By Mike Torpey on 2016-03-26 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Volvo XC90 D5 AWD
THE new car scene may be awash with SUVs and crossover models these days, but every now and then one comes along and blows you away.
That it happens to be the latest version of a time-honoured icon of the scene is all the more apt.
It's now a dozen years since the original Volvo XC90 transported me across the frozen Baltic Sea and negotiated hostile wastelands north of the Arctic Circle.
If the big Volvo was a car of outstanding merit back then, this second generation XC90 raises the bar again.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the newcomer is near enough in a class of its own. But then all its planned first year production run of 50,000 cars sold like hot cakes.
Classy, robust, stylish and relaxing are all descriptions you could happily apply to the Volvo. That's in addition to strong engines, competitive fuel economy and a hefty splash of Scandinavian ambience.
The latter comes courtesy of the XC90's cabin, which is simple, clutter-free and of premium quality with its soft black plastics, brushed alloy inserts and big, comfortable leather seats.
Even with all seven seats in place there's decent legroom for all, but most of the time the back row pair will be folded down, opening up a vast boot area.
And while the car's overall style is trademark Volvo, it has more presence than before - largely down to a bigger front grille and Thor Hammer daytime running lights.
Pride of place though must go to the new tablet-style command system called Sensus. It is a nine-inch upright touchscreen that's intuitive to use and controls all the major functions of the vehicle, like infotainment, smartphone, sat-nav and connectivity.
Even the car's handbook loads in full detail onto the screen.
Meticulous attention to detail has been paid by the Volvo design and engineering teams, resulting in a car with fabulous dynamics - few 4x4s are as smooth and relaxing to drive - and little touches like the tiny fabric Swedish flag attached to the side of the driver's seat.
The XC90 line-up comprises three trim grades - Momentum, R-Design and Inscription - all of which are comprehensively equipped and both petrol and diesel engines.
It's the 2.0-litre D5 diesel that's understandably grabbing the lion's share of sales, with prices from Â£46,250 on the road for Momentum, though the tested and leather-clad Inscription pushes the tab up to Â£50,685.
Volvo XC90 D5 AWD Inscription
Mechanical: 225ps, 1,969cc, 4-cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 8-speed auto transmission
Max Speed: 137mph
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Combined MPG: 48.7
Insurance Group: 42
C02 emissions: 152g/km
Bik rating: 28%
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