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2015 Volvo XC90 – Square is Pretty

Kamil Kaluski August 26, 2014 The News! 19 Comments

2015 Volvo xc90 front

Volvo has been hyping up its new 2015 XC90 for quite some time, and with good reason as it is the first all-new vehicle from this maker in decades under its new Chinese owners. Furthermore, like the MDX for the Acura brand and countless other automakers who rely on their SUVs for daily bread and butter, this vehicle is extremely important to them, and they had to get it right.

Designing a proper CUV/SUV or a minivan is a lot more difficult than a sportcars, in my opinion. Simplify and add lightness does not really apply here (but it helps); comfort, space, access, functionality, maneuverability, economy, and cost are huge factors. And it has to look right, too! It has to look imposing but not offending, strong but not vulgar, it has to appeal to women and not repel men. To say that designing a modern SUV is challenging is an understatement. So, did Volvo get the XC90 right?

[Image source: ]


2015 Volvo xc90 front headshot

2015 Volvo xc90 rear

Remember when Volvos were square?

Yes, I do too, and I miss them dearly. At a quick glance Volvo is definitely going back to square-ish design, as it should. Square implies strength, which in the way implies safety. Ask any modern tiger-parent about safety of their kids – they’d keep them in a bubble if they could, nothing is too good, they spend thousands on strollers for crying out loud. Square also implies function: cargo space, headroom, access (note very square doors and hatch), it’s all here.

It’s also unmistakably Volvo, with modern cues worked into the square body very nicely. Some may say that it looks a bit like a Honda Pilot, to which I say good. Say what you want about the Pilot, but it’s a sales leader and one of he reasons for its success is its ability to swallow up kids and all their crap with ease. Big windows and door mounted mirrors will yield great visibility, which many modern SUVs do not have.

2015 Volvo xc90 rear headshot



2015 Volvo xc90 dash interior seat

2015 Volvo xc90 interior rear seats folded

Volvo interior have always been a little different, and that is good, Lord knows that automotive industry could use a little differentiation. While Volvo seats have always been excellent, many of their dash layouts were a sometimes lacking proper ergonomics. Similarly, the most recent infotainment systems were outdated and lacking functionality. Looking at these pics, Volvo is addressing all that, with the giant Tesla-like screen being the only questionable thing.

Overall interior design is certainly pretty, simple, Swedish. It seems nice enough to get the people who can’t quite afford Range Rovers into the showrooms and not deter those looking for function over form. Built-in booster seat is page from the old school Volvo playbook. It’s a great idea, but I think that having it in an outboard seat would make more sense – you don’t want your kids that close to each other on longer drives. Hopefully access to the third row seats is easy like in the Nissan Pathfinder. Every parent I know manages to fill up all the available consoles, bins, and trays with crap, so I hope the XC90 has a lot of hidden storage. A vehicle like this cannot have enough cup-holders, either.

Volvo XC90 2015 booster seat

I have a feeling that this new 2015 XC90 will be a huge success for the Volvo brand. They really seemed to have a great design and they already have great new engines. Competition in this segment is fierce and the right price (read: lease rates) will be the next challenge.


  • Sjalabais

    I agree with you here on major points: The return of old school visibility, form-follows-function-aesthetics is imho absolutely laudable. All that without being ugly, but maybe the car ends up being a tad generic. You see the Volkswagen guy's signature in there. The original XC90 was thus much more daring.

    The interior is fantastic. No surprises here, cozy luxury seems to be turni g into a Volvo hallmark. Appreciated! Also, with an assumed long production run, the timelessness inside and out will have us call this…"the last real Volvo" in 2024.

    • wunno sev

      agreed on all points. the XC90 wasn't my favorite car, but it definitely stood out from the competition – a big SUV that didn't look like a square-cornered box, thanks to volvo's early-'00s aversion to sharp edges. not sure how this one will look, but i have a long history of disliking pictures of cars that turn out to be stunners in meatspace (have you seen that maserati ghibli in person? it's bangin')

      i think we're entering a golden era of automobile interior design. volvo has had light, airy interiors on lock for the last decade or so (S40), and fresh designs have been coming out of jaguar for maybe five (XF/XJ), and MBZ for one or two (new S/E/C). i'm excited to see where all this goes, as long as that teslascreen isn't mandatory.

      • Sjalabais

        No Maserati's around here, I'm afraid. But, yeah, the XC90 was a successful attempt at hiding the big SUV size in a friendly, curvy package – and it became better over time. The early models with plastic bumpers look kind of clumsy now.

