“It’s the best seven-seater I know,” says my dentist, during my routine examination, as we discuss the merits of the Volvo XC90… He owns both an XC90 and a VW Touareg. “And there’s still room for the shopping when all the seats are up.”
So I’m expecting great things when I test the XC90. Externally this latest model is more rounded than its predecessor making it more visually striking and attractive. Head on its headlights and large bold chrome grille are what you’d expect of a premium sports utility vehicle that’s got to compete against rivals from BMW, Porsche and Jaguar Land Rover. The rear is a little less appealing to me.
The power boot is a bit boxy and could do with more curves. And while the chrome exhaust pipes help to set off the rear their placement is not safe for little children as Henry (2) proves when his hand brushes against one of them after a long journey. They are very hot. Fortunately, I rush him to the sink and after lots of cold water there is thankfully no burn.
A trip to London to see my wife’s uncle Harry allows us to travel with her parents, which is a rare luxury. Lin and John sit next to Henry in his child seat while Harriett (7) and Heidi (5) sit in the third row of seats in the boot. Usually the third row is awkward to the say the least, when it comes to lifting the seats up and putting them in place.
But in the Volvo it is simply a matter of pulling them up and they slot into position. On opening the power boot the rear of the Volvo drops, which is quite a surprise; this self-levelling suspension is like Citroens of old. I’m not quite sure how beneficial it is but perhaps it is aimed at the older driver and passenger, perhaps making getting into the vehicle easier.
The seats are comfy too, although Harriett does complain about feeling car sick. It is strange how some new vehicles smell so strongly while others do not. We open the windows and that pacifies her. “I find this very comfortable,” says Lin.
The Volvo cruises on the motorway with no road noise in the luxury cabin. The light brown leather seats are comfortable but I do find that they make me sweat on a hot day. They are supportive and electrically adjustable. The sat nav could be easier to operate. I cannot find a postcode search, only one for a city centre or for specific things like accommodation so this is of no help for us in London. Despite motorway cruising the Volvo returns over 30mpg.
Another jaunt sees us travel to Wiltshire where we are able to use the sat nav to find a supermarket and to find Warminster town centre. It works well.
The large panoramic glass tilt/slide roof lets lots of light in and this has to be opened on a sunny day.
The second row of passengers have their own digital temperature controls, much to our children’s pleasure. At this point I should also mention how they all enjoy the touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard. I get very frustrated with these things but they love it. It does feel like technology has gone just that bit too far. Do I really need an app to pay for my parking? No, I don’t because as a rule I don’t pay for my parking.
There is a whole plethora of stuff that I can quite easily do without. I can’t see the benefit of seeing a picture of my seat and the highlighted area I am adjusting with the control on the seat. It takes me three days to find out how to open the glovebox and it is only when little Henry (2) is carrying out his research that we discover that there is a button on the dashboard.
I like a vehicle I can just get into and drive and after realising that the ignition is operated by turning a dial by the centre armrest to the right I pretty much can do this in the Volvo. But it’s these little idiosyncrasies that quite frankly, drive me nuts.
This top spec D5 model, which comes in at just under £65,000, provides comfortable surroundings and an enjoyable, if lazy, drive thanks to its automatic gearbox. It’s a big vehicle and its parking sensors make a lot of noise, audible from outside and, when I am reversing it into place on our driveway, even in our house. My wife rushes out thinking I’ve had an accident. Prior to driving this I drove a Jaguar F Pace and the similarities between its reversing cameras are striking.
Both provide all round cameras that even give you a view above the vehicle. Clever stuff. In the Volvo though the view above stays there for the whole reversing process. Now, I wasn’t sure I would warm to this but over my time with the Swede I have found it to be very user-friendly. It makes manoeuvring this very large vehicle as easy as it ever could be – it would be nigh on impossible to reverse such a vehicle without this technology due to its size and blindspots.
Family vehicles, of which this is clearly one, need to be thoughtfully designed and there are areas that need attention in my opinion. The exhausts need concealing from little hands and the electrics need to be safe, too. Look under the seats and there are wires, which an inquisitive child like Henry could pull. This is an added problem that tired and hassled parents just do not need.
Then there are the well publicised issues with power sunroofs, windows and boots, which are another hazard for children. Volvo has always had high safety standards when it comes to how its vehicles perform in accidents and it needs to be ahead of the game when it comes to the design of its luxury interiors and at the moment it is simply following the crowd. I expect more from Volvo.
Facts at a glance
XC90 D5 PowerPulse AWD Momentum Pro (MY18.5) Automatic
Top speed: 137mph