New XC90 burnishes Volvo's safety credentials

  • 16-Oct-2014 01:11 EDT
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The XC90 is the first Volvo to use the company’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) designed to reduce weight and improve weight distribution.

Volvo's new XC90 seven-seat SUV model, which got its first public showing at the 2014 Paris Motor Show, will replace the current model launched in 2002. The vehicle will initially be offered with a range of Drive-E four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines using a common architecture with 82.0-mm (3.23-in) bore and 93.2-mm (3.67-in) stroke to give a displacement of 1969 cm³. Head and block are constructed from aluminum, and the engines are mounted transversely.

The most powerful engine will feature in the plug-in hybrid gasoline T8 variant. A turbocharged and supercharged engine developing 236 kW (316 hp) at 5700 rpm and 400 N·m (295 lb·ft) between 2200 and 4500 rpm will drive the front wheels and a 60-kW electric motor provides drive to the rear wheels. In electric drive mode, the battery offers a range of around 40 km (25 mi). The default hybrid drive mode will employ both engine and motor.

Volvo claims carbon dioxide emissions of around 60 g/km and measured on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). T6 models share the same gasoline engine as the T8 hybrid but without the hybrid electric drive. There will also be a gasoline variant of the engine producing 187 kW (251 hp).

Two diesel engine options will also be available. The D5 twin-turbocharged diesel will produce 165 kW (221 hp) at 4250 rpm and 470 N·m (347 lb·ft) between 1750 and 2500 rpm. NEDC combined consumption is 39 mpg U.S. or 5.8 L/100 km. T6 and D5 models are equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The D4 turbodiesel will generate 142 kW (190 hp), and Volvo quotes NEDC combined fuel consumption of around 46.6 mpg U.S. or 5.05 L/100 km.

Although the double wishbone front suspension is a conventional system with coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers, and stabilizer bar, the standard rear suspension adopts an independent system not seen on a premium passenger car (excluding Chevrolet's Corvette) for some time. Volvo has equipped the XC90 with a composite transverse leaf spring with the option of air suspension.

XC90 is the first Volvo to use the company’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) design. SPA will be able to package a variety of powertrains, including the batteries and electric drive motor of the hybrid XC90, without compromising passenger or luggage space. The new architecture is designed to reduce weight and improve weight distribution.

“We were set three targets—to be leading in safety, leading in design, and to be leading in the human machine interface, a very new business for Volvo and most manufacturers,” said Dennis Nobelius, Vice President, Vehicle Line Management, at Volvo, who is responsible for the XC90 program.

Not surprising for a Volvo, the new XC90 will be equipped with a range of safety equipment, some of it not before seen on a passenger car. Volvo calls the first of these “run-off road protection.” Volvo suggests that half the traffic fatalities in the U.S. are caused when a car leaves the road, and in Sweden, single-vehicle accidents feature in 33% of all accidents involving fatalities and serious injuries, where cars are involved. The Volvo run-off road protection system is named Safe Positioning.

If Safe Positioning detects a run-off road accident, the front seat belts are tightened and kept tight while the car is in motion. To help prevent spinal injuries, the space between the seat and seat frame is designed to cushion the vertical forces associated with a hard landing. Before such an accident could occur, other technologies would intervene such as the Lane Keeping Aid and Driver Alert Control that detects inattentive driving. The XC90 will also be fitted with a system to automatically brake the car if the driver tries to turn in front of an approaching car using the network of sensors around the car to detect other moving vehicles.

Other safety features include precrash protection in rear impacts. Rearward facing radar sensors can detect if a rear impact is imminent and automatically tighten the seat belts. Hazard flashing lights are activated to alert the following driver. The brakes are activated to reduce the impact forces on the occupants. The XC90 will also feature Volvo’s new seat design incorporating the latest version of the company’s Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS). The combination of WHIPS and the rear precrash protection system is designed to reduce the severity of whiplash injuries.

The Park Assist Pilot system now permits automatic reversing into a perpendicular parking bay as well as entering and exiting a parallel parking bay. The steering is operated automatically, leaving the driver to operate the gearbox and control speed. Twelve ultrasonic sensors enable this, by scanning along the side of the car for empty parking bays. For parallel parking, the space must be 1.2 times the length of the car. If a suitable space is detected, the car gives a visual and audible alert to the driver. In a perpendicular parking bay, the space must be one meter wider than the car.

To assist parking, the XC90 can also create a digitized 360° bird’s eye view around the car. Named 360° Surround View, it is displayed on the central dashboard display. The information is gathered from four wide-angle camera lenses. One is integrated into the front of the vehicle, at the rear the camera is located above the rear license plate, while the side cameras are integrated into the door mirror housings. The system reduces the risks involved with leaving a narrow exit with restricted view, enabling the driver to see approaching cars and pedestrians. It also allows a driver to check positioning in a parking space.

The combined (Park Assist Pilot and 360° Surround View) systems also help to generate Cross Traffic Alert, which warns the driver of approaching traffic from up to 30 m (98 ft) on each side when reversing out of a parking space. An audible signal and a warning on the dashboard center screen indicate approaching traffic.

Volvo’s Roll Stability Control system has also been updated. Sensors calculate the rollover risk and, if it is high, engine torque is reduced and braking force applied to the appropriate wheels to counter a possible rollover. If this is not effective and a rollover becomes inevitable, the curtain airbags would be activated to help reduce head injuries.

Among the standard equipment fitted to the XC90 is Road Sign Information technology. Volvo claims that this is the first car on the market to be fitted with a road-sign-recognition system as standard, and it can read an extended selection of road signs.

More extensive use of high-strength steels has been made in the new XC90. The occupant safety cage is made from hot-formed boron steel to optimize passenger protection. This material makes up about 40% of the new XC90’s total body weight. “We gained 150 kg compared with today’s XC90,” said Nobelius. “Then we have an aluminum hood and aluminum fenders.”

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