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Old 03-05-2003, 21:05   #1 (permalink)
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Volvo's New V90 Estate Is All Heart

Wednesday 5th March 2003
AutoExpress
Mat Watson

Road-lugging just got bigger! This model will become Volvo's V90 super-estate - and what's more, it's a car with a heart! Taking pride of place on the firm's Geneva show stand, the newcomer's most amazing feature is a removable starter button which doubles as the key fob. Away from the vehicle it beats with a regular rhythm to reassure the owner that their car is secure.

Called the V-Pulse, the gadget is made from a hi-tech soft material and is linked to the motor using mobile phone technology. If there's a problem with the car, its pulse rises to alert the owner.

The estate - officially called the Volvo Versatility Concept Car - is packed with similar innovations, but bosses say many of them won't be available on road models for at least 10 years. However, the styling will go into production as the V90. The shoulder line is a natural evolution of the shape of the current production vehicles, while the flat rear follows the design set by the Safety Concept Car of two years ago. What's new, however, is the absence of a B-pillar. As with the Mazda RX-8 and Rolls-Royce Phantom, the VVCC uses barn-style doors for easy access.

Inside you'll find leather and electrically operated seats all-round. The airy feel is due to the X-Frame roof panel, which houses semi-transparent solar panels. These power the climate-control system, which filters toxic gases from the atmosphere.

Minimalist design is the order of the day, and the aluminium centre console houses only the temperature and window controls. Everything else is mounted on the steering wheel, while the sat-nav map is superimposed over the dials. Meanwhile, passengers get touch-screen pads to operate the in-car entertainment system. In the boot is an electronically operated movable load floor, plus a refrigeration compartment.

The VVCC is powered by a 2.5-litre direct-injection petrol turbo, which gives supercar performance for supermini economy. Despite producing 250bhp, it returns an impressive 44mpg thanks to the use of an electric motor which drives the car at town speeds, similar to the system used in Toyota's Prius.
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