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Volvo XC90 – A Year Under the Belt

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.

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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.

To get the wheel to body relationship a little better I invested in a set of Evolve performance springs that lowered the vehicle by a little over an inch front and rear. Made the ride a bit more harsh and the jounce bumpers come on real quickly when hitting a pothole, but the appearance improvement is worth it.
An additional benefit of lowering the body is that ingress/egress is just a bit easier. This puts the seat cushion at the optimum height (for me) above the ground.
Tiny Tires Wimp Out the XC90: Well, I wasn’t going to spring for new wheels and tires even though I lowered the XC90, so I’m living with tiny, tiny Michelin Pilots – 235/60Rx18s. Gimme a break, the tires lend a weak appearance to the XC90. Should have much larger baloneys on the vehicle. The Audi Q7 we just turned in had 275/45Rx20s. Now that’s more like it. Frankly, I don’t want tires that are obviously for a passenger car on an SUV – even if it is a Crossover SUV.

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NO SATELLITE RADIO! The Volvo dealership was plastered with SIRIUS Satellite Radio posters when I leased the XC90. “Throw in the satellite radio,” I said. Nocando, said the salesperson. Can’t get Satellite on an XC90 even as an accessory. My Volvo Ocean Race XC90 is a late 2006 model. Of course, the 2007 had Satellite Radio as an option.
Haven’t You Heard of Veiling Glare? What Were They Thinking? Well, this color instrument panel is a basket-case in heavy sunlight. The color of the upper instrument panel surface and the angle of the windshield make visibility a problem because of glare. This is what the industry terms “veiling glare”, but maybe it’s not sunny enough in Sweden to ever experience this. While the very light color of the I/P upper looks tasteful, I would have opted for a muted charcoal to help offset glare.
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Terrible Radio Face/Fonts/Lighting: While the design and ergonomics of the center stack is quite clever and easy to understand, the radio face is a joke. First, there is not enough contrast for the labels to be easily read. Second the fonts are too small. Third, the radio face is subject to sun glare under almost all conditions. Very poor design. And the bezel surrounding the radio face lacks any finesse. Even in a vehicle from Sweden, I’d expect something more.
Where is the Compass? OK, I didn’t get an on-board navigation system using that as an excuse to tryout a Garmin NUVI hand-held unit instead. The specifications for the 2007 XC90 say that one of the option packages includes a compass in the mirror. Well, must not have had it in 2006, ’cause there ain’t one there. Maybe that was a penalty for not getting the navigation system. But, it borders on the area of “What Were They Thinking?”
El Cheapo Door Pulls – What Were They Thinking? Every time you get into or out of the vehicle you use the door pull on the arm rest. While these look pretty good – high tech silver – they feel terrible. Cheap plastic with a significant joint line on the inside of the pull – you feel it every time you use the door pull. The vehicle deserves the extra dollar required to make this more classy. After all, this has a $54,000 MSRP.
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Give Me a 5-Passenger, Please:
The first thing I did with the four Ford Expeditions I had was to remove the 3rd row seat. Uh, let me clarify. I removed the 3rd row seat from the first three and only had to press the power button on the 4th to get the seat to fold flat into the floor and provide a large uncluttered load area. Now, that’s the ticket. Never had to bother with the 3rd row in the 2nd generation Expedition with its IRS and lower rear floor.
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Now, Volvo provides the owners of its up-spec models with three rows of seats. Using a flip/fold/hide mechanism that only Rube Goldberg could appreciate, the 3rd row seat does fold into the floor, but without a power assist. Additionally, room in the 2nd row is sacrificed to make room for even the smallest passengers in the 3rd row. I would personally have preferred a more spacious 2nd row rather than having 7-passenger seating.
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