Volvo XC90 (2002)

Volvo XC90

The Volvo XC90, a genuine SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle), is the first vehicle of its type which takes other road users into account. The Volvo XC90 has been designed to help protect those in lower cars, pedestrians and cyclists.

This consideration has also been extended to the occupants of the Volvo XC90. Its centre of gravity is lower than that of a conventional SUV, which minimises the risk of the vehicle rolling over. If, in spite of everything, the vehicle were to roll over, it has a specially strengthened roof, special sensors to tension the safety belts, and the airbags and Inflatable Curtain would be activated.

A True Volvo

The Volvo XC90 can be ordered with up to three rows of seats. The seats in the third row are designed for children. A great deal of work was devoted to making the third row of seats as safe as the others.

All of the passenger seats can be folded down individually, for optimum load space flexibility.

There are a number of innovative techno-logical solutions in the Volvo XC90. The All Wheel Drive system is of the same type as used in the recently-launched Volvo S60 AWD, but adapted to meet the requirements of an SUV. The Volvo XC90 is the most flexible and safest SUV on the market, and it's also a delight to drive.

Design: masculinity and flexibility the Scandinavian way

"Masculine, but not macho; muscular, but not aggressive," is how the new Volvo XC90 is described by Peter Horbury, former Vice President and Chief Designer at Volvo Car Corporation.

The muscular stance is the synthesis of a number of traditional yet unique Volvo features:

  • the upright front with its dark, egg-crate grille
  • the V-shaped hood, further emphasised on the Volvo XC90
  • the broad, pronounced shoulders
  • the characteristic tail lamps

"Nobody should be in any doubt that this is a modern Volvo," says Peter Horbury.

The muscularity of the Volvo XC90 is matched by chamfered corners front and rear, promoting a gentle, non-aggressive impression, helping the vehicle to look more homogenous.

"Cockpit forward design"

Peter Horbury is happy to talk about the "cockpit forward design" in the Volvo XC90, where the passenger compartment has been moved as far forward in the vehicle as possible, and where the sloping windscreen is positioned further forward than in most other SUVs.

This has allowed Volvo to make a seven-seater SUV within compact overall body dimensions. The Volvo XC90 is 4.80 metres long, just 87 mm longer than a Volvo V70.

The tailgate on the Volvo XC90 has a rather sporty angle. This is one way of announcing that this is no regular estate car, since the vertical tailgate is such a well-known design feature of the Volvo V70 and XC70.

The incline of the tailgate also means that the roofline is truncated, making the vehicle look shorter and giving it a thoroughly modern sporty stance on the road.

The tailgate splits into an upper and a lower half. The lower section can be used as a seat or table.

The bumpers of the XC90 seem to embrace the vehicle and the tough, dark coloured, composite panels provide a protective cradle. This emphasises the vehicle's higher ground clearance and its SUV appeal.

Interior with a Scandinavian flavour

The interior of the Volvo XC90 is characterised by airiness, space and quality materials.

The large glass panels allow plenty of light to enter the passenger compartment, and the cleanness of the layout and interior trim further boosts the feeling of space and elegance.

Facing the driver is one of the car world's clearest and most ergonomically designed instrument panels.

It is characterised by Scandinavian simplicity of line and functionality: plenty of information from a small number of meticulously designed instruments.

Compared with those found in a passenger car, the instruments and controls are angled slightly up towards the driver's eyes. Together with the high seating position, this enhances the feeling of control - the single quality that SUV buyers generally prize most highly.

The seats in the Volvo XC90 are designed to allow it to be easier to climb in and out of the vehicle.

Focus on flexibility

The interior of the Volvo XC90 offers what is perhaps the greatest flexibility in the SUV class. Despite its compact dimensions, the vehicle offers generous interior space. The Volvo XC90 can be ordered either as a five-seater or in seven-seater configuration.

No matter which variant the customer chooses, both the second and third rows of seats can be folded down to create an entirely flat luggage compartment floor no less than 1.89 metres long, 1.13 metres wide and with a volume of 2404 litres (SAE).