        I'm with you on the interior design, light colours, organic shapes etc are a big . Love the light wood, too, as in BMW's electric cars. But like many other conservatives here I do have my issues with big screens, or even screens at all. Volvo was a master of huge, ergonomic, amazingly effective buttons. Awkward nav-screens never helped to make Volvo-people like screens either.

        In addition to the interior-upswing, I think that exterior design, too, is on a high. Lots of different cars out there now, Mazda having the most beautiful lineup of all times, and every make tries to find their own way. Some are ridiculous (Lexus), some are überpleasant in their anonymity (Audi), American cars do stay on the muscular track, and some go for the bloated-chicken-look (Mini). Something for every taste.

  • CopterBob

    Love the interior. Very clean. But with the exception of the obviously Volvo rear view, which I also like, you could've Photoshopped GMC or most any other emblem on it and I wouldn't have questioned it.

  • With the exception of the needless-wide console (which all vehicles seem to have nowadays), I like it. And I'm one of those people who don't like SUVs, so that's probably an indication that it's in for a good reception.

  • topdeadcentre

    I don't like the exterior styling. It looks like a GMC product, not a Volvo. Bland, generic, blah. On the other hand, the nice interior, great safety design, and various luxury bits will mostly likely help it sell pretty well to the suburban field-hockey-mom set.

    I'm not an SUV person anyway. But this car makes me sad; all new designs for larger cargo-haulers seem to be following the same bland, generic path.

  • das shtig

    I have a V90 with the child seat is in the middle, and I figured it's because Volvo worked out that the safest place to put a child is as far as possible from the doors, roof, nose, tail– I.e., as far as possible from any potential point of impact.

    • Agreed… but people buying an XC90 are likely to have more than one child.
      Wasn't there a model that had two of them?

      • schigleymischke

        The XC90 has always only had the one booster in the middle. The V70 and the XC70 have 2, on the sides. Don't know why.

      • joshuman

        We had a 2008 and it only had the one booster. That central seat could slide forward independently, which was nice. The central seating location is much safer than any other position in the car. Our pediatrician even said it is better to be in that seat without a car eat than in the outboard seats with. The central booster is nice because it is less wide than the kind you toss on top of the seat. This allows you to install as many of the large child seats in the outer locations as you want.

        I want that old car back enough that I'm really interested in this new one. The price is large though.

  • Scandinavian Flick ★

    This is the first new vehicle in a long time without that upward sweep to the belt line, and it makes a HUGE difference. This whole vehicle looks really, really good, IMO, with the exception of the touch screen dash. I will never like those in a car. I recently got to experience one of those in a new Escalade, and all that served to do was strengthen my hatred of them. Maybe Tesla does it better, which I wouldn't doubt, but the overall feel is just out of place in a car.

    But overall, very nicely done. And that takes a lot for me to say that about an SUV.

  • It certainly looks promising. The exterior design is clean and unoffensive without being overly bland. Volvo has never been one to be outlandish, instead sticking out for not sticking out.

    Now, about a Polestar version…

  • PotbellyJoe ©

    I'd love to see a front middle seat and column shift version. With how wide the front console is, it'd be the widest seat in the car, haha.

    The good news is I don't hate it. I have been getting tired of the European brands all trying to look Japanese over the past decade. This is a nice change of pace. The proportions and cleanliness of the lines, though somewhat sterile, are clearly European. It should appeal to past Volvo owners and architects who need to replace their Saabs.

    It's distinct enough to be recognizable, but generic enough to not offend. The right combination for the SUV club.

    • Sjalabais

      I doubt a column shift is on the horizon. Never seen a Volvo from the car division with one.

      • PotbellyJoe ©

        I was being mostly facetious. The only SUVs that have had three seats in the front row are derived from pickup trucks that have them.

  • dwbf11

    Coming from a huge fan boy over here: it looks like a BMW X5 and a VW Touraeg went on a Swedish summer holiday and this was the result some months later.

    And that's a good thing.

  • Sjalabais

    Some of the ancestry is taken good care of:

    <img src="; width="600">
    <img src="; width="600">
    <img src="; width="600">

    It is astonishing how the new kid (soccer mom?) on the block makes the classic look old.

  • I like the new look of Volvo. NOW MAKE THE ESTATE CONCEPT!

  • Sjalabais

    Data sheets, power curves, transmission ratios and all measurements .

    <img src="; width="600">


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