IT can be difficult combining seven-seat practicality with dynamic styling when developing a car to contend for sales in the fiercely competitive SUV sector, but Volvo has found the perfect formula with its latest XC90 model.
The headline act in the Swedish marque's line-up has always been a very capable all-rounder and the latest generation model really upped the ante with a choice of engines and transmissions along with three very well-equipped trim levels called Momentum, R-Design and Inscription.
Although many buyers will opt for the more economical diesel-powered models, we tried the punchy 2.0-litre 320hp petrol-powered XC90 in Inscription trim.
The car originally carried a price-tag of £60,855, but a number of optional extras bumped it up to £69,880. Now that is a hefty price to pay and well into BMW, Mercedes and Audi territory, but Volvo is confident competing against the German premium brands amongst others.
And it has every right to feel positive as the XC90 is certainly an attention-grabber with its athletic, yet muscular design. It features a floating grille, roof rails, tinted windows, 19-inch alloys, Thor hammer-effect LED lights at the front with 3D-effect tail lights and plenty more besides.
The interior oozes premium styling and is packed with techno treats. There is a fresh, clutter-free layout with a beautiful combination of fine leather upholstery and Scandinavian wood trim. The little touches are neat too such as the tiny Swedish flag sewn into the top of the driver's seat as a gentle reminder to Volvo's history.
When it comes to on board technology, the XC90 is packed with all the latest infotainment and connectivity systems available. Creature comforts include the likes of a nine-inch tablet-sized touchscreen, a 19-speaker Bowers and Wilkins music system that delivers pitch perfect sound quality, Sensus Navigation with full European mapping and Sensus Connect which allows access to a range of apps and internet browsing, plus smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The heated leather seats offer power adjustment and an optional extra on the car was a Winter pack costing £525 that added a heated steering wheel, heated front screen, headlight cleaning system and heated washer nozzles. The fact that another optional extra was a CD player costing £100 may give a little indication to the people buying the XC90 these days.
With its powerful petrol engine mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the XC90 can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 6.5 seconds and maxes out at 143mph. On the economy front, it can deliver combined fuel efficiency of 34.9mpg with carbon emissions of 184g/km.
Despite its size - the XC90 measures just shy of five metres in length - the car is beautifully agile and easy to manoeuvre. The elevated driving position results in excellent all-round visibility, although when the third row of seat are upright the headrests do block the view through the rear screen quite a lot.
Another optional extra which is very handy in busy town centres is the Xenium pack costing Â£1,750. As well as adding a sunroof and 360-degree parking camera, it introduces the Park Assist Pilot which will let you know if a parking space is suitable (it needs to be 1.2 times the size of the car) and then you do as you're told and engage the correct gear, accelerate and brake while the vehicle steers itself perfectly into place.
Out on faster roads and motorways, the XC90 really comes alive. The acceleration through the gears is smooth and responsive as it eats up the road.
It feels beautifully refined with barely a sound from the engine filtering through to the cabin and the highly efficient suspension irons out most of the uneven surfaces along the way. Drive modes called Eco, Comfort, Off Road, Dynamic and Individual alter the car's handling with the dynamic setting really sharpening things up.
Comfort levels are excellent and a couple of adults can actually sit quite easily in the pair of rear seats if necessary, although it will normally be a place for youngsters to travel.
Being a family SUV, the XC90 needs to be practical and it certainly ticks all the boxes on that count with a boot capacity ranging from 314 litres to a whopping 1,868 litres with seat rows two and three folded flat. And there are numerous convenient storage compartments scattered throughout the car to safely keep bits and bobs away from view.
As is the norm with Volvos, the all-wheel-drive XC90 is packed with safety features and driver aids. In fact, at launch back in 2015 Volvo described the XC90 as "the safest Volvo they had ever made".