The middle row of seats, designed like seats in a regular passenger car, has a three-part backrest to offer maximum flexibility. The middle seat in this row can be equipped with an integrated child booster cushion. In a 7-seater the child seat can slide forwards so that it is positioned partly between the two front seats, thus improving contact between the child and the parents in the front seats.

The third row features two separate seats, offering full comfort for children or for adults of modest build.

"Everyone rides in Business Class in the Volvo XC90, nobody travels economy class. It is true that the third row isn't built for full-size adults, but a modern family rarely needs room for seven grown-ups in the car", concludes Peter Horbury.

Chassis and powertrain: performance and roadholding at premium level

The Volvo XC90 is a vehicle designed for all types of roads, irrespective of the surface beneath the tyres and the weather conditions.

Even though it is not basically intended for off-road driving, the combination of electronically controlled four-wheel drive and 218 millimetres of ground clearance creates the right preconditions for continued progress when the going gets tough.

The feeling of safety that the high seating position gives the driver is supplemented with the knowledge that he or she can control the car with the help of instant, well-weighted response from the chassis, engine and brakes. Progress is thus more relaxed and comfortable.

The chassis in the Volvo XC90 is designed to give the vehicle the same ride and roadholding as a passenger car. It is based on the chassis of the Volvo S80, S60 and V70, cars that are renowned for their excellent road manners.

In the Volvo XC90, however, the suspension has been beefed up and dimensioned to handle heavier loads and higher ground clearance.

Well isolated rear suspension for quieter progress

The rear suspension of multi-link type is well isolated, with the dampers and springs attached directly to the subframe. This results in a quieter ride, since road and transmission noise is largely filtered out before it reaches the bodywork.

The front suspension is of MacPherson type and, together with the new ZF steering gear, promotes increased precision and sharp response. The Volvo XC90 has an extremely wide track (1634 mm front, 1624 mm rear) and a long wheelbase (2859 mm between the front and rear axles). This makes for exceptional stability, with the vehicle behaving very consistently and dependably even on curving, twisting and uneven roads.

The Volvo XC90 can be specified with a range of wheel up to 18 inches.

The braking system in the Volvo XC90 is dimensioned to help stop the vehicle safely, even when it is fully loaded with seven people and their luggage. This is achieved with an optimised brakesystem and EBA (Emergency Brake Assistance). This system monitors how quickly the brake pedal is pressed, and can thus determine if the driver is panic-braking. In such a situation, the brake pressure is boosted to maximum in the shortest possible time, thus reducing the stopping distance.

Electronically controlled AWD

One important ingredient in the recipe for safe driving pleasure in the Volvo XC90 is its electronic AWD system, developed in close cooperation with one of the foremost experts in this area - Haldex of Sweden.

Just like in previous AWD models from Volvo, the four-wheel drive system in the XC90 operates entirely independently of driver input, that is to say power is distributed automatically between the front and rear wheels for best possible grip on all types of road surfaces.

The electronically controlled AWD system is intelligent. It monitors the vehicle's contact with the underlying road surface and assesses the signals that the driver receives through the steering wheel, brake pedal and accelerator. This information then helps determine whether, and if so how, the system should respond.

In normal driving on dry roads, almost all power is delivered to the front wheels.

If the road surface causes the front wheels to slip, power is proportionately diverted to the rear wheels. With electronically activated four-wheel drive, AWD engagement takes place extremely quickly, after just one-seventh of a wheel turn, which eliminates wheelspin and ensures reliable road grip. As a result, the AWD system in the Volvo XC90 has all the benefits of permanent four-wheel drive, without the accompanying disadvantages such as higher fuel consumption and heavier weight.

The electronic AWD system interacts in the Volvo XC90 with the active chassis systems DSTC - Dynamic Stability and Traction Control. This is an anti-skid system that automatically counteracts any initial tendency towards a skid before the driver even has time to notice. The system continuously compares the vehicle's direction of progress with the driver's steering wheel movements. If the vehicle shows any tendency to start skidding, the brakes are instantly applied to one or more wheels as necessary until the vehicle stabilises and the skid is avoided. DSTC also includes an anti-spin system that automatically brakes the wheel that spins, so that drive is diverted to the wheel with the best grip. It also controls the engine torque.

