Beautiful, sunny Saturday in the Cotswolds. The farm is buzzing with activity and the rumble of a Land Rover is never far away. Not for much longer though – the Defender is no more.
So what will replace it? Well, nothing can really but for the ‘Glossy possy’ in Gloucestershire have transferred their affections to Mitsubishi instead.
This has been aided by the fact that the UK arm of the company is based in Cirencester. Waitrose is packed with Shoguns and Outlanders.
And because the L200 has huge, go-anywhere capability, as well as old school 4×4 charm, it’s perfect for towing their horse boxes and shooting gear.
However, I fear the Barbarian we have on test this week is just a little too bling for Pippa and her pony. The mood lighting and leather won’t last long on a ‘shire’ hunting trip.
So, with that in mind, if you are in the market for a serious off-roader, save yourself some money and go for the basic, entry-level L200. It will do everything you need on the farm…
For once I seem to be in the right test car for the weather conditions. Usually I have a rear-wheel drive BMW for ice (appalling), an MX-5 two-seater to go on holiday with a passenger AND dog (tight), or a bog standard saloon on a hot day when a convertible would be perfect (boring).
The point is that even with the keys to a candy shop of cars, it’s difficult to plan ahead and choose the right one. In Britain, spring can be a snow-fest, or a mini scorcher. It’s the only good reason to live by the Med, where the weather is always the same.
Which is probably why in 2015, car buyers seem to want multi-purpose vehicles that do everything. A one-size-fits-all, off the peg motor that takes every day in its stride, and whatever you throw at it.
While the XC60 is never going to set your pulse racing, it’s a brilliant family SUV. Fortunately, I don’t have a family to ship around, so I can admire it from afar, tell my friends it’s perfect for their kids – then go and buy an inappropriate Maserati instead….
Yes, as you can see, the trip down the village lane took on an extra dimension this morning. All I can say is thank God I wasn’t in a rear-wheel drive BMW (why are they so bad in the snow?).
The hill is far steeper than it looks but it’s the kind of morning when smug people in SUVs just love to rub road salt into your two-wheel drive only wounds.
Of course, not all the school run mums have worked out that four-wheel drive can still come unstuck on ice. You could have six-wheel drive and still slide off the road by travelling too fast. I’ve never seen a Ford Kuga on its roof before. Still no improvement on the styling…
So today I was one of the smug few. Even on standard road tyres the XC60 has more than enough traction and ground clearance to do the job.
Oh and it also has the ultimate cold weather solution – a heated steering wheel. Bliss….
Weird as it might sound, Volvo has developed a headlight system that allows you to drive on full beam all the time – even when there is another car approaching.
Active High Beam isn’t a pipe dream – it’s already fitted to various Volvos, including the XC60 we’re driving this week.
How does it work? Well, the headlights stay on high beam even when another car is approaching but the system prevents dazzle by only shading out as much of your beam as necessary.
It also recognises pedestrians and cyclists, so they aren’t blinded either (although it doesn’t always work for those on foot, or cyclists without lights in our experience!).
The system takes a little getting used to because you instantly want to dip when another vehicle approaches and you can still see ‘high beam’ all around their car. However, I soon got used to it.
The perfect lighting solution? Hmm, the only bugger is that you can’t easily flash oncoming drivers who haven’t dipped their headlights and blind you. Solve that one Volvo!
Spacious and classy, the XC60 is a machine that Volvo fans could only have dreamt about back in the 1990s. In fact it’s weird to think the manufacturer only started making four-wheel drive cars about 11 years ago.
Now with a line-up that includes the all-new XC90 and assorted other soft-roaders, there seem to be more Volvo 4x4s than standard models out there.
After stepping out of the V70, the XC60 feels much more up-to-date and refined. The D4 engine is smooth and quiet and is already returning 36mpg, despite power going to all four wheels.
It also has amazing front seats, big and comfy with lots of support. Less impressive is the six-speed manual gearbox. After the V70’s slick auto box, it feels pretty clunky…
Talk about the emperor’s new clothes… Can anybody tell me why they use tartan seat cloth in the Golf GTI? I’m in touch with my Scottish but is there some other deep and meaningful reason for it?
Apparently, the Germans have a bit of a thing for it which dates back to the 1950s. In those days, Mercedes used to give each of their racing drivers different coloured tartan seats. Fangio had red and Stirling Moss sat on green.
VW has used the Jacara cloth as standard in GTIs for years but I’m not certain it’s the best option, from a couture point of view. And if you feel the same as me, your dealer will charge you an extra £1700 to upgrade to leather.
I would hesitate to suggest this might put a lot of people off. Sure, it’s quirky and different but also strangely dated and rather unappealing. It’s the one feature of this latest GTI I could live without…
Remember the wedge-shaped Volvo 480? Not many people do but back in the mid-eighties, this sleek four-seater was seen as radical. It was a total break from the norm for a company that produced lumpy estate cars with the aerodynamics of a brick.
Apparently, the 480 was designed many years before by a man who was almost hung, drawn and quartered by his Swedish bosses for suggesting something so outrageously different. Hell, this was Volvo and we don’t do sexy! Volvos were designed soley to carry sofas, while being capable of hitting an elk at 60mph.
Well, that’s all changed and for further proof, just Google the all new Polestar models that are the hottest Volvos ever built. Even the ‘everyday’ cars are pretty smart too. Just take a loot at the XC60. If you have to make the school run, then this is an SUV that your kid won’t mind stepping out of.
There’s not to much 4×4 ‘bling’ about the styling either, it doesn’t shout about it’s four-wheel drive credentials. Yes, it’s taller and more butch than your average hatchback but if you want a Volvo that is a tiny, weeny bit sexy as well as practical and safe, this is it….