White Winter Wandering - Volvo XC90 B6
Volvos have been the top choice in the Indian luxury market. The intellectual kind and people with discerning taste vouch for the engineering supremacy of Volvo cars. And I am the kind who has ever been in love with the way Volvo cars make me feel. The absolutely impeccable quality and the tastefully done cabin with a variety of top-drawer amenities is something to write home about and have a late night's sleep doing so. There are numerous elements outside and inside the Volvo cars that make one feel special. I for one had been yearning to get hold of the XC90 for a long time and finally did so and set away on a winter excursion.
What's under the hood? With the current updates on the 2023 model, the Volvo XC90 B6 gets the 1969 cc turbocharged and a supercharged petrol engine that puts our 300 PS of max power at 5400 rpm and 420 Nm of max torque @ 2100 rpm which is quite healthy. With a bore X stroke ratio of 82.0 mm X 93.2 mm and a compression ratio of 9.0:1 this mammoth 7-seater luxury SUV with a 2,161 kg kerb weight is capable of doing a 0-100 kmph in 6.3 seconds (tested).
The power is channelised to all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic gearbox which has relatively shorter gear ratios in the first 2 gears and it helps pull the car with absolute ease with torque on offer.
Our journey began from New Delhi, where we left the city in the early hours of the day, escaping the rush hour traffic and letting the XC90's smooth 2-litre engine sip in some cold air. With 6 people on board and 9 bags, we were heading out to the mountains properly packed. The XC90's suspension setup is pretty complex yet brilliantly engineered to do the job of carrying heavy loads with sheer ease. We covered up most of the plains cruising at 90 kmph (legal highway speed on the National Highway 1) within a few hours and at sunrise, we reached the beautiful yet bustling town of Kasauli in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
The Drive Up! After a quick round of freshening up and feeding our bodies with some lip-smacking food at the Savoy Greens, we head further towards Shimla. Now was the time when we experienced the creamy nature of the XC90's mechanical setup. The steep uphill driving on the Himalayan Expressway which connects Panchkula to Shimla was an effortless affair and with at least 700 kilos of extra weight on board taking the gross weight to nearly 3 tonnes we barely felt the load exhausting Volvo's mechanicals. The torque band is quite linear and even with 6 souls on board the Mild-Hybrid system with the Intelligent Starter Generator provides sufficient shove when demanded.
Right after Shimla did we start noticing patches of snow deposited beside the road that leads to Kinnaur and onwards to Spiti. It being the last day of the long weekend the lane heading towards our destination was relatively empty as people were heading back to their respective bases, disappointed by the lack of any snowfall over the weekend. The snow patches were melting under the sun and making their way to the roads creating a slippery situation for the XC90's highway terrain tyres.
As we proceed further north towards Narkanda and onwards to Baghi where we were to stay, a dash of snowfall welcomed us and pasted a layer on top of the already slippery highway going up the hill. I took a moment to step out of the car and cherish the scenery since everyone we met on the way complained of missing out on the actual snowfall. Now, in theory, the XC90 should require All-Season / Mud+Snow tyres in the sort of terrain we are wayfaring through. But the XC90's potent all-wheel drive system paired with some smart software nannies supplied ample traction even when we were running full load up the hill in these tricky situations.
Now the Volvo cars are built and tested vigorously under all climatic conditions, especially in the snow/ice, which the Scandinavian countries are celebrated for. If it cannot run on their home turf, Volvos would be solemnized as pointless. There was a short patch between the highway and our hotel for the weekend which was a 2.2 km long offroad route, and in adherence to the fact that it had started to snow gloomily in the last few hours of our travelling up the hill, and the fact that the XC90 was driving with highway tyres, I was worried if the car would be able to maintain any traction and head up this rather slippery surface with the full load. The XC90 climbed on and drove without any drama, it felt like it had spikes in the tyres. The way the electronics supplied power to all four wheels with the lower friction coefficient of the path was nothing short of commendable.
Now if it were any other car / SUV, I would have had multiple existential questions in my mind. Because the narrow route we were trailing on had an 800m deep valley on one side and a steep hill on the other, not even the shadow of oncoming traffic could have passed. I was recalling all the videos of XC90's crash tests with my fellow passengers and talked about how the XC90 was intensionally tumbled at a high speed and the roof remained intact even after a hard impact on the surface. Little things that were really keeping me pumped up and inspired with confidence on how well Volvo cars are engineered.
We finally reached Tethy's Ski Resort, tucked away in the corner of the Narkanda region, welcoming us with some stunning views of the whitewashed mountains and a beautiful sunset somewhere far away.
The Very next day we were also elated to see sight of the car being loaded with all the fresh snow from the snowstorm that happened the night before. A sign that we had made it.
Now there has been a lot of chatter around the XC90 on why Volvo chose to retain its design and not bring in any major facelift / new generation model, although the same design language has been there for over half a decade now.
To Volvo's defence, it has worked very well. The timeless lines and creases on the XC90's body and even the interiors are built gracefully and have elements that are not overdone to kill its freshness in a matter of months. Something that we have experienced with other cars in its competition has gone through facelifts and major model changes almost 3 times ever since the first XC90 was launched.
The XC90's bold outlook has had so many takers ever since, and even today it is as popular amongst luxury family SUV buyers. Yes, cars like the BMW X7 and Mercedes Benz GLS are larger and offer more tech and flash than the Volvo XC90, but they are not even close to being as solidly built and reliable.
More so, the customers in this segment still look for more timeless designs and features which are useful on day to day basis. Volvo's onboard safety suite and structural rigidity are unmatched and will make this car survive through an apocalypse for real.
In addition, the B6 is a mild hybrid that uses an advanced kinetic energy recovery braking system, coupled with an internal combustion engine to create a new integrated electrified powertrain. This newly-developed powertrain ensures that drivers save up to 15% on fuel, whilst substantially reducing CO2 emissions. This system is also acting as a catalyst for making this full-size family SUV astonishingly fuel efficient.
Yes, I am talking about the fuel efficiency of a 2.1-tonne mammoth of an SUV. On our trip back to New Delhi on the highway, with a full load and a cruising speed of about 70 kmph the XC90 B6 gave us a mind-blowing fuel economy of 27.7 kmpl over the 40 km distance that we ran this test on. This is not only insanely high but also tells a lot about how far these Hybrid Vehicles have come in terms of technology and dynamics.
Verdict The Volvo XC90 is a popular full-size family SUV in the Indian market for a good amount of reasons. For one, it undercuts its major competition, namely the Mercedes Benz GLS and the BMW X7 by a full ₹ 40 and ₹ 30 lakh respectively and is packaged equally, (or more in some cases) than the latter. I absolutely adore the way the XC90 benefits the user by being supremely ergonomic, practical and efficient in one package. The way it looks could be a little old school for many, but it is a tasteful, masculine and timeless design, which says many good things about you. And Volvo's high-quality sales and service touch points pan India are an addition to a greater customer experience with the brand.
The only thing that's troublesome for the XC90 however is the Audi Q7, which has been the most popular Luxury 7-seater SUV amongst movie stars and celebrities and which also undercuts the Volvo XC90
by about ₹ 6 lakhs. A tough battle between the celebrated and intellectuals which will create great confusion among the end consumers in the market with ₹ 1 crore in their pockets.