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2004 Crossover Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

Volvo XC90
2004 Volvo XC90

If women love Volvo's XC90, they should remember that Volvo must love women. It did a good job of designing a vehicle that would be appeal largely to the distaff side.

Who wouldn't want a sport utility from the company known for building the world's safest vehicles, especially if it has drop-dead good looks, trendy amenities, daytime running lights, whiplash protection seating, an affordable price, and handles like a car.

It's not surprising that Volvo, with this distinctly untruck-like crossover, would find a way to make it even more secure, besides building in world class occupant cage strength and a three-row side curtain airbag system. Volvo has added a computerized anti-roll system with a gyroscopic sensor that counterbalances any tendency toward a tumble. It augments that with a dynamic stability function that includes traction control to bring a vehicle back under control.

In layperson's terms, it pulls you back from the edge.

The XC90, an award winner during its '03 launch year, has added a few updates for its second. In an oceanic mood, there are two new wheel styles, a 17-inch "Neptune" alloy one and an 18-inch "Atlantis" alloy model. (Clearly someone must have been on a Hawaii vacation when these names were dreamed up.) A new exterior color "Ice White," is more reminiscent of Alaska.

Inside there's an air quality sensor system, heated front seats. Outside weather sentinels include rain sensor windshield wipers and headlamp washers. An infrared windshield and laminated side windows separate the two.

The XC90, in the mid 30s to 40s range, is powered by two engines. Standard is the 208 HP turbocharged 2.5 liter five cylinder. A twin-turbocharged 2.9 liter, 268 HP six powers the AWD T6. The XC90 also has added a level sensor and can tow 5,000 pounds with either engine, according to Volvo.

Despite being the largest-ever Volvo, transverse-mounted engines open room for even more space inside, where the 12-speaker premium Dolby sound system surrounds with a wash of crystal clear sound.