Love at first sight
My eight-year-old son Fin grinned like a Cheshire cat at his first sight of our ride for the weekend. A glittering aerodynamic vision in chrome and muted bronze, the Volvo XC90 stood out amongst the surrounding work-a-day Fords and Nissans like a high-tech rose in a vase of daisies. ‘Epic,’ he murmured in appreciation.
Then he turned to me, raised an eyebrow, and intoned with mock-Eastern European menace: ‘So – we meet at last, Mr Bond.’
He’d nailed it. This is an SUV that makes you feel a tiny bit like 007 himself, waving to Q as he sets off to stop another dastardly plot for world domination.
Perhaps it’s the high driving position that leaves you literally looking down on other drivers. Perhaps it’s the fact that Fin and his sister Scarlett, 11, spent quite a long time looking for the machine gun launcher button – and that none of us would have been too surprised if they’d found it.
It’s that sort of car. Powerful, fast and impressive in an understated, Scandinavian style, wonderfully relaxing and easy to drive, and with the added bonus of hidden secrets that you can slowly discover.
So, the Human Machine Interface – a multi-coloured 12.3” central touchscreen that magically controls everything from the air-con to the radio and sat nav – is of course an interactive digital wonder.
But who knew that it would turn reversing into a source of unfailing family entertainment, displaying surrounding obstacles and vehicles in a surreal, elongated style, and calmly talking you into the most impossible parking spaces?
I often had the feeling that car was putting up with my driving style under polite duress. I could feel it making subtle little adjustments to my braking and steering, clearly shaking its digital head at my lack of Swedish finesse behind the wheel.
But that’s a compliment, rather than a complaint. This car is a great big four-wheeled security blanket for you and your family. You feel ridiculously safe and cocooned from the second the doors shut with a reassuringly heavy ‘thunk’ and you sink into the butter soft, ultra-adjustable leather seats.
VOLVO XC90 tech
Now this level of uber-sophisticated technology comes with its minor annoyances. Little in-car adjustments that would take seconds to figure out in a standard family saloon require a lot more thought (and possibly a degree in astrophysics) to execute in the Volvo.
So, it took Jane, the kids and I about 15 minutes to discover how to move the driver’s seat backwards and forwards because of course the mere pulling of an intuitive manual lever had presumably been rejected as simply too 20thcentury by the design team.
Instead, trial and error prodding of a series of complicated buttons had Scarlett & Fin screaming with laughter as various parts of the seat inflated and deflated before we finally discovered the right combination.
Now if I do have one small complaint it is that a CD player has been rejected as old hat too, instantly rendering our kids’ beloved collection of How to Train Your Dragon discs obsolete.
Of course this sophisticated machine let’s you stream music and audio books by connecting to your smartphone or tablet. But if, like us, you are parents with an extensive CD collection for entertaining bored kids on the road, you would need to pay £100 to have a CD player fitted when you bought the car.
But that’s a minor quibble – the XC90 gets a massive thumbs up from Scarlett and Fin for masses of boot and legroom and ‘for not smelling like it will make me feel car sick’. (Scarlett has a Pavlovian nausea reaction to the warm plastic smell of most cars).
And the fact that Scarlett, Fin and I still talk in faintly awed tones about our weekend in the ‘Bond car’ probably tells you all you need to know…
VOLVO XC90 details
Model: Volvo XC90 D5 AWD (225hp) Inscription Geartronic
Seats: 7 seats (as standard)
Top speed: 137mph
Fuel economy: 48.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Prices: starts from £50,185 OTR