If you’ve just put down a deposit for the a new Volvo XC90 I have to tell you that the XC70 is actually a more stylish car.
Controversial? Yes, the 70 is old school now and the latest 90 is loaded with tons of cool gizmos. The 90 is also Car of the Year 2015 for many motoring mags in the UK.
Yet park them side by side and XC70 estate looks so much slicker than its outsize sibling that it’s almost embarrassing! Why would you want a chunky monkey when you can own a sleek loadlugger?
Not much driving going on today in the Cotswolds. Absolute minger out there and even with permanent four-wheel drive, I’ve no intentions of taking the Volvo anywhere… Possible until next year at this rate!
Funny how sports utility vehicles are such a boom sector in the UK – yet you often feel like a social pariah driving one. Even out here in the Cotswolds, you need a good splattering of mud on the bodywork to qualify for four-wheel drive owner status.
As I live on the muddiest farm track this side of Cheltenham, every car I drive is caked in the stuff after just one trek down to the road. In the summer I have to contend with clouds of dust instead.
We’re in that no man’s land between Christmas and the New Year, when nobody seems to know what to do with themselves, what day it is and what the hell is going on.
I did actually consider washing the XC70 this morning – that’s how bad it’s got. I’m still reluctant to let the Volvo go next week. Never thought I’d hear myself saying that…
My Christmas nightmare? Shopping in the sales. Not entirely sure what drives people to leave the warmth of their family home in the festive season to battle it out for £10 off a toaster but Britain’s favourite pastime these days involves a credit card and jingle music on a loop.
Which led me to consider which cars we’ve driven at Car Couture in 2015 that I might, just might, consider to queue for if there was a bargain to be had. Surprisingly, the XC70 is one of them – ahead of the all conquering XC90. Just because it’s not a statement car and has a classless quality.
Here are the others you can read about elsewhere on this site…
Morgan Plus 8 – the rawest, craziest sports car built by Roberts, not robots. The fuel gauge flicks around like a mad thing, the noise is deafening, the fun is unbeatable.
Aston Martin Vantage V12 – brutally effective machine that looks sensational and performs accordingly. Showing its age not but still an absolutely cracking convertible.
McLaren 570S – The surprise supercar of 2015. The slowest and cheapest machine in the McLaren stable is the ultimate street racer. Full stop.
Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale – We can’t wait for the Alfieri coupe in 2017 but until then, this wonderful, roaring 2+2 is cooler than any Mercedes.
Porsche 911 S Cabriolet – It is the benchmark convertible for all others to follow. Appeals more to the dead than the heart but still a sports car for all seasons.
Other car manufacturers would tell you they make a better crossover but the XC70 is an SUV and a ‘proper’ estate rolled into one.
A proper estate? Well, SUVs are fine, except when you want to carry people and luggage at the same time.
So while the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes bling thing all boast more speed and badge cred, the XC70 is extremely practical and arguably a more luxurious car.
And yes, because you don’t see that many of them in the UK, the Volvo has a certain niche cache missing from the German marques which, let’s face it, are everywhere these days.
This is a classy estate. Volvo has beefed up the appearance with some purposeful pieces of plastic trim but on the latest models, it’s all done to good effect.
Perfect for the Boxing Day sales or the Boxing Day hunt, the XC70 is an understated winner.
Did you ever drive a Citroen 2CV? What about an original Mini? What made both special is that each sported a classless image – you could get away with driving either car whether you were a chic interior designer, or a an everyday Joe.
Cars like that are few and far between these days. The Citroen 2CV was killed off decades ago, while the latest MINI (you have to write that in capitals or BMW get upset!) has been botoxed to imperfection and now costs quite silly money.
Volvo estates never had a cool image – they have always been regarded as country loadluggers for two Labradors and a stash of antiques. I live near Stow-on-the-Wold, so I should know.
But there’s something quite pleasurable about driving a vehicle that seems to cause no threat to anyway and doesn’t make a statement about who you are. It’s not about being bland or blending in with the crowd either.
The big Volvo came of age some time ago. It may not have the sexy badge of a German brand but it’s now quietly confident and understated. Perhaps like you?
The best thing about driving a different car every week is that sometimes, just sometimes, you get in a vehicle that surprises you.
When I used to review films for a living, I would spend hours trying to stay awake in a cinema watching one bad film after another. It was painful and more often than not, I would end up snoring.
Then a good film would come along and that made up for all the bad stuff. And it surprises me to say this but the XC70 is the automotive equivalent.
Yes, I know it’s been around for years and will one day soon slip out of the Volvo line-up for good but I’m actually enjoying this roomy estate more than I ever expected.
Why? Well, it’s damn comfortable, doesn’t come with an image problem and I just felt totally at home the moment I slipped behind the wheel.
I may be approaching pipe and slipper age by admitting to this I know but so far, I’m loving my XC70…
The Bentley is an odd set up. The old school atmosphere of the interior is attached to a high performance chassis and engine that is capable of an astonishing turn of speed.
Slip the weighty chunk of gearshifter into Sport and the Flying Spur lives up to its name. It’s remarkably quick, considering the whole package weighs a whopping 2.4 tons.
Other cars like the Mercedes S600 do the limo thing better but, of course, they simply ain’t a Bentley W12 with this turn of speed.
The 6.0-litre has huge amounts of torque on tap. It turns this W12 model into a very special car that drives a lot better than the ageing styling suggests it might.
So, if you were a chauffeur, who would you like to drive around for the day? A pop star, a politician, or somebody from the sporting world.
Me? Well, I’d go for the wonderful Annie Lennox, who I’m listening to on Radio 4 right now. I interviewed her a couple of years back and found a humble woman of warmth and charm.
It’s unlikely Annie would ever want to step into anything as grand as a Bentley. She’s just too grounded, discreet and, in her own words ‘despairing and morose’!
The Flying Spur isn’t her sort of car but if anybody deserves the limo treatment, it’s the engaging Scottish woman with red hair…
So, day two of the enormous magic carpet ride that is the Flying Spur. There are big cars like the Range Rover and Audi A8, and then there are really big cars, like the Bentley.
Apparently, a large proportion of Spurs will find their way to China. There, the back seat is more important than the front (it’s a cultural thing), so perhaps it should be no surprise that the Flying Spur seems to have been built around the rear space.
And it’s a pretty special place to sit. The reclining, air-cooled or heated seats recline and massage occupants, while the rear entertainment system is pure first class travel. It even features a touchscreen control which operates sound, heating and other important little luxuries.
I especially like the deep pile carpet, although it must be a bugger to clean. Last night I sat in the back and called a few people. The chauffeur isn’t standard, so I just remained on the driveway until it went dark.
It’s one thing to sit in the back of a Bentley, quite another to be driven everywhere in it too..
Something of a mad rush today as I’ve been interviewing Olympic rower Kathryn Grainger for Country Life magazine. The Bentley cause ripples on the water when I turned up at the National Rowing Centre in Caversham, for some reason…
Instead of some opening words on the Flying Spur., you might be interested in some of the option prices that took our test Bentley from a list of £153,300 to an incredible £191,191!
Boot carpet – £420
Contrasting stitch in Imperial Blue – £1,485
Comfort specification – £1,885
Full length centre console – £3,025
Dark Stained burr walnut – £1,375
Refrigerated bottle cooler – £1,665
Vehicle tracking system – £1,400
Rear entertainment – £5,835
Wi-fi hotspot – £5,695
Space saving spare wheel – £4,335
Erm, £4,335 for a spare wheel? Surely if you own a Bentley a nice chap from the AA comes and sorts a flat out for free…?