One Swede Ride: The Volvo's moose-resistant XC90 SUV

Volvo takes mooses — or maybe that’s meese — very seriously these days. 

As you might imagine, the average moose is huge. Between 700 and 1,300 pounds. And Poppa Moose can stand over 7 feet tall. If one of these walking Mack trucks trots in front of your car — as they do with monotonous regularity in Sweden — bad things tend to happen.

Take comfort in the knowledge that Volvo, being the safety obsessors they are, test for moose collisions when developing every new model.

Over at the Volvo safety center in Sweden, they have a Bullwinkle lookalike — we’re presuming it’s called Sven, or Lars — that weighs 790 pounds and is made up of 114 rubber discs to mimic the density and flexibility of Mr. Moose.

The test involves driving every new Volvo prototype into it at between 43 and 56mph, and seeing what happens.

It usually ends up messy, but designing a roof structure and I-beam-stiff windshield pillars out of super-high-strength steel reduces the severity of the crash.

Thankfully there are no mooseys on the Howard Frankland today as we point the redesigned nose of our 2020 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD south toward St. Pete.

While the current-generation XC90 has been around for maybe five years, it’s still the hot seller in the Volvo lineup. Cool Scandinavian looks, available three-row seating, a ton of space, and a single-minded focus on safety keeps loyal owners coming back.

And for 2020 the XC90 got a mild makeover to keep it looking fresh. Nothing too radical: a new concave grille, new lower front bumper, and new wheel designs — I love the eight-spoke 21-inchers on our refrigerator-white XC90 T6 AWD Inspiration tester. 

The T6 sits midway in the XC90 lineup. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter, direct-injection four-cylinder that’s both turbocharged and supercharged. It cranks out 313 galloping Swedish horseys, along with 295 lb-ft of torque. 

You can opt for a T5 version with just turbocharging, or the technology-overloaded T8, with turbos, a supercharger and an electric motor. That packs a whopping 400hp and 472 torques. 

For me, the T6 with all-wheel drive and the top-of-the-line Inscription trim — base price $57,295 or $66,190 very nicely loaded — is the best all-round XC90 your krona can buy.

The 2.0-liter motor packs plenty of punch and has no shortage of mid-range muscle for safe, speedy passing. And it works superbly with the quick-shifting 8-speed automatic. 

The variable-assist electric steering is as precise as a hipster barber’s razor, while all-wheel drive adds to the athletic feel of this tall-riding people mover.

And move people it does. Our Inspiration model offers the terrific, new-for-2020 six-seat layout, with two center-row captain’s chairs, rather than a three-across bench, and two individual third-row pews. 

The XC90 has always boasted a benchmark cabin design, and for 2020 it gets even classier, with new colors for the wood veneers and upholstery. There’s even the option of wool-cloth for those who prefer not to have hide in their ride.

While I was heading south on I-275, I took a detour to have a quick look at Tampa Bay’s coolest new Volvo dealership, the newly opened Crown Volvo store on 34th Street in St. Pete. 

This new 24,000-square-feet building is the epitome of Swedish cool. I love the milky white etched glass on the exterior, which floods the showroom with soft, diffused light. 

Step inside and it’s like walking into a ScanDesign store, with a cosy “living room” filled with stunning Scandinavian leather-and-wood furniture. Fancy an espresso? There’s a cafe serving Lavazzo. Sorry, no meatballs on the menu.

Crown has also gone all out to go “green,” with lots of recycled materials in the construction and easy-on-the-eyes, low-voltage LED lighting. 

I’m betting Bullwinkle would feel right at home here. Just make sure those antlers don’t scratch the furniture.

Test drive the latest 2020 XC90 T6 at Crown Volvo, part of the Crown Automotive Group, at 6001 34th St. N, St. Petersburg.