Saturday, December 12, 2015

Used Cars of Unknown Merit: The Volvo XC90

We need a new car. Well, we need several new cars, which means it is time to test drive hundreds of rolling shitboxes in search of a few diamonds in the rough. We don't buy cars new because I refuse support most of the dreadful automotive monopolies here, I don't want to carry debt on a car, and also because I can't stand the thought of the write-down on value that occurs the moment I drive a new car off the lot. Buying used also means I can forgo comprehensive insurance, which saves us a lot off of our monthly budget as well. Anyway, here's the first in a recurring series on buying used cars in Muscat. 

 According to Wikipedia, Volvo means "I Roll" in Latin. Despite the awesome Latin meaning, Volvo to me sounds like a word for something from Ikea, or perhaps your genitalia or some sort of punctuation mark or maybe that dangly thing that hangs down at the back of your throat. Volvo. Not a sexy word, not a sexy car.

But I digress. Despite a name that sounds like it's referring to somebody's junk, Volvo has been making some damn fine cars for the last decade or so. A few slick sedans, A station wagon that doesn't too dreadful, a hot hatch that goes around corners really fast, and the XC90, a semi-luxury crossover designed to compete with the VW Touareg and the top of the line Subaru Outback. These are not your mother's Volvos. They are slick, competitively priced, well-engineered and carry on the legendary safety that Volvo is synonymous with. What they are not, is Boring. 

This brings us to today's Used Car Of Unknown Merit!  We will be reviewing a 2007 Volvo XC90 with 175kms on the clock.  Asking price is in the vicinity of 2,800 OMR. The XC90 came with three engine choices, and this car has the smallest, a 2.5 litre turbocharged petrol engine. The original owner went for all the bells and whistles, so the car has leather seats, power everything, DVD Player, Sunroof, and many other nice accessories which one can break, and then pay astonishingly exorbitant fees to have repaired at your local monopolistic dealership. Got it? On to the review!

Woah, look at that fabulous shade of Orange! 

You guys, I fucking LOVE this car. I cannot believe I had it in my heart to like, let alone love a Volvo, but I do. My love begins with the key, it's weighty, with big buttons you can find without looking, and contains inside it an actual key that you can stick into a real live ignition lock assembly and use to start the car.None of this push-button-start proximity sensor bullshit. You will never, ever, accidentally drop your keys in a parking lot and drive away without them, leaving yourself stranded 30 miles from your key fob thingy which, by the time you realize where you dropped it, has been run over 15 times and crushed into oblivion. Because you have to actually stick the keys in the ignition and turn them in order to go anywhere! Genius, I tell you. 

I am highly averse to cars with technology. I think power windows are the work of the Devil, and that any car should have the absolute minimum of accessories that can break. I do not want automatically retracting mirrors, adjustable headlights, heated massaging seats, dual climate control, or a button that gives me a Blow-Job. I want all the shit that worked when my car was brand new to still be working when my car has half a million kilometers on it. Hence, you can imagine my trepidation when I saw the laundry list of accessories that this car came loaded with. I was expecting mechanical and electrical gremlins galore, wiring harness issues, mysterious shorts, and broken power windows. To my astonishment, absolutely everything works as it should on this 8-year-old car. Stone remarked that even the cigarette lighter works, which is AMAZING, because neither he nor I can recall ever having a used car where the cigarette lighter still works. I would like to send the engineers at Volvo little gold stars for designing car accessories ALL that still work  8.5 years on. Bravo!

The console is well arranged, with no unnecessary buttons, and all the buttons are large and positioned to be easily accessible to the driver. The visibility from the cockpit is excellent, allowing you to see everything and everyone trying to kill you on the roads. The interior is quiet on the road, and the stock sound system lets you hear every note of the Abba Gold album you just purchased to accompany your Sweedish-Built car. (Sorry Stone!) The car seats seven, with the back two seats folding flat to allow for shit-tons of cargo space. Everybody has a cupholder, and when the car is configured for five, seats five Adults with generous legroom. 

The car has one of the highest safety ratings, even scoring well for pedestrian impacts. Everybody gets an airbag, seatbelt pre-tensioners, anti-roll technology, and a reinforced roof for when you do roll it over. It's a tank, but doesn't drive, look, or handle like one. 

The driving is fantastic, even with the smaller turbo-supported engine, the acceleration is sharp and aggressive. It has just enough power to get you out of trouble, and not quite enough power to get you into it. The engine is mated to a 5 speed Automatic with power distributed through front and rear differentials for full time all wheel drive. Despite the mileage and hot climate / difficult driving conditions the Turbo, transmission and differentials are still working flawlessly, with solid traction on any surface, and smooth up and down shifting and plenty of oomph when I put my foot down. That said, I would love to see one of these things with a V6 or a 3.5 litre turbo, as I still feel it is a bit underpowered with the 2.5. I wouldn't take this dune bashing, for example, or off road camping. I just don't trust that little engine to manage. 

The suspension is firm, but not too firm, giving the car really tight handling even on awkwardly banked curves. The firm suspension and stiff body mean you get very little body roll on corners, and can really attack the chicanes on the school run like the badass racer mommy you know you are. The steering is very positive, well dampened, and amazingly light. You don't need any muscle power whatsoever to turn the wheel, it's almost like you just think about turning and the car does it for you. Sadly, The front C/V joints are almost shot, which is a bit disappointing given that the car is still under 200,000 kms. That's going to be an expensive repair. 

The styling is lovely and doesn't look dated in the slightest. It's not a sexy car, but it's no pig, either. It looks like the sort of car a responsible executive would drive, and the styling is far better than what's available on similar cars from Subaru / VW/ Toyota etc... The leather seating has held up surprisingly well, but the head liner and other cloth or thin plastic interior finishes are showing their age. 

After having this thing for just 48 hours I am seriously considering buying three. One for me, One for Stone, and one to modify to use off road. I am going to go ahead and say that it's the best Used car I have ever had for a long test drive, and I am really impressed with the reliability shown at 8 years of age.