The New Volvo V90 T8: Can a Luxury Station Wagon Be an Act of Defiance?

On March 1, 2016, Volvo introduced the all-new 2017 V90 T8 Estate (station wagon) to the 2016 Geneva Motor Show.  It’s the newest update for the 90 Series, Volvo’s flagship line, and is the third of 9 all-new vehicles to come from Gothenburg.  If you thought the S90 T8 sedan was a little small, but didn’t need the extra size of the XC90, the V90 is right up your alley.

The marketers at Volvo believe the V90’s niche is with women. If you think I’m wrong, you must have missed the video above.  The soundtrack is from “Made Of”, Viola Martinsson’s remake of a song by the Swedish electro-house duo Nause.  In late 2011, the song spent 17 weeks in the middle and lower third of Sweden’s Top 50, peaking at #15.  Check out the lyrics:

You can try but never stop me
Cause this is what I’m made of
I’ll never ever let go
Cause this is what I’m made of
No one can control me
Cause this is what I’m made of
You can hit but never break me
This is what I’m made of

 

It is fascinating that Volvo chose “Made Of” as the soundtrack for a product launch.  The words above are defiant.  In the original music video, the action follows a group of young women on their way to the club.  Instead of watching them preen and strut, they rough-up guys they run into. Then they party.  Although that’s not really defiant to me, any child of the 80’s and 90’s will tell you that music videos don’t always mimic the song.

In Volvo’s reveal video, we see lifestyle shots with slightly older archetypes of these women inter-cut with stunning shots of the V90 T8 on scenic Swedish roads.  Every few seconds we hear, “This is what I’m made of”.  Maybe buying a V90 is a defiant statement of affirmation?

Or is the company making a statement?  They have been down and in depths that the boys in Gothenburg never thought they would see.  I’m sure some Volvo executives never thought the relationship with Geely would work this well.  “Made Of” then becomes a defiant corporate anthem.

Whatever the reason, the V90’s reveal video is well-made, and intent on making an aspirational point.  To some it could be obvious, to others its a music video about a car.  Take your pick.

But so much for arts criticism, back to the car:



“We have a very strong position in the estate segment,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars. “In many people’s minds we are known as the definitive estate brand. While the Volvo brand today stands for more than estates, we are proud to carry forward this rich heritage with the V90.”

 

The V90 T8 is built on the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) frame that underpins the XC90 and S90 Sedan.  The T8 version will have the same powerplant as it’s kin, a high compression, 4-cylinder turbo mated to an electric motor that will hurl you and your groceries to from zero to 62 mph in just 5.2 seconds.  According to Fuelly.com, a great source of crowdsourced fuel economy data, the 2016 XC90 T8 gets 32.7 mpg.  The V90 is about 500 pounds lighter than the big SUV, which means simply incredible fuel economy.

The hybrid powertrain in the V90 can be driven in 3 modes; Pure, Hybrid and Power.  In Pure mode the car runs on electric power alone, about 50 miles.   In Hybrid mode the car operates on an economical combination of gasoline and electricity.  Power mode?  What do you think?  Unleash the 320 hp 4-cylinder turbocharged engine.

Inside, the V90 looks like this:



Back in 2012, Volvo made a commitment to zero fatalities in Volvo cars by the year 2020.  Volvo has always been synonymous with safety, and the IntelliSafe technology suite is the carmakers’ next step towards reaching the goal.  IntelliSafe is a mix of standard and optional features like blind spot information, rear collision warning, a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, run-off road protection, large animal detection, speed limiting based on road signs (clever), and their existing City Safety technology package.

But Pilot Assist has to be the biggest technological innovation.  Pilot Assist is the next iteration of semi-autonomous driving, a “stepping-stone” along the way to Volvo’s vision of self-driving cars.  Engage Pilot Assist and the car will continually read the road, as well as objects around you.  Pilot Assist will keep you in the center of your lane at your current speed (up to 81 mph).  Pilot Assist is semi-autonomous, meaning the driver is still responsible for vehicle operations.

Volvo still has a long way to go before making good on their pledge to introduce 9 new models by the 2019 model year.  If the XC90, S90 and V90 are the standard, we should be very impressed with what is to come.

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Sebastian James

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Accept no substitutes

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