Engines for every need

The Volvo XC90 is available with a choice of three engines, all made entirely of aluminium:

  • An in-line 6-cylinder petrol engine with a displacement of 2.9 litres, equipped with twin turbochargers. It produces 272 bhp (200 kW) and has no less than 380 Nm of torque from just 1800 revs/min. 0-100km/h takes 9.3 seconds and the top speed is limited to 210 km/h.
  • An in-line 5-cylinder 2.5 litre petrol engine with a light-pressure turbocharger. It has a power output of 210 bhp (154 kW) and torque of 320 from 1500 revs/min. 0-100 km/h takes 9.9 seconds and the top speed is 210 km/h.
  • An in-line 5-cylinder 2.4 litre common rail turbodiesel engine. It produces 163 bhp (120 kW) and offers 340 Nm from 1750 revs/min. 0-100 km/h takes 12.3 seconds and the top speed is 185 km/h.

All three engines come from Volvo's passenger car range, but they have been re-profiled to suit XC90. In particular, the petrol engines produce far more torque from lower down the rev range. The 6-cylinder engine is the same unit that powers Volvo's largest sedan, the S80 T6. It has a parallel turbo system - two small and highly efficient turbochargers that are installed alongside each other. They are driven by and feed three cylinders each.

In the Volvo XC90, the T6 engine's displacement has been enlarged from 2.8 to 2.9 litres and it is equipped with variable valve timing or CVVT on both the inlet and exhaust sides. CVVT adjusts valve timing to suit the engine's current revs and load, and it thus exploits the engine more effectively, reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

One of the most important results is that maximum torque is available from just 1800 revs/minute, compared with the 2000 revs/minute of the 2.8-litre version.

Best of two worlds: Geartronic

The Volvo XC90 T6 has 4-speed Geartronic automatic transmission as standard. With Geartronic, the driver gets the best of both worlds: on the one hand, the transmission can be left to take care of gearchanging entirely automatically, or the driver can over-ride the system to change gears manually without a clutch pedal.

The automatic transmission is adaptive, which means that it monitors the driver's driving style and adjusts the gearchanging pattern accordingly. It also features a "W" setting for winter driving on slippery surfaces. Here, the car starts off in a higher gear to avoid wheelspin and loss of control.

The 5-cylinder light-pressure turbo engine now reaches its maximum torque of 320 Nm (236 ft.lbs) from just 1500 revs/minute, giving the XC90 excellent starting characteristics. This has been achieved with a longer piston stroke, increasing engine displacement from 2.4 to 2.5 litres. This change is matched by a somewhat smaller turbocharger which steps into operation a bit earlier. Like its bigger sibling the T6, the 2.5 litre engine has Dual CVVT.

In addition, power output has increased from 200 to 210 (US 197 to 208) brake horsepower.

The 5-cylinder light-pressure turbo engine can be specified in combination with a 5-speed Geartronic automatic transmission.

2nd generation common rail

The newly developed 5-cylinder 163 bhp diesel engine features second-generation common rail technology. Fuel is injected into the cylinders under extremely high pressure, up to 1600 bar. This ensures an exceptionally finely distributed supply of fuel throughout the injection sequence. The result is remarkably efficient combustion, boosting the engine's efficiency and reducing emissions.

The turbocharger is of the VNT (Variable Nozzle Turbine) type. This means that the turbine features movable vanes on the inlet side, which promotes a high turbine efficiency rating throughout the rev range. This allows a high boost pressure from low revs, resulting in a flat torque curve and higher power output.

The diesel engine transmits its power via a 5-speed Geartronic automatic transmission.

Safety: the sights are set on leadership

Customers expect Volvo to retain its lead in the field of safety - irrespective of vehicle type. With the launch of its first-ever SUV, Volvo Car Corporation enters an entirely new segment, and the goal is perfectly clear: to lead the way in terms of safety.

As in all other Volvo models, safety in the Volvo XC90 is a holistic concern. Safety is never achieved by simply adding a number of individual stand-alone features into a car: what is important is the interaction between them - it is this interplay that shapes the result.

