Volvo calls the XC90 an ‘all-roads vehicle’, not a pure off-roader. This thinking has dictated the cab-forward design, made possible by its transversely mounted engine.
The much-copied strong shoulders running the length of the XC90, along with its trademark grille, also ensure you’re in no doubt that this is a Volvo.
It’s no skin-deep illusion, either, for beneath the XC90 lies the P2 platform found beneath the S80 and V70. The all-independent suspension has MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link set-up at the rear. But the front subframe and many components are now made from steel, not aluminium (as on the S80), and the spring, damper and anti roll bar rates are stiffer.
Volvo has opted for a permanent electronically controlled all-wheel drive system supplied by Haldex. Under normal driving, up to 95 percent of power goes to the front wheels, the drive being fed through an end-on gearbox to an integral front differential.
When slip is detected, an electronic multi-plate clutch transfers between five and 65 per cent of torque via a tailshaft to a second diff between the rear wheels. Only a quarter turn of the wheel will trigger the transfer; it’s significantly quicker, Volvo claims, than a mechanical set-up.
Despite its all-round remit and 218mm of ground clearance, the XC90’s centre of gravity is low for a SUV. Volvo’s Roll Stability Control – whose sensors activates the brakes and cut power – works with the traction control to minimise the risk of roll.