Motoring: Trophy king – Volvo’s XC90


motoring-trophy-king-volvo-xc90_frontIn March, Volvo’s XC90 walked away with the 2016 WesBank South African Guild of Motoring Journalists’ Car of the Year award – adding to a list of international awards that exceeds the count of 60!

There was, in fact, no doubt the Volvo was a hot favourite from the start – such is the impressiveness of its offering and attractiveness of its price.

The XC90 has, indeed, set the tone for the Swedish company’s future of smart, safe, sophisticated and technologically advanced vehicles. The XC90 is all this and more, as I discovered when I tested it in D4 Inscription guise…

It starts with the striking, signature Thor’s Hammer LED headlights, bold vertical grille and deep, angry front valance. Massive 20-inch rims (as standard, my test car had optional 19-inch rims) anchor the substantial profile. Round back, is Volvo’s latest iteration of its signature vertical tail light clusters. The overall image strikes a perfect balance of being big (it’s really big) and bold, yet restrained and refined.

Classy and minimalist are the phrases to best describe the interior environment. Fine detailing abounds – glass buttons, soft Nappa leather and milled aluminium. The seats are comfortable and supportive and the space is enormous. You’ll be just as happy on a cross-country trip in any of the three rows … The rear row of seats is effortless to raise, lower and access and, whether they’re in use or not, there will still be space for your luggage.

The D4 might be the entry model in the range, but it does not leave you wanting. It’s absolutely loaded with tech.


Straight ahead of the driver is a 12,3-inch digital instrument cluster while in the soft-touch dash sits a nine-inch infotainment system that Volvo calls Sensus Connect. It looks like an iPad, functions like one and controls absolutely everything in the car – such as the four-zone climate control (that’s front and rear) and navigation, for example.

Safety, traditionally a Volvo hallmark, is well taken care of. In addition to the seven airbags and electronic and anti-lock braking aids, you also get Volvo IntelliSafe incorporating City Safety. In detail, that means you have (deep breath): pedestrian and cyclist detection, run-off-road mitigation with impact-absorbing seats, autobrake at intersections for oncoming traffic, front collision warning with full auto brake, lane departure warning with driver alert control and road sign information. Which all adds up to a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. What else did you expect?

Perhaps a blind-spot monitoring system? Well, you get this if you opt for the optional Premium Pack. It includes cross-traffic alert and also adds heated front seats, a head-up display, 360° HD parking camera and an absolutely superb 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system.

So, style, safety and toys – but what’s it like to drive? Sublime. The ride is lovely and its handling, manoeuvrability and visibility belie its size. The XC90 feels far smaller than it is.

All the engines in the XC90 are two-litre, four-cylinder units. In D4 tune, you get a twin-turbocharged diesel that put out 140 kW power and 400 Nm torque. It’s not as refined as bigger six-cylinder units that do duty in the rival BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE, but even as the least powerful offering in the XC90 it is perfectly capable.

motoring-trophy-king-volvo-xc90_rearIt drives through an eight-speed automatic gearbox which is geared perfectly for town and freeway driving. Volvo claims an expected 5,2 l/100 km fuel consumption in mixed driving such as that. In a car that weighs just shy of two tonnes, this is undeniably impressive.

There’s no doubting the XC90’s capabilities and that it’s deserving of each award in its vast trophy cabinet. It comes with a warranty, full maintenance plan and roadside assistance all for the duration of five-years/100 000 km and, at a base price of R909 600, the XC90 D4 Inscription is (and I’m serious here) great value for money, too. It’s among the best, most attractive, most comfortable, most likeable premium SUVs you can buy.

No, the XC90 is the one you must buy.

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