VOLVO has laid down the gauntlet to the premium German marques with the launch of its all-new S90 saloon and V90 estate models that equally do very good impressions of swanky limousines packed with heaps of innovative technology.
Both cars are real lookers and feature some stand-out design cues that are becoming familiar traits at Volvo.
These include the distinctive upright grille with Volvo badging taking pride of place, the iconic Thor-hammer-styled headlights, beautifully streamlined curves and smart alloys.
The interior has premium build quality written all over it with natural leather upholstery as standard, along with smart wooden inlays, soft-touch materials and plenty of light flooding the cabin from every angle to help give the cars a true Scandinavian feel.
Customers cannot fail to be impressed by the level of on-board technology as all models are lavishly equipped with the likes of Sensus Connect and Navigation systems with full European mapping, a 9-inch centre console touchscreen with zoom and swipe functions along with voice control, two-zone climate control, heated seats and a raft of safety features.
Both the saloon and estate are available in two trim levels called Momentum and Inscription and at present they are powered by a choice of two diesel-driven, four-cylinder engines - the D4 190bhp and the D5 235bhp.
Both engines are mated to eight-speed automatic gearboxes.
A T8 twin engine plug-in hybrid model will be introduced a little later on as will a sporty R-Design spec model.
And it's worth remembering that these are Volvo cars and when the all-new XC90 was launched two year's ago it was deemed the safest car ever tested by Euro NCAP. Now the S90 and V90 have picked up the baton and continued to run with it.
Latest safety features now include an animal detection feature that forward scans to detect the likes of deer on the road ahead.
Then there is the run off road function which steers the car back on track if the system detects you are moving too close to the edge of the road.
Finally the pilot assist system is a step towards semi-autonomous driving. It is great for motorway driving and will keep you in the correct lane whilst watching out for any hazards. You still have to keep your hands on the steering wheel every few seconds, but the system works at speeds up to 80mph and no longer needs a lead vehicle to focus on.
The S90 is priced from £32,555 for the D4 Momentum (£34,555 for the V90) and rises to £42,055 for the D5 PowerPulse AWD Inscription (£44,055 for the V90).
The front-wheel-drive D4 model is expected to account for about 70 per cent of sales in both the S90 and V90 formats.
We had the opportunity to try a couple of models on lengthy road routes around the Berkshire countryside.
First up was the V90 estate car powered by the 2.0-litre D4 engine.
This car, in Momentum trim, is likely to be the biggest seller according to Volvo.
It was priced at £34,555 (£41,250 with options fitted) and could sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 8.5 seconds and onto a top speed of 140mph.
According to official figures it can achieve combined fuel economy of 62.8mpg with carbon emissions of 119g/km.
The first thing to mention is how beautifully spacious and light the car is, and despite being a larger-than-life estate model, the V90 is agile, nimble and very easy to manoeuvre with a tight turning circle.
In traffic, it simply cruised along and then on the faster roads and motorways it glided effortlessly through the gears with very little road, engine or wind noise filtering through to the cabin.
All the controls are simple to use and the interior has a crisp, clutter-free feel to it with a host of techno treats and creature comforts just one touch away.
We used the pilot assist on the motorway and it was really efficient. The steering wheel becomes much heavier as it takes control of keeping the car in its lane. Add in the adaptive cruise control and the vehicle is the closest step to semi-autonomous driving I have experienced to date. It's spookily effective as it gently turns, brakes and accelerates accordingly.
Comfort levels throughout the cabin are superb with bags of space in the back. And the boot can swallow up 560 litres of luggage. Drop the rear seats and that capacity rises to a whopping 1,526 litres.
Next up was the S90 saloon once again powered by the D4 engine but this time in top-of-the-range Inscription style which added features such as Nappa soft leather upholstery, powered seats, handsfree bootlid/tailgate opening and closing, multi-colour interior theatre lighting and plenty more besides.
This car was priced at £35,555, increased to £41,530 with options and can reach from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds, maxes out at 140mph, achieves combined fuel efficiency of 64.2mpg and has CO2 emissions of 116g/km.
The saloon is a real head-turner thanks to its beautifully proportioned dimensions.
It looks super sleek and has performance capabilities to match its appearance. Whilst Volvo admits it has no intention of taking on the German marques in the driving dynamics stakes, it believes it has the upper hand when it comes to the finer things in life such as comfort, control and confidence. And the S90 is the perfect example of this theory.
It handles really smoothly and has all the power you could wish for, but remains refined at all times. The acceleration through the gears is both smooth and responsive and the road holding nicely assured. It simply goes about its business without the need to show off which is a quality in itself.
In 2010, Chinese company Geely Holding Group took control of the Volvo brand and it was seen as a fresh beginning for the company as product manager Stefan Sallqvist said: "We had a blank sheet of paper and needed to redefine Volvo again."
And with these latest two models, the Volvo name has certainly been reinvented. It still features all the safety specifications associated with the brand, but add in premium styling, connectivity, comfort, practicality and pioneering technology and it's a clear indication that the company is evolving at a rapid pace.