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2005 Volvo XC90 V8 Full-Size Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle

New Car Review of the 2005 XC90 V8 Full-Size Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle

Base MSRP Range: $45,395

Base Invoice Range: $42,706

MSRP As Tested: Not Available

Versions: XC90 V8

Vehicle Category: Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: All Wheel Drive .

Engine as Tested: 4.4-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 32-valves, V-8, 315 -horsepower at 5,850 rpm and 325 lb-ft torque at 6,500 rpm.

Transmission As Tested: 6-Speed Automatic.

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 14/20.

Standard Safety Features: Driver and front passenger airbags, Inflatable Side Curtain, Roll Stability Control (RSC), Side Impact Air Bags, Side Impact Protection System (SIPS), Whiplash Protection Seating System (WHIPS), ">Antilock Brake System

Competition: InfinitiFX45, Mercedes-Benz M Class, BMW X5, Acura MDX, Cadillac RSX, Lexus RX, Lincoln Aviator.


The Volvo XC90 has done for Volvo exactly what it was intended to do, bring the brand an entirely new market segment, while at the same time bringing new customers into their showrooms.

When the XC90 was introduced in 2002 production volume was estimated at 50,000 units per year. Today demand has brought annual production to 90,000 units; that’s 80% more cars produced each year than originally envisioned. Demand has made the XC90 the best selling European-made Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV.) Perhaps even more important than the sheer volume of sales, is the fact that 82% of all XC90 sales are conquests. Meaning most all the people purchasing the XC90 are first-time Volvo buyers. This works wonders for Volvo’s brand strength.

Volvo felt it had been loosing substantial sales by not having an SUV on the market with a V8 engine. 30% of all SUVs sold in North America have a V8 under the hood. Given that the U.S. sales account for 60% of all XC90 sales Volvo knew it was missing an opportunity selling only the 5 and 6 cylinder versions, and thus has brought the V8 to market.

The XC90 V8 competitors include the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M Class, Infiniti FX45, Lexus GX and the Cadillac SRX. Oddly, Volvo did not include the Land Rover LR3 on the list. Land Rover and Volvo are both part of the Premier Automotive Group (PAG) owned by Ford. Volvo claims that the LR3 is not really a competitor because it is designed for more rigorous off-road use; an activity Volvo doesn’t chase with the XC90 V8. However the LR3 should be cross-shopped in this category. LR3 owners buy them because they like their looks and the price is competitive, not because it can cross the Kalahari.

Volvo’s new 4.4-liter, V8 engine was developed with assistance from Yamaha -- which had provided technology to Ford for the Taurus SVO product in the past. It is the first V8 Volvo has ever sold. It is also the first V8 to meet the ULEV II (Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle stage II) requirements. The engine is has been applied to no other Ford products, except the Volvo XC90.


There is a V8 badge on the new graphite-grey grille and the tailgate to identify that Volvo’s muscle-car power plant is within. The V8 has new 18” wheels, body-color doors and side moldings, and there are chrome accents on the bumpers and air intake. Twin-exhaust pipes at the back again, intimate that the engine in this Volvo has muscle.

The exterior styling of the XC90 V8 is essentially the same great design the car has had since its introduction in 2002. We consider the XC90 one of the very best designs in the automotive industry and especially in the luxury SUV or wagon classification - at last until the introduction of the S40/V50 last year Now we consider the V50 the best looking, mass-market product sold in the US. The entire Volvo product line is stellar now that Swedish design has been thoroughly incorporated into their cars. If you love Swedish furniture and architecture, you will probably agree Volvo is the design standout in the automotive market. It’s the brand own is you are hip, young and on top of trends.

The XC90 demonstrates fine-tuned automotive design. It has perfect balance between simplicity, modernism, and bling. The shift away from production of utilitarian, family products to European, luxury-brand excellence began with the C70 in the late 1990s. The transition is now complete with the XC90’s refined and integrated design; nothing is excessive; yet nothing is missing.

