Preview: Volvo XC90

PUBLISHED: 16:00 12 September 2015 | UPDATED: 16:00 12 September 2015

Volvo XC90

Volvo XC90

Archant

This is no ‘in yer face’ SUV/4x4, rather it’s more one for those who want to travel in style.

Not only did Volvo wrong-foot premium rivals in 2002 by launching the XC90 SUV, but the car’s brilliance ensured its survival for 12 years – a long time on the car market.

A tough act to follow then, but its classy replacement is up to the task.

Retaining the seven-seat format that got the original off to flying sales, the Mk2 (from £45,750) is squarer, delivering a genuinely roomy third row of seats catering for adults up to five feet seven.

Folding all five rear seats – fully flat, unlike some SUVs – also creates a capacious load area of 1,899 litres, so the big Swede can be both your luxury motor and your workhorse.

This versatility is enhanced by thinner seat cushions that still manage to surpass the benchmark comfort of the old car and crown an aura of quality throughout.

No wonder Volvo expects half of its UK customers to opt for entry level Momentum trim and the generous standard spec – it’s all the luxury most will need. The rest will go for premium Inscription trim (20 per cent) or sporty R-Design (30) arriving later.

All UK versions have futuristic ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights, setting the tone for clean-cut lines, but the XC90 stands out as much for what’s beneath the bodywork: this car pioneers how Volvo really wants to build a whole new generation of cars.

Its underpinnings can be scaled up or down for spin-off models and, typically for this brand, it offers the latest safety kit, including two world firsts: a passenger-protection sequence – activated if the car leaves the road – plus automatic braking in a typical junction collision scenario.

The car also has only two-litre, four-cylinder engines, but the different variants offer many options to buyers through turbo and supercharging, while a hybrid is due later.

Road manners are excellent: I drove the car in the Yorkshire Dales, where it felt nimble and comfortable with minimal lean on the bends – a rare feat for a tall and bulky SUV.

But then, the XC90 isn’t a typical SUV: that lightness of body and handling, with just a light touch needed from the driver, soon suggests that you are piloting a tall family hatch rather than a rival to cars like the more warship-like Land Rover Discovery or sporty BMW X5.

I think Volvo has wrong-footed the opposition yet again, and it’s an SUV that’s also easy on both eco counts – ecological and economical.

Volvo XC90

Price: from £45,750

Driving appeal: ****

Image: *****

Space: *****

Value: *****

Running costs: ****

Reliability: ****

How green?: ****

Best rival: Land Rover Discovery

News in brief

Sportier BMW

BMW is offering a sportier look and design to popular eco-friendly EfficientDynamic versions of the big-selling 3 Series. The ED Sport adds the style of Sport trim, to the class-leading efficiency of the 320d ED 2.0-litre with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic, a combination that BMW claims to offer effortless performance with better than ever emissions and economy.

Flagship Renault outlet

Kent-based Motorline has transformed its Maidstone Renault and Dacia showrooms.

Commenting on the £3.5m state-of-the-art outlet, Motorline Renault MD Gary Obee said: “As a group we strive to have the best dealerships in the country. We have high standards for our facilities and the people we employ and we are pleased to have delivered such an impressive facility for the people of this area.

X-Trail’s petrol power surge

Yet more proof that petrol is battling back: Nissan is now offering its advanced turbocharged 163PS (161bhp) 1.6 litre DIG-T petrol unit in the classy seven-seat X-Trail SUV.

With a combined 45.6mpg, 145g/km CO2 emissions, lively performance and £21,995 entry price – £1,460 lower than the previous dCi 130 diesel entry model – would-be buyers should weigh up carefully which fuel to choose.

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