This holistic approach is - and always has been - one of the corner stones of Volvo's safety philosophy.

With the entry of Volvo Cars into the SUV market, there is increased focus on several new areas. One of them is roll-over accidents, where the vehicle rolls over onto its roof one or more times.

Roll-over Protection System

Volvo's Roll-over Protection System, ROPS, tackles the problem from two directions:

  • a stability-enhancing system, RSC, which minimises the risk of rolling over in the first place
  • increased protection for the occupants if the vehicle does roll-over

Owing to its higher centre of gravity, an SUV may have a higher risk of rolling over in certain critical situations compared with a conventional passenger car. That is why the centre of gravity in the Volvo XC90 has been kept as low as possible compared to most SUVs. In fact, it is just 89 mm higher than that of the Volvo XC70.

However, this does not mean that Volvo has compromised on one of the properties that SUV buyers value so highly: a commanding seating position. The front seats are no less than 165 millimetres higher than in the Volvo XC70.

Roll Stability Control

In order to help reduce the risk of a roll-over situation, the Volvo XC90 is equipped with an active stability-enhancing system known as Roll Stability Control or RSC. The system uses a gyro-sensor to register the car's roll speed and roll angle. Using this information, the terminal angle is instantly calculated and thus also the roll-over risk.

If the calculated angle is so great that there is an obvious risk of rolling over, the DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) anti-skid system is activated. DSTC responds by reducing the engine's power and also by braking one or more wheels as necessary until the car understeers and stability is regained.

This helps reduce the risk of a roll-over accident initiated by extreme manœuvres.

RSC is the only active stability-enhancement system on the market to measure the car's roll angle.

Special steel in a reinforced roof structure

If the Volvo XC90 experiences a roll-over the passive safety systems step in. The goal is to reduce the risk of the occupants' heads from coming into contact with the car's interior roof panel or sides. Volvo has reinforced parts of the roof structure in the Volvo XC90 with extremely tough Boron steel, which is four or five times stronger than normal steel.

All the seats are equipped with seat belt pretensioners to hold the occupants securely in place. In an accident, the pretensioner pulls the seat belt firmly across the occupant's body in order to help provide maximum protection.

In order to help prevent the head from striking the car's sides, the Volvo XC90 is equipped with Volvo's IC or Inflatable Curtain. IC also helps prevent the occupants from being ejected in an accident.

The Volvo XC90 has a version of IC that is specially adapted to deal with roll-over accidents.

This means that it stays fully inflated for longer so as to offer maximum protection in a roll-over scenario. What is more, the curtain is folded in its cassette in such a way that it follows the contour of the window glass as it inflates. If the occupant's head is resting against the window at the moment of inflation, the curtain will thus slip between the glass and the occupant's head to provide enhanced protection.

In the Volvo XC90, all three rows of seats in the 7-seat version are protected by the IC.

Selfless compatibility

The problem of compatibility - when an SUV collides with a car that sits closer to the road surface - was in firm focus throughout the development of the new Volvo XC90. The typical SUV has a high ground clearance and thus often comes with high-positioned bumpers. This may create a greater risk of damage to the oncoming passenger car and more serious injuries to its passengers, since the lower car's protective beams and crumple zones simply slip below the front of the SUV without being activated.

In order to reduce the risk of this type of injury, the front suspension subframe in the Volvo XC90 is supplemented with a lower cross-member, positioned at the height of the beam in a conventional car. This lower beam is integrated into the XC90s structure and is neatly concealed behind the spoiler.

This construction reduces risk of injuries in frontal collisions as well as in rear-end impacts and side impacts. The lower cross-member strikes the oncoming car's protective structure, activating its crumple zone as intended so the occupants can be given the maximum level of protection.

During the development of the Volvo XC90, considerable attention was also paid to the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and other relatively unprotected road-users. The entire front of the car features clean, gentle and smooth lines, and there are no protruding parts which may cause enhanced injuries.

The engine in the Volvo XC90 is installed low in the vehicle. As a result, the bonnet has no less than 80 mm of deformation space before there is any contact with the engine below it. It thus serves as a soft impact-absorbing "bumper", reducing the risk of serious injury to a pedestrian who may be thrown onto the bonnet.

