Five years ago, I probably would sooner have had my head held underwater in a toilet bowl than drive a Volvo. This probably wasn't a fair bias, but they just looked so unappealing and seemed to embody "uncool" like no other car out there.
Anyway, things have changed, and Volvo is now offering several compelling vehicles. A few months back I was looking for an SUV to replace my Lincoln Navigator and tote my kids around. I had several complaints with my Navigator:
- It was too large and unwieldy around town
- The fit and finish was terrible. It started rattling after about 8000 miles
- At $2 a gallon for gas, its terrible mileage started bankrupting me.
- Its cargo space was poorly engineered - the seats didn't fold down all the way and the space in the rear was not very usable.
I chose the XC90 for a number of reasons:
- It was the smallest, tightest SUV with a third seat in the back, allowing me to take up to five kids with me. No other small SUV's had this third seat - you have to go to Suburbans or Navigators to find another car that has it
- The rear cargo area is superbly engineered. Both the back seats fold down flat making a totally usable flat space all the way up to the front seats.
- The car maneuvers and parks really well, especially with the ultrasonic sensors when backing up.
- The fit and finish is really nice
- The car's exterior looks pretty good; its actually remarkably similar to the BMW SUV.
- The car handles pretty well, particularly with the AWD (all-wheel drive) and is a hell of lot better at cornering than the large SUV's.
- Its very safe - it consistently ranks as safest car on the road - not just SUV but safest car period
- I got a good deal on it at the end of the last model year, though even then it certainly can't be called inexpensive
The car does have a couple of flaws. The biggest one is the engine. Both the 5 and the 6 cylinder options are fairly weak. I ended up buying the smaller engine, because it was cheaper and the larger engine wasn't noticeably more powerful. The pickup in the car is pretty mediocre, though I would not call it dangerous - there is enough power to get on the freeway without getting smushed. However, it is disappointing that this small and under-powered engine is simultaneously weak on gas mileage. I am getting about 16-17 mpg with the car, which is certainly better than my Navigator, but low given how much smaller the car is and how small the engine is. I would have hoped it got at least 20. This would probably be the perfect car if Honda or Toyota would make an engine for it (By the way, I heard on the radio the other day that Volvo is adding a V-8 option).