It started with a Spaniard and ended with a Swede so it was goodbye Seat Tarraco and hello Volvo XC90.
For week two of our New Forest caravan adventure we were royally looked after by one of Sweden’s finest, the premium SUV that has well and truly put the company on the road to success, along with a heap of cash from its Chinese benefactors.
I should say this is not a head to head comparison for two reasons: The Volvo is bigger, and costs nearly twice as much, although just as an aside the sporty Tarraco would be the chosen one along minor roads.
That is not meant to be a swipe at the big Swede, which is one comfortable motor, it’s just that it jiggles around a tad on uneven roads.
XC90 first came to our attention in 2003 grabbing the headlines for its sleek body styling and classy cabin. The message to the establishment (BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Range Rover) was clear: ‘We are going to shake things up’.
To an extent it did but it was another 12 years before son of XC90 really rattled the cages of SUV glitterati. The new model of 2015 was a game changer. Bigger, bolder, even a bit Germanic, with more tech and safety kit than all the others put together.
Volvo nailed it with a stunning cabin, minimalist Scandi fashion at its very best, and then there was the gigantic (in those days) nine inch tablet style touch screen. At the press launch we were given a 10 minute lesson on how to use the command centre. I seem to remember being able to find a radio station but that was about all.
The latest XC90 was updated just before lockdown and is more of the same but with even more tech and safety along with plug-in hybrid models.
Volvo is sticking with two litre four cylinder petrol and diesel engines to keep down engine emissions but there is a downside. My diesel was fast off the mark with great pulling power in the mid range but is noisy when revved compared with the V6 diesels at rivals Audi, Range Rover and BMW. Things quieten down at cruising speed which is most of the time so hardly a deal breaker.
As for towing XC90 is a caravan friendly car, not just because stability is spot on and pulling effortless but little things like the all round camera which has a towing function so tow ball and caravan hitch and can be lined up on screen while the 110kg nose weight means a couple of bikes can be carried on the caravan A frame.
With a towing limit of 2700kg the Volvo can manage the heaviest of twin axle caravans and, of course, agricultural trailers. My diesel returned just under 26.6mpg towing and near to 40mpg solo.
All good but the real charm of XC90 is inside, particularly the top of the range Inscription which is stunning with its crisp lines, quality Nappa leather finish and a layout that is quite soothing. That said getting comfortable with the command centre still takes time, there is so much of it and some of the menu print is small which can be distracting for the driver.
Fortunately voice control is the best I have come across and that is what I used
for the normal chores like changing radio station, selecting a destination or adjusting the temperature, so basically the car does what it is told.
With such a spacious cabin there is room for the seven seats and the third row has space for a couple of average size adults. The seats are set high so you don’t sit with knees up around your chin. The three seats in the second row slide and recline and reaching the third row is done without fuss.
With five seats in play boot capacity is tremendous and even with a full house luggage space is about the same as a super mini.
As is the case with all Volvos XC90 is packed with safety features. It can steer itself, emergency brake for a vehicle, pedestrian or animal although the most useful is probably the warning to stop you reversing into a path of an approaching vehicle. Supermarket car parks come to mind.
From experience people who see XC90 like it and ask about it so you can bet your last quid rivals are taking serious notice as well they should.
Is this the best premium SUV money can buy? Now there’s a debate and a half but I will stick my neck out and say Yes because of its elegant styling, fabulous interior, space, safety systems and although expensive it is a bit cheaper than its rivals. The only negative is that an Audi Q7 or BMW X5 is more fun to drive down those country lanes.
XC90 AWD Inscription 8sp auto
£66,665 (tested) starts £54,400
2-litre turbo diesel; 235bhp
0-62mph 7.6secs; 112mph
178g/km 1st VED £870
Boot:302 litres (7seats) 680 (5) 1,856 max
Towing limit 2700kg
Insurance group 41