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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Volvo XC90 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Volvo XC90 Overview

The Cross Country Gets a New Big Brother

Volvo cars have always been excellent at tackling inclement weather; they do, after all, come from Sweden. But Americans have this strange idea in their heads that big, truck-like SUVs are the best buffer to nature's sometimes-nasty temper. Until now, the closest thing Volvo could offer was the XC70 Cross Country wagon. As excellent as this vehicle is at traversing snow and mud, the Cross Country's interior dimension remained identical to its station wagon kin. What Volvo needed was a vehicle that could compete with the likes of the Mercedes ML and BMW X5. So the engineers took their largest car platform, in this case the S80, and used it as a base from which to build Volvo's first SUV: the XC90.

The XC90 may well be the best new crossover SUV on the market. It combines power and room with a more-than-capable off-road ability. But more importantly, it inherits everything Volvo knows about making sure its customers survive in the event of accident. The XC90's car-based platform allows Volvo engineers to design in crumple zones that absorb energy during an impact. They then build a reinforced steel cage around the passenger compartment, surround it with a protective side-curtain airbag and place seat belt pretensioners and force limiters at every seating position. Volvo completes the safety package by adding its Roll Stability Control (RSC) system that constantly monitors the vehicles stability. Should you encounter a situation in which a rollover is imminent, the RSC intervenes by activating the traction control; that in turn induces an understeer situation that allows the vehicle to come back to the driver's control.

Accommodations inside the XC90 are generous, with an available forward-facing third-row seat that increases seating capacity to 7 people. There is a clever center-child-seat booster that slides forward, placing it closer to the front passenger seat. This unique design allows the front passenger to tend to a child without having to unbuckle their seatbelt. The XC90's front seats are terrifically comfortable, with form-fitting contours that seem to press gently against every part of your body and a whiplash protection system built into the headrests. From the driver's seat, you have a commanding view of the road, sitting almost 7 inches higher than if you were behind the wheel of the Cross Country wagon. The XC90's dash is logically laid out and simple to use but you may find it is also overrun by too much gray and taupe plastic.

The XC90 comes in three configurations. We tested the AWD model powered by a 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder turbo-charged engine. Good for 208 horsepower, this engine manages the XC90's weight, but lacks a bit when loaded with passengers. The really powerful model is the T6, which gets a 2.9-liter twin-turbo charged engine; this is the one you want, if power, passing and speed are an important part of your driving routine. Later in the model year, a front-wheel drive version will be offered, but only with the 2.5-liter engine. Volvo has included its Geartronic transmission as standard equipment; the Geartronic system allows you to manually shift gears without the use of a clutch pedal. When in automatic mode, the transmission worked fairly well, but exhibited a slight pause before kicking down (as when you floor the accelerator pedal.)

The XC90's all-wheel-drive system works invisibly, without the need to shift gears or activate a transfer case. The system detects wheel slippage and sends power to the wheels that still have traction, thus helping the driver to maintain control. Unlike the Cross Country, the XC90 is intended for off-road use and can even take on areas usually reserved for rugged 4x4s.

Driving the XC90 is much like driving a car, only higher up. The steering response, turn in, acceleration and braking are all excellent for an SUV. With a ground clearance of over eight inches, you'd think that the high center of gravity would make cornering a precarious endeavor at best; but the XC90 exhibits only the slightest lean and the well-bolstered front seats keep you from slamming into the door during hard cornering. There is ample storage space, a total of 12 cup holders and numerous storage bins and cubbies to hide odds and ends. The seats can be arranged in a number of ways and according to Volvo, they have over 64 possible configurations.

Standard equipment includes power windows and door locks, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, ABS, dual-heated power mirrors, fog lights, AM/FM stereo with CD, skid plate protection for the engine and transmission, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels and a rear wiper/washer. Some more note worthy options include the onboard navigation system, leather interior, heated seats, a DVD-based entertainment system and premium audio with an in-dash six-disc CD changer.

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