It is based on the P2 platform, shared with the first generation Volvo S80 and other large Volvo cars. As Volvo's top-selling vehicle in the United States,the XC90 is also Volvo's best selling model worldwide with 85,994 cars sold in 2005.
At its launch as a 2003 model, it was presented with a choice of two models, the 2.5T and the T6. The 2.5T was the entry level version and offered a 2.5L 20 valve turbocharged inline 5 engine putting out 205 hp (153 kW/208 PS) and 236 ft #130 lbf mated to an Aisin co-developed AW55-50/51 5 speed automatic. The T6 offered a 2.9L 24 valve twin turbocharged inline 6 with 268 hp (200 kW/272 PS) and 280 lb·ft mated to a GM-sourced, Volvo modified 4T65EV/GT 4 speed automatic. While the 2.5T came standard with front wheel drive, a Haldex Traction all wheel drive system was optional. The T6 was offered only with the AWD system.
A new Ford/Yamaha V8 engine was added in 2005. This 4.4 L Ford V8 engine produces 311 hp (232 kW/315 PS) and 325 lb·ft 441 of torque. The XC90 V8 will be priced at just over US $45,000 and it is expected that more than 15,000 would be sold per year. The XC90 won the North American Car of the Year award and Motor Trend magazine's Sport/Utility of the Year for 2003.
The XC90 was updated for 2007 with a restyled front and rear and a revised interior. The 235 hp (175 kW/238 PS) 3.2 L SI6 straight-6 engine replaced the 208 hp (155 kW/211 PS) B524T2 straight-5 in the base model for the US market. The 2007 XC90 debuted in April 2006 at the New York Auto Show.
The XC90 is produced at Volvo's Torslanda Plant (Torslandaverken) in Sweden. The XC90 is also known for the world's best performance in the SUV roll over test, as many other premium brands neglect to test this feature on their models. The Volvo XC90 front end is specifically designed to absorb frontal impacts and also deflect any pedestrians up on to the hood of the vehicle rather than underneath the bonnet. Volvo has patented the unique frontal structure that has renowned crumple zones, and a pre-determined positions for the engine and other ancillaries during a frontal impact.
The XC90's roof is reinforced with ultra high strength steel to help prevent a collapse in the passenger cavity in the event of a roll over. This Volvo system is called ROPS, and is closely associated with the RSC, DSTC, and SIPS systems of Volvo to prevent and ultimately minimize effects of a pending accident. This Volvo SUV has been designed on the rear end to absorb impact energy, but the occupants are also protected by one of the world's most advanced whiplash protection systems.
This Volvo WHIPS system cradles the entire body of the occupants when jolted in a rear end collision. The XC90 has scored the highest rating of "Good" in the IIHS crash test; notably the rear impact, side impact, and roll over; for numerous years since its debut and recently.
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