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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Lagom it might be but the Volvo S90 shouldn’t have to struggle this hard…

The Swedes call is ‘lagom’ – a proverb that explains when something is just about right. It’s a state of being that the Scandinavian’s love to live by.

The new Volvo S90 basks in a state of permanent lagom. It’s not too flash, not too expensive – it’s just about right.

Well, just about. As much as I’ve loved my time in a cabin finely tuned to Ikea standards, I’m struggling to get my head around the 2.0-litre diesel engine.

The problem is this. As frugal and eco-friendly as it is, the unit sounds like it is straining to keep up. Unlike a BMW, Audi or Mercedes, this rather ruins the whole driving experience.

It doesn’t mean the S90’s progress is hindered in any way. It’s not a bad car. But that engine would eventually make me long for a bigger unit to serve up a more relaxed driving experience.

Lagom it might be but the S90 shouldn’t have to struggle this hard…

Cool, calm and collected – the new Volvo S90

Car manufacturers drift in and out of favour with the passage of time. Right now, Volvo is one of the brands of the moment – revived, revamped and poking a stick at the likes of BMW and Jaguar.

The Swedes have always traded on the safety angle but the cars have never been that desirable, or different. Well, the likes of the XC90 and now the S90 have changed all that. BMWs and Audis all look the same – why not drive something more memorable?

After five days in the S90, I’ve realised people aren’t staring at me – they are looking at the car. It’s very pretty indeed, although the rear-end does not hold quite the same appeal.

It may not have quite the driving thrills of a German car but there is something resfreshingly different about this Volvo. It feels light and airy inside. Everything about it is cool, calm and collected.

Slotting the 400bhp Twin Engine hybrid unit in later this year could be the making of a great saloon….

The new Volvo S90 is a comfortable relaxing car – it’s just I’m not ready for a nursing home yet

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The retuning of Volvo is slow but impressive. After the XC90 comes our S90, with other models on the cards too. There’s even the Polestar range of performance cars that will become more available over the next few years.

Volvo has no plans to offer a fast T6 petrol version of the S90 but there will be a T8 hybrid using a system similar to that used in the XC90. With 400bhp available, the plug-in hybrid should be massively popular.

The 2.0 D5 diesel fitted in our S90 test car is impressive, offering 232bhp. However, the unit is only available with four-wheel drive, so many drivers will no doubt choose the slower, 187bhp version with front-wheel drive for better economy.

Neither give the S90 the driving dymanics of a BMW or a Jaguar – there is no manual gearbox option either. Consequently, the S90 remains a large, comfortable executive car that is more relaxing than exciting.

Personally, I’m not ready for a nursing home yet, so a 5 Series would always be my first choice.

The Volvo S90 cockpit is like the waiting room at my doctor’s surgery

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Sitting inside the Volvo S90 is like visiting my doctor’s surgery. There, the receptionist plays soothing background music, everything is neatly arranged and the chairs are very comfortable indeed.

I look around at a lot of sick people and feel rather grateful that I’m only here to get a repeat prescription for asthma.

The S90 cabin has that same soothing effect – like a million Ikea candles burning around your home. It is, perhaps, just what the doctor ordered.

Yet, somehow the new S90 cabin still manages to leave me cold. It may have heated seats but the design is so clinical, so laden with technology, it lacks any soul.

Walking away from my Volvo, it sends a note to my iPhone reminding me where I parked. Very sweet but if I can’t remember that then perhaps I need to spend even more time in the doctor’s waiting room that I imagined.

Is the Volvo S90 the exec saloon to beat BMW?

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The first thing you have to to realise about the S90 is that it’s a very big car. And I mean big – larger than a BMW 5 Series.

It’s pretty from some angles but less so from others, while the interior is the antidote to every German saloon currently on the market. Refreshingly different.

Volvo has got new-found credibility these days and the S90 is going to have to be good to beat rivals like the Mercedes E-class and the Audi A6.

It’s packed full of technology, boasts a super-safe heritage and is very well equipped. Could this be the exec to finally knock BMW off its throne?

The Volvo XC90’s infotainment system is less than user friendly

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I’ve nothing against Capital FM but when it keeps interupting my session of Radio 4 on DAB, I take exception. and when it’s in a super-safe Volvo XC90, well that’s even more serious.

Traffic Annoucements are off, so that isn’t the reason. Unless Lady Gaga is working for the station.

To get back to Radio 4 again means a lot of faffing around on the infotainment system. Volvo has gone to every effort to load the latest XC90 with safety kit but it’s actually the simple technology that let’s this SUV down.

For example, the big screen sat nav is excellent. Except for some reason, the screen isn’t moving to follow my direction of travel. Why?

And to complete my grumpiness, the hybrid Volvo is averaging 30.5mpg on a motorway drive.

Grrrr…