IT'S not often a whole bunch of moaning groaning motoring pundits ooh and ahh in synchronised harmony, but when Volvo unleashed its new XC90 model last year, there was nothing but praise for the striking seven-seater.
In fact, it was seen as a defined move towards the more premium marque for the Swedish brand with the likes of the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and even the Range Rover clearly in its sights.
There's no denying the fact that the XC90 has always been a great car ever since its debut back in 2002, but even die-hard fans would have to admit it had become a tad dated and jaded round the edges.
There are no such complaints with the new version though thanks to a very distinctive exterior that boasts rugged athletic looks that combine perfectly with the upmarket and feature-rich interior which is packed with state-of-the-art technology even on the entry-level Momentum model.
The car looks great from any angle thanks to its sporty elegant streamlining, chunky floating grille, roof rails and tinted windows. It was also finished in a bright Ice White shade which sort of lost its shine after 750 miles of wet, windy and wintry driving conditions.
Move inside the car and the spacious and upmarket interior cannot fail to impress with heated leather seats that can be electrically adjusted with three memory settings, a heated steering wheel and 4-Zone electronic climate control including a cooled glovebox.
There is a fabulous 19-speaker pitch perfect sound system that connects effortlessly to a smartphone and a nine-inch colour touchscreen that is very similar to a tablet which controls music, temperature, sat nav, settings and much more besides.
It is thanks to this touchscreen that the car seems so clutter-free but still maintains such a rich variety of on-board technology.
The five-door model is very family-friendly with theatre-style seating. The two individual back seats remain folded flat to the boot floor until needed and can quickly and easily be utilised. In addition, Volvo has incorporated thinner seat backs, which means there is extra room for passengers who can all travel in comfort.
Admittedly with its asking price of £45,750 (£51,275 with options fitted), the XC90 is not a cheap car, but it is competing against models with higher price-tags.
And when it comes to performance, the car is a delight to drive.
It sprints to 62mph from a standing start in 7.8 seconds and tops out at 137mph. According to official figures, it can achieve combined fuel economy of 49.6mpg and carbon emissions of 149g/km. I was seeing an average of 36.9 after my journeys.
The XC90 proved an absolute pleasure to drive. The steering was precise, the road-holding very assured and there was always ample power on tap to overtake at short notice.
In and around town the elevated driving position and excellent all-round visibility was of great benefit and then out on the country lanes and motorways, the acceleration and handling was ideal.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox was smooth and responsive and the 2.0-litre 225bhp diesel-driven engine delivered all the power and bite needed along the way.
If I were being picky, then I would have liked the option of steering wheel mounted paddles to take a little extra control now and again, but that aside, the car was a true gem.
Obviously, the Volvo name is immediately associated with safety and the all-wheel-drive XC90 is packed to bursting with features to help prevent accidents and protect both occupants and pedestrians.
One feature that is worthy of note are the exceptional headlights. When driving along poorly lit lanes the automatic high beam dips and adjusts in a fraction of a second leaving the driver to concentrate on the road ahead.
This works perfectly with the active bending headlights to illuminate the verges and any obstructions on dark nights.