This is not your college professor’s Volvo. The company now has products for everyone, particularly the young, hip and affluent. And Volvo has not left itself out of the modification market either. Volvo owners now personalize their vehicles, and we see a bright future for that pursuit.


The XC90s interior is comfortable and spacious, as is the case for all Volvos now. The same integrated design strengths seen on the vehicle's exterior, appear in the interior of the XC90 V8 as well.

The cowl containing the instrument cluster is three-sided; the only interruption in a very open dashboard. There are four chrome-rimmed gauges in the cluster. Next to the cowl is a speaker for the stereo and the navigation system (if you buy it.) The navigation system screen is hidden when not in use, rising out of the dash when needed. We like this approach; it diminishes the impact that large -- and often poorly integrated -- monitors have on interior styling.

The top of the center stack contains the controls for the entertainment system. The climate controls are directly below it. Most surfaces are “soft-touch,” with the exception of the top of the center stack and console, and some accents on the dash and doors.

Volvo seats for the driver and front passenger are fantastic: very comfortable, and very strong. These seats contain Volvo’s Whiplash Protection Seating System (WHIPS). Another great feature is the fold-flat, front passenger seat. This is great for carrying long items, like 2x4s from Home Depot, or a kayak for the beach.

Seating for seven in the XC90 V8 is standard. The second row has the 40-20-40-split configuration, and the third row has a 50-50 split. All seats face forward. Volvo offers an optional, integrated, child-booster cushion for the middle seat of the second row. With this option the child seat is the 20% portion of the second row. That seat slides forward so that it is positioned just behind the two front seats. This improves contact between the child and the front seat occupants. If the safety seat is properly installed, this is an attractive feature, especially for people with three children. And that slide-forward, center seat with a car seat on it, provides an excellent barrier between the other two kids! While this is not an industry first, it is incredibly clever and useful.


The arrival of this first V8 in a Volvo product marks a significant nod to the needs and wants of the American market. American V8 engine owners love them for the sound, as much as the performance, not unlike a Harley buyer. They like the engine rumble perhaps more than how fast the vehicle is off the line. The XC90’s rumble is a sophisticated purr, more like that of a European BMW than the guttural growl of most American V8s.

However the engine is not all Volvo, despite their PR staff’s insistence to the contrary. (Fortunately we still have memories older than ten years.) It is in fact an updated version of the V8 engine designed by Ford, and built by Yamaha for the Taurus SHO (a high performance version available in the mid- to late-90s.) Yamaha now makes this engine in Japan exclusively for the XC90.

Using this engine make a lot of sense. It was designed to be transverse mounted in a front-wheel drive car. It is a compact V8 that fits into the engine bay of the XC90 without either the engine, or the truck, needing major modifications. And, it is a very good engine. It is as powerful as the competition’s, and just as smooth. The power is readily available giving XC 90 a very satisfying ride.

This is Ford’s cleanest V8 engine; perhaps the cleanest on the market. It is the first V8 meeting the Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle Stage 2 (ULEV 2) standard.

The 4.4-liter, 32-valve, dual overhead cam, V8 engine produces 315-horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 325 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. That’s a 103 horsepower jump over the 5 cylinder’s output, and 43 over the twin Turbocharged six. And it has much more torque than the other engines as well. The XC90 V8 has 325 lb-ft compared to 280 from the T6 Twin Turbo. The 5-cylinder doesn’t even count in a comparison.

Power from the 4.4-liter V8 is transferred to the wheels through a new 6-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. It is a typical manumatic, meaning you can shift the gears manually without the use of a clutch. We like them for locking in a gear on a hill, or for pulling a jet ski out of the water. But they really don’t do the job of a real manual for spirited driving, with the exception of a Sequential Manual Gearbox with paddle shifters on the steering column. (Now those are fantastic!) This transmission is designed to handle the higher torque output of this engine. Automatic shifts are very smooth, and the gear ratios well suited for trips around town in the XC90.

