Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design – lathered in lagom

The new mid-size SUV from Sweden is racking up a raft of awards, as Volvo’s resurgence in the family car market continues. The D5 R-Design costs £43,505 and returns an impressive 54.1mpg (combined) from its 235bhp 2.o-litre diesel engine – more importantly than that, it’s an exceptionally good car with a classy interior and more safety features than you can shake a reindeer antler at…

In recent years Volvo has left its antique dealer/two Labrador image behind and become the epitome of Scandinavian chic. No, it doesn’t sell a sports car but as a multi-tool of motors, the Swedes now put together SUVs better than an Ikea flat pack.

The transformation started with the XC90 in 2002, a full-fat luxury crossover that left many conventional MPV owners with a sour taste in their mouth. The latest XC90 is already regarded as a legendary all-rounder, super safe and very desirable.

The pint-sized XC40 has just launched Volvo into the compact SUV market too. It has snatched the European Car of the Year Award and is going to give the BMW X1 and Audi Q3 a bloody nose, make no mistake.

Now I’m discovering my inner Sven driving the XC60. The semi-skimmed, mid-range model is smaller than the XC90 and minus a third row of seats but otherwise a doppelganger. Last month it was named World Car of the Year. Yep, and it’s a Volvo.

The XC60 is lathered in lagom – that’s trendy Scandi-speak for ‘just right’. I’ve already discovered it boasts the world’s most relaxing and well-organised cabin, feng shui’d to the hilt and all the more brilliant for it.

So if you currently drive a sports utility vehicle with a busy dashboard, marvel at what Volvo’s interior designers have done to theirs. My dog could count the number of buttons in our XC60 on two paws.

They’ve been swept away and replaced with a mini iPad screen. It’s not as big as the one in a Tesla but intuitive and simple. That also leaves a larger space in the air-conditioned glovebox where the manual used to be. You see everything needed to learn about this car is accessed via the touchscreen manual.

I wouldn’t say I’m your typical Volvo driver – one hound, no kids – but almost begrudgingly, after just seven days, I have to admit the XC60 is something I never expected it to be. Cool.

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Range Rover Velar – gorgeous from any angle

If the pretty Range Rover Evoque is the Gucci handbag of SUVs then the company’s new Velar is the Louis Vuitton suitcase. Big, bold and even more stylish, the Velar is set to be THE travel accessory of 2018. With both Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini launching super SUVs over the next 12 months, all-wheel drive, luxury cars like the Velar are set to remain first choice for any well-heeled motorist. Our D240 costs £64,160 and is powered by an eight-speed 1999cc diesel engine. It produces 240bhp and can average an impressive 49.7mpg (combined).

Velar slots in to the Range Rover line-up between the entry-level, compact Evoque and the rather bling Sport (no jokes about footballer’s wives – it’s a serious driving machine). The ‘full-fat’, original Range Rover is still the big daddy.

Expensive, smooth and simply gorgeous from any angle, Velar is a beauty queen in the everyday car park of BMW, Mercedes and Audi rivals. The steeply raked windscreen, low roofline and pert derriere are pure car couture.

I found visibility a little restricted around town through that narrow, rear screen but otherwise the interior is a revelation. Expect minimalist cool – with not one but two control screens that sweep away an ugly rash of dials.

Just like the futuristic Tesla, Velar takes interior design to a whole new level. The steering wheel buttons are touch sensitive, the graphics oh so sophisticated and the Meridian sound system is an ear tingling joy.

Land Rover appears to have thought of everything with the multi-purpose Velar. Even vegetarians are catered for with optional, textured cloth upholstery that pretends to be leather. Mouthwatering indeed.

Velar was the code name given to the concept Range Rover back in the 1960s – so this new model has pedigree. Not that anybody would want to go mud flinging in a machine that costs upwards of £44,000.

That’s the entry-level price. My mid-range 240D HSE costs in excess of £70,000 with a few ‘must-have’ extras, like head-up instrument display flashed onto the windscreen and rear seat entertainment.

Of all the Range Rover models, this one is primarily designed for the road, with a range of eco-friendly petrol and diesel engines. No doubt a hybrid will be along soon, too. Priced to fill the £30,000 gap between the Evoque and the Sport, Velar may be cute but it is still super capable on the rough stuff.

Most versions feature air suspension, which allows the driver to adapt the Velar to suit the terrain – or it can manage the whole lot automatically.

High off the ground and rather chunky, I found the Velar didn’t handle with the pinpoint accuracy of a sportier BMW X5. A Porsche Macan is the best driver’s car.

It’s difficult not to fall for the Velar, perhaps because it has the advantage of being the newest, most sought after SUV available and looks like nothing else.

German rivals do certain things better but as a beautiful package, the Land Rover is something of a head-turning tease. And you can’t really say that about any Audi, Mercedes or a BMW equivalent, can you?