PUBLISHED: 08:21 09 July 2016 | UPDATED: 08:21 09 July 2016
From the new Volvo S90 to Alfa Romeo's new star, get up to date with the hot motoring news
Volvo used to do well with big cars, although robust styling often drew highly unflattering comparisons with trucks or wisecracks such as “it just needs a gun turret on top.”
The Swedish marque’s designs may have shaped up better more recently, but sales have still been hit by the down-sizing that has trimmed the whole big car sector.
Volvo’s outgoing S80 saloon, worthy though it was, also struggled to match the cachet and driver engagement of German rivals.
But BMW and Co may not have it easy once the Swedes’ all-new S90 saloon and equivalent estate arrives in late summer.
They benefit from developments financed by Volvo’s wealthy Chinese owner, Geely, and already invested in the excellent new XC90 SUV. They’ll be lighter, stiffer, more spacious, eco-friendly and tax efficient, all helped by the modular vehicle platform developed for a whole new generation of Volvos.
The low-slung S90 also looks superb and will be eco-friendly for such a big car: diesel CO2 emissions are as low as 116g/km (S90) or 119g/km (V90), thereby attracting just £20 a year road tax after year one.
Just months after launch, there will also be a twin engine petrol-electric plug-in hybrid option cribbed from the XC90, with an estimated all-electric range of around 30 miles and claimed official fuel economy of more than 100mpg.
As with the XC90 hybrid, this won’t come cheap, but no S90 will be a snip; rather than hunting big volumes, the word from Volvo HQ is how the S90 series will be pitched higher than the S80 – from £32,555, with the V90 attracting a £2,000 premium – and seek discerning buyers.
These buyers will be attracted by the technological prowess, plus Volvo’s traditional emphasis on safety, as well as the classy Scandinavian cabin that’s become a latterday brand hallmark.
Also, judging by the XC90 the seating will exceed even Volvo’s high standards; those on the XC90 seem absurdly thin compared to rivals, yet they are supremely comfortable while also boosting legroom for those riding behind.
Volvo seems to have created the in-car touchscreen of the moment, too: first seen on the XC90, this might well be the motoring equivalent of the iPad, with a big display and intuitive operation – a sharp contrast to so many on the market at present.
It could give the brand an edge, especially with all-new BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class rivals also arriving this year. wVolvo S90
Price: from £32,555
Driving appeal: **** (estimated)
Running costs: ****(estimated)
How green?: ****
Best rival: BMW
Alfa’s new star
Arriving a year later than we all hoped, Alfa Romeo’s stunning all-new Giulia saloon will almost certainly be worth the wait. Reverting to the rear-wheel drive layout of its classic 1960s/1970s forbear, it should have the petrol and diesel technology, sporting dynamics as well as the stunning looks needed to attack that compact executive sector king, the BMW 3 Series.
Mazda enjoyed huge success when it launched a folding hardtop version of the previous generation MX-5. The same format will now be repeated next year for the latest Mark IV version of the legendary two-seater, but this variant – known as the RF - will feature ‘fastback’ styling with roof up or down, enabling it to stand apart from its soft-top sister.
Subaru is celebrating 50 years for its famous horizontally-opposed ‘boxer’ engines, so called because the pistons mimic a boxer’s punching fists. The layout arrived in the Subaru 1000 (1966) and the Japanese marque has rarely deviated since from an option that cuts vibration and sits low in the car for good handling and partnering of Subaru’s equally famed All-Wheel Drive.