Ride and Handling

The XC90 V8 is a pleasure to drive. We drove on freeways, city streets as well as mountain roads and the car was perfect for every situation. XC90 is built on the same P2 platform as the S60/V70 and S80. The platform is very flexible and really works for the XC90. It gives it a great car-like ride that is smooth and relaxed for commuting and traffic jams. It also gives the XC90 very good handling characteristics. It is a lot of fun through corners and on twisting mountain roads. The XC90 performs as expected, does what you ask it to do, all of which add up to the most important active safety feature.

We have never taken the XC90 off road. And it isn’t designed to do that. This is an around-town wagon that can also handle a dirt road to a mountain cabin, and it can certainly handle winter road conditions when headed for skiing and snowboarding. But if you want to drive the Rubicon on off-road around Moab, look at a Land Rover.


The name Volvo is synonymous with automotive safety; after all they were the ones that first brought seatbelts to the market. Volvo has a team of investigators who visit crash sites where accidents have occurred involving their cars. This enables them to see the affects of the collision in the field. Their first-class, safety research center in Gothenburg, Sweden, is the best in the industry. There they can recreate any accident investigated in the field. Unlike the crash test labs in the US where two tracks intersect each other at right angles, Volvo’s facility has a moveable track, similar to a train round house. Every angle of a collision between moving vehicles and objects can be recreated for crash tests.

Besides being built to take a hit, the XC90 V8 is loaded with features to keep occupants alive in the case of a crash. Airbags are peppered throughout the interior. There are driver and front passenger airbags and side-impact airbags for both the first and second rows.

There is the Whiplash Protection Seating System or WHIPS. In an crash, when the occupant’s back pushes against the seat, the head rest moves forward to prevent the head from over extension, which causes the most common injuries occurring in collisions.

Every type of vehicle has its own particular safety problems. Rollover is the challenge for Sport Utility Vehicles. Extreme avoidance maneuvers dramatically increase the chance of a rollover occurring with an SUV because of the higher center of gravity. Volvo developed Roll Stability Control (RSC), to mitigate the problem. RSC is a Volvo XC90 exclusive feature designed to assist car control and prevent rollover form occurring during an incident. RSC is an active stability enhancement system using sensors to determine roll speed and vehicle angle. The system determines the Terminal Angle (when a rollover is immanent) and activates the standard Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC) system. DCTC reduces power adjusting the brake level to the necessary wheels. This induces under-steer until driver control is regained.

The XC90's roof structure has been reinforced with Boron steel -- a metal that is four or five times stronger than normal steel - providing extra protection to the occupants in the case that a rollover does occur. Additionally Volvo provides Inflatable Head Curtains for all three rows of seats. The curtain is designed to stay fully inflated for a longer period of time extending protection in a rollover, or side-impact collision.

In Conclusion

The 2005 Volvo XC90 V8 will for Volvo exactly what it is intended to: increase the American buyer base. This is a great V8-powered wagon for everyday use. It has a great ride, dependable handling, and the styling can’t be beat.

The Volvo XC90 is the value leader in European V8 SUVs with an MSRP of $45,395. It comes in $1,005 less than the current Mercedes-Benz M Class V8, and a staggering $7,405 less than a BMW X5! It is certainly a better choice than the M Class for the money. And though the BMW X5 is more fun to drive, it is hard to justify the additional cost.

Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: 10
  • Performance: 8
  • Price: 9
  • Handling: 8
  • Ride: 9
  • Comfort: 9
  • Quality: 9
  • Overall: 8.8

More Data

Where Built: Gottenburg Sweden

Major Options: Bi - Xenon Headlamps. Rear seat enterainment system

Seating: 7

Number of Rows: 3

Length in Inches: 188.9

Warranties: 4 years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper, 8 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection, 4 year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance, 3 year/30,000 free scheduled maintenance.

Weight in Pounds: 4,610 lbs

Cargo Capacity in Pounds: Not available

Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: 5,164-5,351

Towing Capacity in Pounds: 5,000

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 21.1

Destination Charge: $695