The Volvo XC90. The car that began a new chapter and revolutionised the way we think what Volvos represent. I take Volvo quite close to heart, because prior to this I had always resented its brand image. Why does being safe need to look so dull?
Well, not this Volvo.
As part of our (my family and I) long holiday, we've decided on doing a 10 day long road trip across NZ's South Island. It was quite a surprise to find out that the rental company we booked with provided us with an XC90 in Inscription guise and packed with a heck of a long specification list. So with 4 occupants strapped in and 4 large suitcases stuffed in its back, we got cracking.
Here are my thoughts:
Where do I start? The centre infotainment screen is simply brilliant. And mind you that this infotainment software first debuted in 2015. Yes its that old, and I believe that just shows how advanced the system was at its time.
The infotainment screen meets you in first sight with its portrait orientation spanning 9 inches. That's how it should be, because ask yourselves, when was the last time you used your phone navigation in landscape. It also has a simple yet useful home page segmented into four sections - essential to a good system. Customers are going to spend most of their times on the home screen because you don't really need to go anywhere else around the system to change most of the things that needs changes. Nearly all changes only require 2 actions. Want to change the radio? Tap the radio section to expand and tap your chosen station. Want to enter a destination on the gps? Tap to expand, tap to enter destination. You see where I'm going?
The homepage is also flanked by two seperate pages. One dedicated for your 'apps' (ie. opening up Apple Carplay or DAB) and the other for features that are on/off functions that would typically be switches in a conventional car. These interactions too follow the 'only 2 actions required' idea. Such as turning off the Auto Start/Stop function (which is bad and should just be kept off), just swipe and tap on the button. That's it! And if you've been fiddling with the system for too long and got lost, just press that home button and you're back were you started.
The screen itself is just the right size with pixel free clarity. Processing speed is powerful enough that it gets away with any noticeable lag and startup time. The touchscreen however behaves a little bit differently than your average smartphone. That's because instead of opting for a capacitive touchscreen that phones use, Volvo incorporates an infra-red system that 'sees' your fingers coming close to the screen and then register as an input. Why? So that users can operate the system with gloves (something you can't do with an iPhone) and in practice, it works pretty okay. Sure it's not as responsive when swiping and I find it odd how if you hover your finger close enough to the screen (but not touch it) the screen would register the touch. But still, it's good enough and dependable.
Much praise can't be said about the driver's digital gauge though, the core purpose of implementing a display instead of physical gauges is its freedom of customisability. The XC90 lacks this customisability which makes the need of a display redundant. Sure you can choose on either showing a map or your media in between the virtual dials, but that's really about it.
Some things to point out
Let's start off with the bad. Our car came with Volvo's 4C Air suspension and 21" tyres shod with Pirelli's Scorpion Verde, so it has the recipe to make this car either really good or bad. Where does it fall? Closer towards the good side but there's undoubtedly better composed cars in this segment. People tend to agree that the Land Rover Discovery gives a more wafty ride (not good news for the rear passengers when your driver gets carried away with New Zealand's roads). Unresolved would be a word I'd use to summarise the ride, but it isn't in anyway bad. Perhaps Sweden has good roads.
What bugs more though is road noise. The amount of road noise emitted by the Volvo was just unacceptable of a car with its emphasis on luxury and comfort. I'm not sure who's tp blame but I reckon its a combination of a couple of things. First off, those huge tyres (even though they included Pirelli's noise cancelling system where foam is fitted inside the tyres). Secondly, most of the roads used were (really) coarse chip roads but the most underlying problem, ironically, is the XC90's lack of underfloor sound insulation.
That's it for this post! I love this Volvo. It's a great piece of machinery and tech bundled into a blanket of safety. What more do you need for a grand tour?
Feel free to comment your opinions about cars you've used for road trips and suggestions for this blog!
Thanks for reading,