The weather’s been a bit rubbish recently, in case you hadn’t noticed.
I mention this because for one week of this grim endless onslaught of rain and cold we were lucky enough to have the keys to a Volvo XC90, which shrugged off the worst the climate could throw at it as if it were a mild spring day.
Sadly for Mrs Motors, she didn’t have the benefit of this while stuck for six hours in weather-induced gridlock. Had she been driving the Volvo rather than her own car I think she’d would been less frazzled by the time she made it home. The XC90 is the sort of place you wouldn’t really mind spending hour after hour in. The interior is spacious, comfortable and well thought out. Plus it’s so laden with gadgets, from heated seats to a DVD player and window-rattling stereo that you could entertain yourself for days.
That Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound system offers an option to recreate the soundscape of Gothenburg Concert Hall in the car. It’s rather fitting given that the XC90 is about the same size inside as the famous venue.
It really is a big beastie and unless you’ve bred an entire football team it’s probably as much car as any family will ever need. Passengers in the front two rows enjoy acres of leg, head and shoulder room. What’s more the XC90 is a genuine seven-seater. A simple mechanism sees two proper seats fold up from the boot floor to offer a third row designed to accommodate adults up to 5’ 7”. With the middle row slid forward seven average-sized adults will fit comfortably for even the longest of drives.
Importantly from a practical point of view, even with the third row of seats up the Volvo offers as much boot space as some hatchbacks, which means you can still haul around all the child-related rubbish a family needs. Fold them away and there’s more than 1,000 litres of storage, fold the middle row away and you could play football in there.
While endlessly practical, the interior is also a wonder of style and comfort. Clean, clear surfaces and minimal physical controls ooze minimalist Scandinavian style and anything that isn’t clad in sumptuous Bridge of Weir leather is covered in other top- quality materials. Our test car came packed with more than ten grand’s worth of extras, including a system to automatically manoeuvre you through slow-moving queues of traffic, and electronically controlled air suspension. As well as adapting the ride according to the driving mode this allows the car to automatically “kneel” when you park up and lets you lower the boot level at the touch of a button to aid loading.
Even without the list of extra goodies (adaptive cruise, powered panoramic roof, self-parking system), it’s well equipped. Being a Volvo, safety kit is generous and advanced. There are myriad airbags and traction control systems, pedestrian detection and auto braking, and the Volvo On Call system which automatically calls for help if you’re in an accident. There’s also keyless entry and start, active high beam control and the superb Sensus touchscreen system. Clear, slick and lightning-quick, this nine-inch panel is the closest to smartphone responsiveness and usability I’ve experienced.
Obviously, with all this kit and luxury the XC90 is no featherweight but it’s managed to keep its bulk in check. On the road it feels big without being cumbersome – the steering is light and responsive and body movement is kept under control. It’ll never match a Range Rover Sport for dynamism but it’s composed on even twisting roads and the air suspension provides a smooth, soothing ride.
Hauling all this tech about is a 2.0-litre diesel engine. Smaller but more powerful than the previous generation’s five- cylinder unit, it offers 222bhp and 347lb/ft of torque and will shift the Volvo to 60mph in 7.4 seconds. While this sounds good on paper, behind the wheel it doesn’t feel so nippy and the eight-speed auto can take a moment to respond to sudden acceleration such as overtaking. That said, it’s a smooth and quiet drivetrain under most circumstances and returns official figures of 50mpg and 149g/km of CO2 – better than many key rivals.
The XC90 is also available as a plug-in hybrid promising 400bhp and 134mpg. We’re test driving it in a couple of weeks so will report back on whether it’s worth the additional outlay over the diesel.
Overall it’s easy to see why the XC90 has been winning plaudits all over the world. It combines style, luxury and the latest technology with more prosaic qualities to offer a spacious, practical and economical family car that makes you feel spoiled every time you slip behind the wheel.
Price: £50,185 (£61,805 as tested)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel producing 222bhp, 347lb/ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic driving all four wheels
Performance: Top speed 137mph, 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds
Economy: 49.6mpg combined