- Published: Sunday, 15 March 2015 11:38
Barcelona, Spain -
There’s a Beatles song about growing old where Paul McCartney asks if he’ll still be loved at the age of 64. Ex-wives and such aside, it’s a good question, and one easily co-opted into the engine downsizing trend that’s been sweeping the car industry.
In the vast majority of cases, a six-cylinder engine becomes four, but gets turbocharging, thus the song should go, “Will you still need me? Will you still feed me, when my six is four?” It’s extra poignant because the force-fed fours are typically more frugal and equally (if not more) powerful, but lack the emotional component of sound and fury that an inline or V6 would make.
Volvo’s gone ahead and made the decision for you, in this case. The XC90 is a conspicuously large car with a conspicuously small engine, in all cases: It’s the only big SUV, or indeed remotely luxurious vehicle, that is powered entirely by 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines.
The T8, as reviewed, has a twincharged 2.0, while the incoming T5 has the ‘current’ 2.0-litre turbo engine with 245bhp, and the D5 a 2.0-litre turbodiesel. Not having extra cylinders to package around, say Volvo engineers, is a boon in many ways, saving weight and improving crash protection for both occupants and pedestrians.
The T6 engine’s something of a Goliath in David’s shoes, having enormous pull in a tiny package. If you cut it in two, it’d make 160bhp from 1.0-litres, which is quite amazing. Adding to the appeal is the fact that the T6 has 250kg (roughly 2.1-tonnes) less to pull than the T8, losing the hybrid system and battery.
The big 8 might be the headliner to the XC90 concert but the T6 is the true enjoyable ‘analog’ offering that everyone can enjoy, or relate to. The 400 torques shuffled through the Aisin eight-speed are strong, but not thumpy or jerky, and there’s a very direct relationship between demanding power and getting it.
The supercharger is a method of diminishing conventional turbo lag, as it boosts the low end then hands over to the turbo at higher revs. As a result the T6 pulls away from red lights with authority and continues to gain speed as long as you keep your right foot down. There are power modes too, though fewer than the hybrid - eco, normal, dynamic and off-road.
It wouldn’t be very fun if the XC90 handled like a whale, which it most certainly doesn’t. It’s more of a lithe dolphin, being unnaturally neat and tidy when pushed, with the active air suspension keeping the body well in check. As in the T8, the electric steering is light and incisive, adding lots to driver enjoyment.
The only major niggles encountered were noticeable wind noise above 130km/h, although it’s not intrusive, it contrasts to the otherwise solid refinement of the car. Secondly, the inline four, strong as it is, still sounds like an inline four. To be fair, Volvo’s reps said they didn’t wish to disguise the noise with a synthetic sound, and most other ‘standard’ 2.0-litre inline fours don’t sound particularly exciting either.
Thanks to a high-spec load for Singapore, the XC90 T6 comes with a lot of equipment. However the adaptive air-suspension on the unit we tested here won't be standard locally, so take note that the ride and/or driving dynamics may change as a result. What local T6's will have as standard are other impressive features: The Sensus infotainment system (with nav), adaptive cruise control (which also self-drives in a jam), Volvo's anti-fender-bender City Safety system that also now detects rabid cyclists, and lane keeping assistant systems.
The T6 isn’t as radical as the T8 but it does show that the soundness and performance of the car isn’t something allied solely to the range-topper, and it’s not likely buyers will worry about its six actually being four.
Check out our video run-through of the XC90's cabin and Sensus infotainment system here!
Volvo XC90 T6
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,969cc, 24v, inline 4, turbo/supercharged
Power 320bhp at 5700rpm
Torque 400Nm at 2200-5400rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 270km/h
0-100kmh 6.5 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.7L/100km
Availability July 2015