Another high-profile debut in the luxury SUV segment. This time Sweden’s Volvo enters the fray with the XC90, a model that marks a major new development in the life of a brand that has proved particularly popular in recent years. Fulvio Cinti describes the genesis of the new model and examines the significance of a segment that was once considered to be no more than a niche and is now assuming ever greater importance on the international car market.
Volvo was always bound to join the SUV gang, given its particular tradition and the need to fight back against rivals like Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Honda. Launched at the Detroit Show in January 2002 and now on the market, the XC90 comes with a sales target of 50,000 units a year, 65% of them in North America.
The design of the XC90 derives its origins from the ECC concept car presented at 1992’s Paris Show when a proposal for a “green” engine was housed in a highly innovative body designed by a young American, Doug Frasher, from the Volvo design studio at Camirillo in California.
Volvo knew exactly what it wanted to achieve when it first thought of putting the XC90 into production. The aim was to reinterpret the SUV concept in a way that matched the true spirit of these vehicles with the real needs of their owners. That meant retaining the concept’s agility and versatility on all terrains while providing plenty of room inside but making more rational use of that space with the aid of a forward cabin configuration to ensure that it was available to the occupants wherever it served a genuinely useful purpose.
As befits a Volvo, the XC90’s interior decor is very much in the Swedish tradition: all clean-cut lines and simplicity, high quality materials and an essentially functional approach.
The article continues in Auto & Design no. 137