VOLVO has really upped the stakes in the sports SUV market with a new addition to the already impressive XC90 line-up.
For the head-turning R-Design model radiates a truly dynamic and athletic appearance with a number of distinguishing features, such as integrated dual tailpipes, silk metal window trim, silver roof rails and mirror covers, 22-inch R-Design alloy wheels, a front spoiler and special grille.
Move inside and once again the sporty characteristics of the car are immediately clear to see and explore.
These include R-Design sports seats in Nappa soft leather, R-Design carbon fibre inlays, a premium Bowers and Wilkins sound system, aluminium pedals, a nine-inch colour touchscreen that works like a tablet to control the car's settings, temperature, navigation and multi-media.
In addition this car featured a Winter Pack with Head-Up Display, costing £1,025, which introduced the windscreen display to help keep a watchful eye on speed etc., along with heated front seats and heated washer nozzles.
Other equipment included an Intellisafe Pro Pack to add adaptive cruise control with distance alert, queue assist, lane keeping aid, blind spot information with cross traffic alert and rear collision mitigation. This pack costs £1,500.
Finally, the Xenium Pack priced at £2,000 introduced a powered panoramic sunroof, parking camera with 360-degree surround view and park assist pilot which will manoeuvre the car automatically.
Admittedly, these optional packs along with some other add-ons bumped up the asking price from £49,285 to £63,330 which is clearly a lot of cash to splash out on a new car.
But the XC90 is competing against similar cars in the premium market and they too have hefty price-tags.
It's fair to say the XC90 R-Design looks the business and is packed with class-leading technology, but what about performance and handling? Well, once again the car is an out and out winner on all counts.
Despite its large dimensions, the vehicle is beautifully agile and easy to manoeuvre and that means it makes light work of meandering through busy city centre traffic.
The all-round visibility is excellent and the comfort levels exceptionally high. The XC90 is a true seven-seater too. There are two individual rear seats that fold flat to the boot floor, but they are easily accessed and the occupants actually have room for their legs (unlike on some rival models).
Light floods into the cabin thanks to the large windows and the panoramic sunroof and on cold, frosty mornings the XC90 is a very welcome sight indeed.
The front and rear seats heat up instantly and the any ice soon disappears from the screen. And of course, the reassurance of all-wheel-drive is priceless when there's a sprinkling of snow on the ground.
The 2.0-litre, 225bhp diesel engine delivers all the power you need as the car accelerates smoothly through the eight-speed automatic gearbox and there are steering wheel-mounted paddles along with a choice of driving modes if you want to take a little more control over matters. Dynamic mode is guaranteed to make you smile.
The road-holding is outstanding and the suspension irons out the bumps and dips along the way, while the cabin remains nicely hushed apart from a little wind noise from the large door mirrors.
The XC90 can reach 62mph from a standing start in 7.8 seconds and tops out at 137mph. According to official figures it can deliver combined economy of 48.7mpg with carbon emissions of 152g/km.
But for me, it's not just the comfort, performance and practicality that make the XC90 a great car - it's the simple things that Volvo does incredibly well.
Features such as the Active High Beam headlights which means you can leave the main beam on and the car automatically dips it when necessary.
Then there is the windscreen wash that comes directly from the wipers so there are fewer smears across the screen, the powered tailgate, the simple-to-use touchscreen, the easily programmable sat nav - I could go on.