20 years of all-wheel drive
In 1997, a new type of Volvo allowed its owner to go wherever they wanted, regardless of conditions, thanks to its raised ride height, extra body protection, and all-wheel drive.
And the famous lineage of that V70 XC model continues 20 years later, with our renowned XC SUVs and Cross Country vehicles capable of seeking new adventures away from the bitumen.
Here, I Roll charts the evolution of all-wheel-drive Volvos.
1996 850 AWD
The Volvo 850 was groundbreaking in many ways – and not only was it the brand’s first front-wheel-drive model, but in 1996 it became the first to power all four wheels. The 850 AWD permanent all-wheel-drive system was automatic – no buttons to push, no levers to pull – as it reacted mechanically to any wheel slippage by distributing power between the front and rear axles as required to provide enhanced traction. It was beneficial in scenarios such as towing off-road, wet-weather cornering, or getting underway on a hill. For better fuel efficiency, the 850 AWD was predominantly (95%) front-drive in freeway driving.
1997 V70 XC
In 1997, the 850 wagon-based V70 carried the system across for its R AWD model, and the same year saw the introduction of an even more notable variant: the Cross Country, which would become better known from its badge as the V70 XC. A more adventurous design promised just that – with additional lower-body protection and increased ground clearance to give its owners the capability to traverse trickier trails away from the bitumen. The model – which became the XC70 in 2003 – was a more aerodynamic, more efficient alternative to SUVs.
2002 S60 AWD / XC90
In 2002, the S60 mid-sized sedan became the first Volvo to use a faster-acting, electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system – co-developed with Swedish specialist Haldex. It also slotted under Volvo’s first ever SUV, the XC90, later the same year – as an option on the 2.5-litre turbo petrol and standard on the six-cylinder T6. The S60 AWD and XC90 powered the front wheels in normal driving, though the electronic AWD system constantly monitored wheel slippage – negating it on looser surfaces instantaneously by sending drive to the rear axle.
2015 XC90 T8 TWIN ENGINE
As the original XC90 was a landmark vehicle in the SUV segment, it was only fitting that its successor would make its own mark. That included new hybrid drivetrain technology for the flagship T8 Twin Engine, debuting a different style of all-wheel drive whereby the front wheels are powered by a supercharged/turbocharged petrol engine while the rear wheels are propelled by an electric motor.
2017 V90 CROSS COUNTRY
This year saw the release of the spiritual successor to the original V70 XC. The V90 Cross Country brings familiar off-road capability, yet this sophisticated wagon blends it with unprecedented levels of comfort, luxury and technology for those seeking a more experience-based lifestyle. You could say it’s a 20-year measure of how Volvo Cars has evolved to become one of the world’s fastest-growing luxury car brands.