Volvo touts its all-new 2016 XC90 SUV as the first product of the “new Volvo” and the launch of a company-wide rebirth. While Volvo isn’t completely flipping the script—and, say, making six-wheeled military motorcycles—the XC90 does represent its first independently developed car since being financially sugar-daddied by Chinese automaker Geely.
The 2016 XC90, which we recently also in, is also the model’s first clean-sheet redesign in more than a decade. Furthermore, the XC90 debuts on the brand’s Scalable Product Architecture, a modular platform that will underpin a variety of vehicles. Underscoring the crossover’s importance was the flotilla of engineers, designers, and executives that Volvo had on hand at the reveal event we recently attended in Stockholm, Sweden. We poked and prodded for the most interesting details on the new SUV, and these 10 items are the result. Enjoy, and then go forth and drop Swedish knowledge on some fools.
1. It Flies the Swedish Flag
Volvo stuck a tiny, fingernail-sized Swedish-flag label on the edge of the XC90′s front passenger seat. Shutthefrontdoor, right? Modesty is a quintessentially Swedish trait, so don’t be fooled by the flag’s smallness: Volvo is exceedingly, overwhelmingly proud of its Swedishness, and that the flag is there at all is the closest you’ll come to a Scandinavian boast.
2. Volvo Didn’t Banish Boxy Entirely
Volvo uses the term “Thor’s Hammer” to describe the XC90′s unusual T-shaped LED running lights, which is an awesome but perhaps too heavy-handed descriptor for the subtle aesthetic intention of the units. According to Volvo’s vice president of design, there is still a prevalent perception among consumers that the brand builds only boxy cars, so the stylists put a hard, 90-degree styling cue right on the car’s face to visually connect the XC90 to the firm’s stylistic past while still advancing design.
3. There’s a Teeny, Weeny Bit of Corvette in There
In its quest to carve out as much interior space as possible, Volvo fitted an ultracompact multilink rear suspension with . . . a transverse composite leaf spring! Yep, just like the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. If you opt for the XC90′s available air suspension, however, you lose the rear leaf. Fun fact: Volvo used this design before on the 960 wagon.
4. The Interior Possibly Is More Useful than the Honda Fit’s
Thanks to the compact rear suspension afforded by that transverse leaf spring—and the tidy implementation of the optional air springs—the XC90′s aft accommodations are airy and roomy for both people and cargo. Volvo further capitalizes on the space by giving the second- and third-row seats the ability to fold completely flat. When we say “flat,” we mean it: Dropped down, the seats form a smooth, uninterrupted load floor from the hatch sill to just behind the front seats. As a bonus, each of the five rear seats can be individually flattened.
5. The Rear Seats Are Real—and for Real People
Even more amazing than how they fold is how the seats actually hold people. The third row is tolerable for adults, and each of the three second-row butt garages can slide fore and aft independent of one another and offer individually adjustable backrests. The third-row chairs offer no adjustment when raised, but they’re fully realized seats instead of the usual pop-up jump seats seen most everywhere else.
6. Swedish Glass No Longer Just Refers to Scandinavian Narcotics
When extolling the XC90′s Swedishness, one must point to the rig’s dazzling crystal shift knob, which is handmade by Scandinavian glassmaker Orrefors. We found out from one of the SUV’s interior designers that each unit is individually crafted and roughly 15 glassmakers handle all of the production.
7. The XC90 Always Watches Its Rear
Using its rear-facing radar, the XC90 can anticipate an impending—or what it determines to be impending—rear-end collision. Sensing an immediate impact, the XC90 cinches down the front seatbelts and locks the brakes to minimize occupant acceleration. Outside of the U.S., the car also will flash its blinkers to try to capture the inbound inattentive driver’s attention.
8. The Badge Is Down with the Diagonal
Closely examine the XC90′s grille, and you’ll see that the familiar Volvo iron mark—the round badge with the arrow protruding from the two o’clock position—lines up with the brand’s signature diagonal grille slat. This is a first, and now you’ll notice it on every new XC90 you see.
9. Volvo Is So Good at Safety, It Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rear Side Airbags
For a brand that lives and breathes safety, Volvo had us scratching our heads with its decision not to include rear side airbags—as distinct from drop-down side-curtain airbags—on the XC90. When asked why rear side airbags, which have spread across the industry in the past few years, weren’t part of the XC90′s package, Volvo’s head of active safety cleared things up: The engineers were able to match the side-impact performance of the front-seat area in the rear using strictly passive measures like thicker doors and a strong C-pillar.
10. Hitting Pedestrians Will Be an Explosion-Free Experience
Just as Volvo was able to do more with less when it came to rear-seat side-impact performance, so, too, was it able to streamline the XC90′s pedestrian-safety roster. Although Volvo pioneered technology such as hoods that lift up in tandem with ped-protecting airbags to soften a person’s landing, the company ditched both here. That’s largely thanks to the XC90′s four-cylinder-only engine lineup. The fours are mounted low, leaving plenty of air space under the hood to ensure that, in the event of a pedestrian impact, the unfortunate soul is kept away from harmful hard points like the engine and the strut towers.