I thought it was going to lean on corners, run out of puff on the motorway – be hassled by angry BMW X5-types. That’s what I thought, until I drove the XC90 to Royal Windsor Horse Show yesterday.
In fact, the T8 proved itself even better than the BMW – and more than a match for the chavy Range Rover Sport (why do RRS drivers always opt for personalised number plates?).
In ‘sport’ driving mode, the Volvo absolutely bundles along. The petrol engine might sound like a diesel when pushed hard but boy, does it shift well.
Sure, there’s a little bit of lean on a winding country lane but overall, I’d say this is the best driving SUV out there – and that’s quite a compliment in today’s packed SUV market…
I’m feeling guilty about picking on the XC90. It’s not that the 7-seat Volvo isn’t a great SUV but living with one for a week does reveal a few cracks in the public image.
I know that if I was fully loaded with sprogs and dogs it would make a perfect family car. Everywhere you look inside, Volvo has gone the extra mile to make this the safest motor on the market.
The integrated child seat in the back, multiple airbags, lane departure warning system, cameras at every angle – it’s packed with technology.
You might find the brake assist system takes a bit of getting used to. Drive towards any car – even one parked on a bend – and red lights flash at the bottom of the windscreen and buzzer scream.
But otherwise, the Volvo wraps you up in a veil of security. Quite a nice feeling…
So, you know what it’s like. You’re walking back to your vehicle in a dark car park at night and choose to illuminate the scene by pressing the key-fob ‘unlock’ button. What could be simpler?
The XC90 has brilliant illumination – the whole area around the car is illuminated by lights under the door mirrors and smart bulbs in each of the four door handles.
It looks very cool, except for one thing. The Volvo keyfob isn’t like any other. It’s a thin, square unit with the lock, unlock and boot buttons down one edge (not on the sides!). On the other edge is the alarm button that sets the lights flashing and horn blasting.
So when I pressed what I thought was the unlock, instead I had pressed the alarm. It’s very difficult to feel the different and in darkness, it’s really pot luck as to what button you do hit.
It’s just the little things but this is one advance in technology and design that really doesn’t work. Form over function…
‘It’s no looker but it’s not ugly too’ Such is the general reaction to the new XC90. Car Couture appreciates the gorgeousness of the interior, the ground-breaking technology and the super safe gizmos that will wow many family buyers.
But which ever way you look at it, the XC90 just isn’t a car to set the pulses racing. Sexy SUVs are few and far between. You could argue that there aren’t any.
I think the the Range Rover Evoque, BMW x5 and Porsche Macan are among the best – but none of those have the all-round ability and practicality of the Volvo.
I rather think Hyundai now make some of the more stylish SUVs and they’re considerably cheaper than the Volvo. Still, it hasn’t stopped the XC90 being a sell-out success, so what do we know?
If the shape of the new Volvo XC90 is less than inspiring, the touchscreen dashboard inside the cabin is beautiful in every way. Apart from a Tesla, I can’t think of a better system.
Plenty of cars have touchscreen but the XC90 takes it to a different level. Pretty much everything you need is embedded in the huge panel, including most of the traditional dials and buttons.
Most people own a smartphone these days. The XC90 screen effectively becomes a bigger version of your mobile, interacting to provide seamless telephone, music and entertainment options.
And it’s intuitive too. The functions might look complicated but even I navigated my way around the functions in a matter of moments.
Best of all is mapping. It receives ‘live’ upgrades so you don’t need to download expensive upgrades. Brilliant! Why aren’t all cars like this?
I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed when the XC90 was delivered to The Milestone Hotel in London today. The Milestone was number one London hotel on Trip Advisor last year and I’d enjoyed 24 hours of style and refinement. I was rather hoping it would continue.
Even the doorman was excited about the Volvo’s arrival. But the shape – is it just me or does the XC90 just look like the old model with a bigger ‘happier’ front grille?
There’s little to inspire you from the rear or side, so it’s just the front three-quarter angle that really catches the eye. Those narrow headlights and upright grille are pretty slick.
At least on the inside it’s more inspiring. That enormous media screen, minimalist dashboard and shapely seats really cut the mustard. More tomorrow…