The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
I can’t tell you how much most SUV’s bore me. The most saturated segment of the car market has, rather unsurprisingly, brought vanilla to the masses. Let me explain myself for a moment. Everyone wants an SUV. It’s the family car of choice and that brings everyone to the table, especially if you don’t have an SUV, you’re not going to be selling a meaningful number of cars. Just look at how Porsche revived themselves with the Cayenne to see the quintessential example and arguably the catalyst to where we are today. This means every automotive manufacturer is throwing resources at SUV projects, all the while keeping an eye on the competition of course. Now consider that as a primarily family focused vehicle the SUV brief is very much a known quantity and unsurprisingly you add all this together and our final destination is pretty much the same thing, no matter which dealership you end up in.
So the Volvo XC90, same as above? Well yes, but with a very crucial asterisk I need to examine. Every now and then a vehicle comes along that does things that make it stand out, even in the most jam packed of crowds and the Volvo XC90 is just that. On paper nothing stands out; automatic lane assist, 360 degree cameras, fancy sound system probably made by a European brand so exclusive, not even their own workers are allowed into the factory just in case they learn how the magic happens. Swish touch screens, massaging seats and leather covering at least 75% of the interior, made from cows who’ve only ever been fed on the same grain that the Queen eats and round out the complete luxury SUV package. So what’s the aforementioned asterisk for?
Read also: Volvo XC60: a great family SUV
Well there are just a few things that the Volvo XC90 does noticeably better than the competition. Take that 360-degree camera for instance. I’ve used and mostly ignored them in the past as to be honest I find they’re mostly just a gimmick and no substitute for a good old fashioned mirror. The Volvo system is truly remarkable however, and that was the first piece of the XC90 puzzle that really made me sit up and take notice. Not only do I feel like you can see way further than others, but also wider and more accurately. For the first time I really got a seamless sense of having a bird’s eye view over the car and that was exceptionally refreshing. I began to notice other areas of exceptional quality too. My house gate remote struggled to work inside the car, something I’ve not experienced before and effectively illustrates just how cocooned you are inside the cabin. This feeling translated into the driving experience too. SUV’s are often horribly stiff due to them being so high and having to balance between comfort and selling a vehicle that transforms into a clown car through the corners. The XC90 felt properly comfortable though and yet was more than acceptable twisting and turning around town.
Comfortable, spacious, practical and a truly classical elegant cabin that I guarantee won’t age, makes the Volvo XC90 stand out and unlike some of the new sparkly disco balls that seem to pass for luxury interiors these days, I really have high hopes for it making a mark in the luxury SUV segment. Flawless could quite easily be used to describe this SUV, if it weren’t for that pesky gearbox. You will get used to it, but the delay from the moment you apply power to actually moving forward is just too long for my liking and like some others with a similar issue, it gives you that momentary panic when crossing junctions.
However, one tiny issue isn’t enough to stop me from heaping massive praise on the Volvo XC90. This by far my favourite luxury SUV and as a product should have the class leading Germans quaking in their boots. Whether South Africans even give it enough of a look in remains to be seen, but this is one SUV that definitely deserves the spotlight and your attention.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.