Destination Denver: Testing the 2018 Volvo Range in the Rockies

By Author: Harvey Briggs, Date: Sep 07, 2017
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I’ve been spending a lot of time in Volvos lately. I’m not sure why (and believe me, I’m not complaining), it has just worked out that way. This past month alone, I spent a week with a 2017 S90 T6 Inscription in Wisconsin and then was flown off to Colorado to sample several 2018 models: the XC60 T6 R-Design, XC 60 T8 Inscription, V90 T6 Inscription, V90 T6 R-Design, and the S90 T8 Inscription. Not to mention trips earlier this year to Arizona and Barcelona where I sampled the V90 Cross Country and XC60 T6 Inscription. Driving this year’s model and all the upgrades for 2018 provides a good perspective about where Volvo is now, where the company has come from, and where it’s headed. The fact that I got to enjoy a little Rocky Mountain hospitality along the way, only made my mission of discovery even better.

Denver is one of the great jumping off places in the world for a scenic drive that also tests the range of a car’s capabilities. It’s also an entertaining town to visit any time of the year and while my visit was short, I was fortunate to experience a new hotel, the Halcyon, and the charms of the Cherry Creek neighborhood of the city. Located a little over four miles from downtown Denver, the Halcyon is a contemporary hotel with a lot of interesting touches. In addition to modern, luxury furnishings, each room comes equipped with a Gramovox floating record vertical turntable and a few albums for your listening pleasure. I’m not sure if they knew my age or checked out my musical preferences ahead of time, but finding The Beatles’ White Album, Janis Joplin’s Pearl, and Blue from Joni Mitchell in the rack next to the turntable fit my mood for the trip pretty well.

The Halcyon offers unusual amenities as well. There’s an in-house coffee bar called the Kitchen Counter where you can get handmade espresso, cappuccino, latte and coffee as well as fresh whole fruit and baked goods 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Had the time allowed, I would have taken advantage of the hotel’s “Gear Garage” which allows you to check out Piaggio scooters, Stromer e-bikes, Kota Longboards, still and video cameras, board games, and additional vinyl records if you want to expand on those you find in your room.

While the hotel was an important part of the experience (and one of the reasons press trips feel less like work and more like a reunion of car enthusiasts), my real reason for coming to Colorado was to expand my already considerable experience behind the wheel of Volvo products.

The S90 Sedan
The day began behind the wheel of the 2018 S90, which was fortuitous as it gave me an opportunity to compare it to the 2017 model I had just spent a week in. The S90, especially in Inscription trim, is exactly what you’d expect a top of the line luxury sedan from Sweden to look, feel, and drive like. In our briefing for the day, Volvo Senior Vice President Americas, Lex Kerssemakers, described their internal mantra as building cars that deliver “relaxed confidence.” And those words are a good fit here. In typical Scandinavian style you’ll find clean lines, natural materials, and an overall simplicity both inside and out that eschews a lot of the busy-ness you find in other full-size luxury sedans. During my week with the 2017 model, I came to appreciate the quiet cabin, the heated and cooled leather seats that were both firm and comfortable, and the driver assist features that only mildly intrude into the driving experience.

One interesting feeling I had as my week with the car came to a close is how much better the S90 would be were it an all-electric car. The two-liter, four-cylinder engine with both is supercharger and turbocharger boosting the output in the T6 model I had is more than adequate, delivering 316 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, but everthing about this car is so smooth and sophisticated, so quiet and understated, that the experience can only be enhanced by removing the noise and vibration (minimal though they are) of an internal combustion engine.

For 2018, Volvo made just two major upgrades to the S90. The first is the optional panoramic moonroof is now standard on all trim levels. Second, and more significant it the addition of a long-wheelbase version to the lineup stretching car from 195 to 200.1 inches in length. 4.5 of those inches are gifted to rear seat passengers significantly increasing legroom and comfort.

