Volvo really went through some strange days between 1993 and 2003. So many things changed; so many new things were tried. First, you had the loss of tried-and-true, if long in the tooth, models like the 240 Series, the loss of the classic “redblock” inline four after 1995 with the demise of the 940, the arrival of the new, sporty FWD 850GLT, the Ford acquisition in early 1999, and the introduction of an SUV. And SUV?! What?! Volvo?! Indeed, yes, it happened, and there was a V8 to boot.
But before we jump into the present, a bit of history, if you please. My mother always gravitated to Volvo wagons. Her first one was arguably the best, a 1973 1800ES in red with black leather. What a car! She kept it even after getting a dark blue ’77 245DL, and it was not traded in until 1986…
…when she got this cream yellow 1986 240DL wagon. Yes, this is a recent pic, but Mom’s old wagon, traded in for a wine red 740GL wagon in 1989, is still seen about town, albeit in a rather shabby, ill-maintained state. That color was always rare, and it was not available on the 240GL, so Mom ordered a DL and had Lundahl Volvo install the GL “Corona” alloys on it shortly after purchase.
After the temperamental 1989 GL, Dad got rid of it and surprised her with a navy blue 1990 740GL over the Easter weekend that same year. It was a great car, and we took it to Hannibal, MO in 1990 and to Cassville, WI in 1991–towing Dad’s 1974 Aquasport 19′ center console (Boston Whaler lookalike). But us kids were getting a little big for a station wagon, so we bid adieu to “Ovlov’s” longroofs in late 1991. After two Grand Caravans and two Durango R/Ts, though, Dad decided Mom should have another Volvo.
And a V8, no less. My mother is big on decorating the house for both Halloween and Christmas, inside and out, and thus she needed a tall-roof vehicle to transport all sorts of Santa Clauses, ghosts, reindeer and jack o’ lanterns from their storage unit to the house. So any station wagon wouldn’t do. And so it was that one day Dad showed up with a sage green XC90 with beige leather. “You don’t have to get it, but if you like it, we’ll get you one,” Dad told my Mom. She was rather attached to her black cherry metallic ’03 Durango R/T, but she did like the Volvo. And so a bit later, McLaughlin got in a really special one: a V8 in Black Sapphire Metallic, with Premier leather in burnt orange. That was the one!
The 4.4L V8 was built by Yamaha, and was designated B8444S by Volvo. It was first introduced in 2005 and initially provided 288 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. The engine was only available in combination with AWD, on both the XC90 and the S80 sedan. As you might expect, it motivates the 4400-lb. wagon quite well, and of course provides that great V8 sound at speed, despite plenty of sound insulation.
As for the XC90 itself, it was unveiled in 2003 and touted as the first “safe” SUV with extensive anti-rollover safety features, designated “ROPS” by Volvo (for Roll Over Protection Structure). Of course, traction control and Volvo’s SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) were standard equipment as well.
Styling was right in line with the 1998 S80 and 2001 S60/V70 models, styled by Peter Horbury and featuring prominent shoulders, recalling the evergreen 140 and 240 Series.
Naturally, as an SUV, it was shorter and taller than the traditional Volvo wagon, but still was clearly a Volvo, with its boxy profile, eggcrate grille and tall taillights.
The interior environment was suitably plush, with leather seats, wood trim, and all the expected electric assists. Dual-zone climate control, upgraded Premier leather seating and a Dynaudio sound system were also available, along, of course, with the V8. The XC90 T6 with twin turbochargers were far more common on the street than the V8, however.
The instrument panel was similar to the S80 sedan from which the XC90 was derived. Indeed, most of the switchgear, radio and other controls came from the S80, right down to the “chronometer” styled gauges. And as a unibody and AWD, the XC90 was really more of a large wagon than a true-blue SUV with body-on-frame construction and a transfer case.
But it has suited my mother just fine, and the V8 has no trouble pulling their Four Winns speedboat around. My folks got this car in late 2008 as a one-year-old CPO. It had about 38,000 miles at the time. Other than some fogging on the chrome window trim, replaced under warranty, the XC90 has needed little other than the expected factory service, and recently turned 100K. As it has in the past, Volvo still offers a grille badge to owners turning 100,000 miles. I got one when my 940SE hit six figures back in 2003, and expect to get one for my own V50 in a year or so–it currently turned over 89K miles.
As you might expect, I have driven the XC90 many times since Mom got it, and it is certainly a comfortable car. I especially love the wood trim and the burnt-orange leather. Most XC90s have either black or beige leather, and the color of Mom’s XC90 is so much nicer. It must not have been common, however, as I have never seen another one with this interior.
Mom’s car is absolutely loaded, and according to the sticker, it sold new for north of $50K. In addition to the V8 and Premier leather seats, it also has the Dynaudio sound system, moonroof, heated seats, multi-disc CD, roof rack, and a set of factory chrome wheels which my dad found on eBay last year.
It is a very nice car, and riding in it is pleasant indeed, but I doubt I will purchase it if and when Mom decides to trade it in. I am just not that into either crossovers or SUVs, and as you might expect, this car is a little thirstier than my own V50 with a 2.4L inline five.
The XC90 did come with third row seating, but it has never been needed, and has been folded flat almost from the day my dad brought it home from the dealership. And unlike the 1995 Grand Cherokee Orvis my dad once owned, there is good legroom for rear-seat passengers. I remember the Jeep being just a little tight for me–and at 5′ 10″ I am hardly a basketball player!
However, it is not likely going anywhere any time soon. Over the past couple years, my dad has broached the subject of getting Mom a newer one, and she has steadfastly refused. “I like my car, you can’t get the V8 any more, and a 2014 looks exactly like the one I already have!” Hard to argue with logic like that, and with the way my parents take care of their cars, it will be a valued family truckster for years to come!