After months of teases, Volvo pulled the curtain back on its new flagship electric vehicle, the 2024 EX90 SUV, a seven-seater luxury family-mover with 300 miles of range, a starting price under $80,000, and a whole slew of futuristic features, including long-range lidar, bidirectional charging, and in-car sensors that can detect when a driver may be distracted or intoxicated.
When it goes on sale in 2023, the EX90 will kick off Volvo’s effort to transition to EV-only sales, which the Swedish automaker says it will reach by 2030. But the electric SUV is also meant to showcase Volvo’s increasing reliance on technology to boost its reputation for safety. And that technology is being supplied by a cadre of high-profile companies — Nvidia, Luminar, and Qualcomm, among others — that aim to transform modern cars into powerful computers.
The EX90 will kick off Volvo’s effort to transition to EV-only sales
The EX90’s precursor is the Concept Recharge, which was unveiled last year as a “manifesto” for Volvo’s future. The vehicle featured carriage-style doors that opened up to a roomy interior, where the lack of an internal combustion engine meant more space for the driver and passengers. And while the carriage doors were left on the cutting room floor, Volvo insists that the EX90 represents a “new era” for the company.
And of course, the inclusion of “90” in EX90 is meant to evoke the XC90, the automaker’s popular full-size SUV that was named SUV of the Year by Motor Trend when it was first released in 2015.
The EX90 is being built on the brand-new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA2), which will also underpin the Polestar 3 SUV. (Polestar is jointly owned by Volvo and its Chinese parent company, Geely.) Volvo’s two previous EVs released in the US, the XC40 Recharge and C40 Recharge, are both built on the five-year-old Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), which was co-developed with Geely.
The new SPA2 architecture allows for a bigger battery, more powerful motors, and other interesting upgrades, like faster charging and bidirectional charging. The first version of the EX90 that will go on sale in 2023 will feature a dual-motor all-wheel drive powertrain powered by a 111kWh battery and two permanent magnet electric motors delivering 370kW (496 horsepower) and 671 pound-feet of torque.
The EX90’s sensor array includes eight cameras, five radars, 16 ultrasonic sensors, and a lidar sensor mounted on the roof. The lidar, which stands for “light detection and ranging,” will aid the driver in avoiding exterior obstacles, while two cameras inside the vehicle will monitor the driver’s eye behavior to determine whether they are paying attention or even perhaps impaired.
Depending on the driver’s attention, the EX90 will be able to take action when needed
Depending on the driver’s attention, the EX90 will be able to take action when needed. If the driver is distracted, the cameras will pick up on it and the vehicle will issue a series of warnings intended to bring the focus back on the road. If the driver still isn’t responding, the vehicle will begin to slow down, eventually coming to a full stop on the side of the road and activating the hazard lights.
Volvo is one of the few automakers to include the high-powered laser sensor, calling it an essential ingredient in its quest to completely eliminate traffic fatalities. The EX90’s lidar will have a range of 250 meters with the ability to detect something as small and dark as a tire on a black road 120 meters ahead, all while driving at highway speeds.
The EX90 will also be the first model to feature Volvo’s new advanced driver-assist system (ADAS), Ride Pilot, which will enable the vehicle to drive itself without driver input on the highway. Volvo officials have said that Ride Pilot will not require drivers to watch the road while activated. The feature will go live in California as a subscription service, pending approval from state regulators.
The SUV will run on Nvidia’s Drive computing platform, processing sensor data to power the vehicle’s ADAS. In addition to Luminar’s lidar, Volvo’s Ride Pilot system will be powered by software developed by Zenseact, a subsidiary of Volvo that worked alongside the automaker’s own team of engineers. Luminar, which is based in Florida, has worked closely with Zenseact’s team in Sweden on a full-stack autonomous driving software for series production vehicles.
The EX90 will also feature bidirectional charging capabilities with enough battery capacity to power a customer’s home, Volvo says. Customers in “select markets” will be able to use the car’s lithium-ion battery to power their homes and portable devices and also to sell energy back to the grid.
The infotainment system, meanwhile, will utilize Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Cockpit platform, which Volvo promises will provide “lightning-fast computing power and high-quality graphics on the in-car screens and head-up display.” (Hopefully not too high quality, though; drivers still need to pay attention to the road.) And on top of all that, the EX90 will continue to operate with Google’s native Android Automotive, which includes voice-activated Google Assistant, native Google Maps, Play Store, and other useful features.
The EX90 will be Volvo’s first vehicle to feature graphics powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. Those graphics will be on display on the vehicle’s 15-inch portrait-style touchscreen. And if Android isn’t to your liking, wireless Apple CarPlay will also be available.
Bad news for button lovers: there aren’t any. It’s not totally surprising, though, given the absence of most physical buttons and knobs from the current XC90 interior. Aside from that, the inside of the EX90 looks like it belongs in an Ikea (in a good way). It has that fresh form language that we see in countless starter apartments — clean lines, balanced proportions. Most will attribute the minimalism to Tesla, but Volvo has been leaning on these designs for years.
Another change from the XC90 is the instrument cluster, which is now a much smaller and more animated screen that’s not shaded at all from above. It’s another floating screen, reflecting yet another popular industry trend for instrument clusters. But Volvo’s is different from most of the other digital gauge clusters you’ll find in other vehicles. On the display, a special contextual bar will give the driver suggestions, depending on the driving situation. And it will change when the car enters Ride Pilot, which permits hands-free, eyes-off unsupervised driving.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Volvo if it didn’t include some quirky design choices. Look no further than the “winking” Thor’s hammer headlights, which seem to have borrowed some of the pixelated squares from the Hyundai Ioniq 5. The squares open horizontally, revealing the bright beams beneath.
Eyebrow raising, indeed.