What Is Volvo Testing Here?
Is it a LWB XC90, a future pickup, or something else?by Mark McNabb, on
Volvo seems to be up to something interesting. Spotted in the wilds of some urban parking lot is this mutant of an XC90 test mule. Hoisted above its rear cargo area with a one-off support system is a steel pedestal presumably holding extra weight. But that’s not the biggest change. No, this experimental vehicle has a lengthened wheelbase. Its rear axle has been pushed rearward, requiring Volvo engineers to cut a larger wheel well into the XC90’s body. This begs the question: what is Volvo testing here?
We’ve heard nothing of Volvo testing some new type of SUV or even pickup truck, but that’s exactly what our minds conjure up. One theory is Volvo is making a long wheelbase version of the XC90 for China. That easily explains the rearward axle placement on this tester, but what about the weights on top? Perhaps Volvo is planning to offer an armored version of its XC90. Rather than installing armor into a test mule, Volvo engineers simply constructed a massive weight to increase the XC90’s center of gravity. Volvo wouldn’t be the first automaker to offer an armored version of a production vehicle. Mercedes and Audi both offer factory armament up-fits.
Another possibility – and one what pickup truck fans might like – is an XC90-based mid-size pickup. Close examination of the high-mounted load put its exactly between the rear doors and ahead of the rear axle. That’s right here heavy loads should go in a pickup. The XC90’s standard wheelbase measures 117.5 inches, but this long-wheelbase version likely has another 10 inches atop that. A 126.5-inch wheelbase would put it directly in line with other mid-size pickups, including the Honda Ridgeline at 125.3 inches, the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab at 125.9 inches, the global T6 Ford Ranger at 127 inches, and the Chevy Colorado Crew Cab Short Box at 128.3 inches.
Will Volvo enter the mid-size truck segment? Keep reading for more speculation.
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Why It Matters
The mid-size pickup truck segment is certainly growing these days, but who would have suspected Volvo to get involved? Volvo does have a rather huge commercial truck division that spans the globe, but the consumer pickup market, especially in America, is a different beast. Major players like General Motors, Toyota, and even Nissan have all but stopped out the competition. But now with Ford planning to reintroduced the Ranger in 2019, Hyundai planning its unibody Santa Cruz, and Tesla toying with the idea of an all-electric pickup, the market has the potential of getting crowded. Add to that Honda’s unibody Ridgeline pickup that’s growing in popularity thanks to the introduction of its second generation.
Then there’s the Mercedes-Benz X-Class. Mercedes is coming to market with its luxury pickup for the 2018 model year and is expected to garner some hearty sales. The X-Class will have all the popular interior trimmings as any other luxury Mercedes, but offer a respectable payload and towing capacities. Customers of this truck will likely be Current Mercedes owners looking to hop on the pickup bandwagon or other luxury-level buyers who want the combination of class and capacity. Sadly, Mercedes is not willing to sell the X-Class inside the U.S.
Volvo might have simply been experimenting with the limitations of the XC90’s unibody chassis or testing some other components.
Perhaps it’s the X-Class that Volvo is going after. Volvo would only be the second true luxury brand entering the pickup market, though some could debate the GMC Canyon Denali plays here, too. Regardless, the GMC and Mercedes don’t directly compete since Mercedes isn’t brave enough to offer the X-Class stateside.
Issues could arise regarding the construction of Volvo’s pickup and its availability in the U.S. Should Volvo built the truck in Sweden, it would not be available here. President Trump is not likely going to repeal the Chicken Tax anytime soon. Volvo could, however, build the
based pickup at its South Carolina assembly plant that’s set to open in late 2018.
Of course, all this is pure speculation and educated guessing. Volvo might have simply been experimenting with the limitations of the XC90’s unibody chassis or testing some other components. We won’t know until much later when other test mules begin showing up.
Until then, let us know what you think in the comments below.