It’s now so long ago that Volvo made cars which were safe but boxy and uninspiring it almost seems a cliche to mention it.
Yet it’s worth noting. Few companies have managed to so dramatically transform the way their products are regarded.
Volvo now produces some of the most stunning mainstream cars. Beautifully designed inside and out, they’re seen as a less brash, more considered alternative to BMW and Audi.
The latest V90 is a case in point. With sleek lines and striking “Thor’s hammer” headlights, it’s a striking piece of design. It’s also one of the most practical and refined estate cars on the market.
I spent a week with the new Cross Country version. It comes with four-wheel drive, a slightly raised ride height, and wheel arch protectors. Essentially, it’s aimed at country dwellers who might need to tackle the occasional farm or forestry track.
Regular V90 prices start at a little under £36,000 but the Cross Country model begins just north of £40,000.
As you’d expect, all models are well equipped. On top of Volvo’s comprehensive suite of safety features there’s heated electric leather seats, LED headlights, a nine-inch portrait-style sat-nav and infotainment system, adaptive cruise, keyless start, 17-inch alloys and an electric tailgate.
There are two diesels, with 187bhp and 232bhp, and a 315bhp T6 petrol that’s likely to be of niche interest. All models come with automatic gearboxes.
I drove the lower powered of the two diesels and did not find it wanting for power. Zero to 62mph takes 8.8 seconds, while fuel economy is 54.3mpg, which is excellent for a large, four-wheel drive car.
It’s one of the finest cruisers there is. The cabin is almost eerily quiet, the suspension soaks up everything in its path, and you’re wonderfully insulated from the outside world.
Increasing ride height by 6cm means handling’s a little woolier but it’s good enough. Four large adults can sit comfortably and the boot has a capacious 565 litres of volume.
Interior design is where the most recent Volvos have really upped their game and everything from the iPad style touch screen to chrome switchgear is exquisitely crafted.
The V90 XC isn’t cheap – but then neither are its rivals. It’s great looking inside and out, wonderful to drive, and, basically, should be all the car you’ll ever need.