and to the extent they vary from that formula, Volvo risks abandoning its heritage… an all to common occurance these days.
Handsome as the new S80 is, the very fast windshield, fast backlite and swoopy roofline promise more restricted interior roominess and headroom. While very tastefully done, we can’t help but wonder if a more practical execution wouldn’t be better accepted. Of course, the sales of the original S80 have stagnated towards nothingness, so any refresh probably will generate improved sales.
Believe it or not, one of the most anticipated new vehicles introduced at the 2006 North American Auto Show in Detroit is the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe mid-size SUV. VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) are watching this introduction very, very closely because it will demonstrate the strength of Hyundai’s research and development process and ability to produce quality products at its new assembly plant in Alabama.
This it the second generation Santa Fe. The first Santa Fe surprised pundits when it turned out to be a darn good vehicle and actually won four of the five AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards during its five years in production. The Santa Fe turned out to be a good value, good quality, highly warranted, if quirkily styled sport utlity vehicle what out-pointed products like the Ford Escape and Toyota Highlander in owner satisfaction.
Hyundai has high expectations for the new Santa Fe and hopes to fill half of its Montgomery, Alabama plant with Santa Fe volume. The other half of the capacity is devoted to the new Sonata sedan. Assuming quality is top-notch and Hyundai can maintain its value proposition and strong warranty coverage, the Santa Fe promises to be a winner.
The Hyundai press release for the Santa Fe is shown below.
Volvo XC90 Wins AutoPacific 2005 Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle Satisfaction Award
“The widely acclaimed Volvo XC90 car-based sport utility rates highest among Luxury Sport Utility Vehicles for 2005. XC90 owners rate their Luxury SUV strongly in the reputation of the Volvo brand, feeling safe while driving (no surprise there… it’s a Volvo!), front seat room, cargo capacity, interior materials, anticipated resale value, quietness and controls. These combine to deliver a very balanced product from a respected brand.”
The Infiniti QX56 was a close second to the Volvo. XC90 nosed out the QX56 due to its perceived superior safety attributes.