Usually when we see a prototype vehicle completely undisguised, it’s somewhat clear what we’re looking at. In the case of this strange XC90 prototype, the lack of camouflage actually prompts more questions. We can clearly see the vehicle features a stretched wheelbase, which is particularly evident by the unceremoniously trimmed rear wheel arches and bumper. A stretched wheelbase often indicates a long luxury model is undergoing testing. However, Volvo already builds a very roomy and plush version of the XC90, known as the Excellence.
We also can’t fathom why Volvo would test a luxury, long-wheelbase SUV with a large steel frame with stacks of weight above the roof. It’s way up there, and the trailing edge almost lines up with the rear bumper. The placement is bizarre, and it would seem as though the only real life scenario for it would be if a rear passenger was standing up through the roof. And who does that?[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”2″ gal_title=”Mystery Volvo Prototype”]
Well, the Pope does this all the time when he travels in one of his custom-made Popemobiles. This application would also explain the placement of the wheels. Not only is the wheelbase longer, but the wheels are square in the middle of the ballast. This position would provide superior support for the extra weight. There’s also no reason why Volvo wouldn’t be tapped for the Pope’s transportation requirements, since Popes throughout the decades have ridden in everything from Jeeps to Mercedes-Benzs. Pope Benedict XVI even took delivery of a Volvo XC90 back in 2006.
Of course, this is just speculation, but we can’t think of much else that would demand this particular type of testing. An armored vehicle would certainly weigh more, but the extra weight wouldn’t be concentrated up high. If Volvo were building a pick-up truck or a commercial van, it would be possible that the company would want to experiment with top-heavy loads, but this still seems a bit strange and excessive. We’ve also seen autonomous prototypes of all types with large, roof-mounted sensor arrays, but those wouldn’t weigh much. So until we hear otherwise, we’re predicting Pope Francis will have a new Swedish ride in the near future.