The base S90 Momentum with its 250HP turbocharged four-cylinder engine starts at $48,100. That gets you a lot of car. In addition to the aforementioned panoramic roof, you also get the full safety suite (it’s standard in all new Volvos now) which includes Pilot Assist, blind spot information with cross traffic alert, low and high speed collision mitigation, pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection, run-off road mitigation and protection, and active lane keeping. You also get the excellent and upgraded Sensus system with the nine-inch touchscreen.

Opt for a T8 plug-in hybrid with all wheel drive in Inscription trim and the price before federal and state tax credits climbs to $68,150. That gets you the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, active bending headlights with high pressure cleaning, illuminated door sills, walnut wood inlays, ventilated front seats upholstered in Nappa leather, and 19-inch wheels. My test car for the week (and for a morning drive in Colorado) was a T6 Inscription (base price $58,600) that also had the convenience and luxury packages as well as the oh so good Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system, premium air suspension, and head-up display bringing the sticker up to $69,600 not including the $950 destination charge. That may seem like a lot until you start pricing similarly equipped BMWs, Mercedes, Audis, and Lexi which will all hover around the six figure mark.

2018 V90 Wagon
If you want a 90 series Volvo wagon, you have two choices. You can walk into the dealer and drive out in a V90 Cross Country which is a lifted version of the wagon and only available in all-wheel drive. Or, you can jump online and special order a V90 wagon with the help of a Volvo concierge because American’s of course hate traditional station wagons so there’s no point in stocking them. Once you place your order, you have two options. You can have the car delivered to your local Volvo dealer or you can take advantage of their overseas delivery program and receive two paid airline tickets and hotel accommodations to pick up your pride and joy at the factory in Torslanda, Sweden.

The V90 is available with the T5 engine in front-wheel drive and with the T6 engine in all-wheel drive. Both are available in either R-Design or Inscription trim. Identical to the S90 from the B-pillar forward, if you’re in the drivers seat the only way you can tell you’re not in the sedan is by looking in the rear-view mirror. Clearly I’m not a real American because I love this car and were I in the market for a new car, I would put the V90 T6 R-Design at the very top of my shopping list and start planning a vacation to Sweden.

2018 XC60
Having driven the T6 Inscription version of the XC60 recently in Barcelona, it was time to see how much better it is with the 400 horsepower T8 hybrid powertrain and the sportier R-Design trim. While some in our group were busy comparing this version of the XC60 to the Porsche Macan Turbo due to their identical engine output and similar size, I found these to be very different cars. The Macan is a Porsche and thus a true sports crossover.

The XC60, while powerful and sporty, leans much more to the comfort and utility side of the equation. They’ll both get you from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds, but the Volvo is nearly 500 pounds heavier, has nearly 5 cubic feet of additional cargo room behind the rear seats, and can tow over 5,900 pounds (1,500 more than the Porsche). While the Macan may have you seeking out your nearest private motor club track, the Volvo is strictly a road car. It’s fun to drive, but you won’t be chasing any lap records in it, even with its aluminum mesh interior trim that looks so much like carbon fiber. If you’re looking for a pure sports crossover, the Macan turbo and Jaguar F-Pace may be a better fit, but if you prefer a balance of comfort, performance, safety, efficiency, and technology, it’s going to be hard to beat the XC60 T8 R-Design.

My takeaway from the day is that Volvo has truly found its footing and is carving out a very desireable niche in the premium car segment. I expect it will continue to grow as they round out the 60 series with a sedan and (hopefully) a wagon in the near future, and launch the all new 40 series at the L.A. Auto Show in November. It seems the hotel was wisely chosen, because these truly are halcyon days for the folks from Göteborg.

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Harvey Briggs

Harvey Briggs is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Rides & Drives. He has also written for Car and Driver, Winding Road, and the luxury lifestyle blog, Pursuitist.com. His passions run from fast cars, small planes, boats and motorcycles to music, travel, and sports. When he's not on the road testing the latest cars, he been known to turn up on stage playing rock and blues guitar at clubs around his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Follow Harvey's adventures on Instagram and Twitter @harvey_drives and find him on Facebook. Though keeping up could be a problem. As Harvey says, "If I don't slow down, time can't catch me."

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