High safety level in the third row of seats

The Volvo XC90s third row of seats provides a high level of passenger safety. There is generous space behind it, so collision force in a rear-end impact can be effectively absorbed and dissipated.

The occupants of the rearmost seats sit just above the rear axle, which is the optimum position in terms of side-impact safety. These seats also feature belt tensioners, head restraints and, as already mentioned, the Inflatable Curtain or IC.

The front airbags are of the dual-stage type, with a sensor that monitors the incoming collision force and adjusts the airbag's inflation accordingly.

Safety for the car's youngest occupants has always been a high priority at Volvo. That is why the Volvo XC90 can be specified with the standardised attachment system for child seats, ISOFIX, in both the first and second row of seats.

WHIPS, Volvo's award-winning Whiplash Protection System, is fitted in the two front seats of the Volvo XC90. WHIPS is activated in the event of a rear-end collision from speeds as low as 15 km/h, helping to reduce trauma on the spine and neck and thus reducing the risk of injury.

Electronically controlled all-wheel drive for swift, intelligent activation

The XC90s electronically controlled all-wheel drive system is completely automatic, and one of the most technically sophisticated systems on the market today.

By comparison with the earlier Volvo all-wheel drive systems based on a viscous coupling differential, the new AWD system is much more swift in its response. One of the front wheels need only start to slip through a seventh of a single wheel revolution for the system to divert more power to the rear wheels. This means that the new AWD system provides much better starting traction on difficult surfaces, minimising the risk, for instance, of the front wheels digging themselves into soft sand. The 'heavier' the driving surface is, e.g. wet sand or mud, the greater the difference and the advantages compared with the earlier system.

Normally anything between 5 and 65 percent of the power is delivered to the rear wheels, depending on the driving conditions. Changes in the amount of power diverted to the rear wheels take place extremely quickly but smoothly, without the driver even noticing.

Managing the distribution of power between right and left is the Traction Control System (TRACS), Volvo's traction system. TRACS intervenes when necessary by braking one wheel to increase the relative power to the wheel with the best traction. This means that the AWD system, working in conjunction with TRACS, can distribute power to the wheels, which have the best traction at any given time.

In more normal driving on good surfaces, the electronic AWD system further enhances the car-like qualities of the Volvo XC90. The steering precision is excellent even when accelerating hard - anything resembling torque steer is virtually eliminated by the rapid response of the new system in combination with the new precision steering gear from ZF.

When the Volvo XC90 is being parked, the AWD system is controlled to prevent the front and rear axles from 'competing' for power at angles up to full lock, ensuring easy manoeuvring for the driver.

When the vehicle is braked, the system is deactivated so that the brake and ABS systems can function effectively, for high stability and short braking distances.

Similarly, the AWD system is deactivated by the Dynamic Stability and Traction Control system (DSTC) if this performs any braking intervention to counteract skidding.

Here is a brief technical description of the way Volvo's new AWD system works: 100 times per second, the electronic control system makes an 'intelligent' assessment of information from a number of different sources:

  • Wheel rotation speed (as measured by the ABS sensors)
  • Throttle status
  • Engine torque
  • Engine speed
  • Braking system

The system has three main parts: a hydraulic pump which is actuated by differences in speed between the axles, a 'wet' multi-disc coupling, and a control valve with electronics.

The whole coupling can be regarded as a hydraulic pump in which the pump housing and the ring-shaped piston are connected to one axle, while the piston control unit is connected to the other axle. When both axles are rotating at the same speed, no pumping takes place. As soon as a difference in speed arises, the system starts pumping oil. Because the pump used is a reciprocating pump, its action is virtually instantaneous, avoiding the delay inherent in a slower type of pump.

The oil is pumped to a coupling piston, which compresses the multi-disc portion of the coupling, thereby reducing the speed difference. From here the oil is returned to a tank via an adjustable check valve which controls the oil pressure and therefore the pressure on the coupling discs.

Electronic control means that the coupling responds ideally in a whole range of driving situations.