TWELVE years in the making, the new Volvo XC90 was awaited with bated breath. Expectation was high for this supreme family carrier for here was the first Volvo developed under the watchful eye of Chinese owner Geely, an $11billion investment that will have to show its hand from the start, effectively and without fuss.
It is all new, inside and out, engine and underpinnings, from the tyres up to the modern fashioned badge on an equally modern-look grille.
The XC90 is longer, taller and wider than the outgoing model with a choice of two engines: a 2.0-litre petrol with both supercharger and turbocharger as tested here, and a 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel, both coming with an eight-speed automatic.
Brimming with the best technological and safety features on offer, it is little surprise that it is more expensive too. At its heart though it remains that trusted family wagon: an SUV in which to make memories.
Effortless luxury with beautifully soft materials, quality highlights and attention to detail is the lasting impression of this XC90 cabin.
That, and the large 12.3-inch iPad touchscreen which fronts the infotainment system, a classy intuitive unit with excellent graphics that is super easy to use given the pervasiveness of swipe and pinch technology in our everyday lives.
In combination with the widescreen TFT driver display, it offers a clear indication of Volvo's intention to not only stay on-trend in this digitally-charged world but to also lead the offensive as it has done so effectively in the past.
The interior is spacious and airy with plenty of head and legroom to stretch out in those fabulous, sculpted Nappa leather seats. The second row tilts and slides freely allowing easy access to the third pew for all but the most athletically challenged individuals.
Storage is excellent too. Aside from the deep door pockets, centre console bin and underfloor surprises, the boot (which sports a powered tailgate) has grown to an impressive 451-litres (up 202l) with all the seats in place, offering up 1102l with the third row lowered.
On the road
Expecting six cylinders or the crackle of a V8? Not happening here … but rest assured the twin-charged 2.0-litre four-cylinder on offer is no disappointment. It is seamlessly matched with a silky smooth eight-speed auto gearbox and a wide torque band allows for the XC90 to be hustled along - not at break-neck speed mind you - but with enough verve for smooth power delivery from standstill and more importantly when you need that extra boost when overtaking.
This XC90 is genuinely nice to drive, its considered, efficient approach and no fuss progress a tribute to its Scandinavian roots.
The steering is light and the ride itself is hardly dynamic but for the environment in which the XC90 will ply its trade - the school and sports run and inner-city forays - sporty handling is of little consequence. Safety and comfort is important here and the XC90 certainly has that in spades.
Brakes are excellent, road noise only slightly intrusive while lean and understeer, which you expect in an SUV of this type, is practically negligible. It's a delight to pilot.
What do you get?
You would expect a $20,000 jump in price to bring with it some worthy kit and that is true here, to some extent.
Our mid-range T6 Inscription laid claim to 20-inch alloys, remote keyless entry with push-button start, hands-free tailgate opening, four-zone climate control, power adjustable front seats with memory feature, 12.3-inch colour touchscreen with sat nav and reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights, auto wipers and lights and Sensus audio system.
Volvo makes no secret of its desire to be known as the safest brand in the market and the XC90 has an enviable list of safety features including six airbags, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, auto high beam, autonomous emergency braking and collision detection system.
World-first safety aids like "run off road" and an auto cross traffic brake are optional extras, as is the 360-degree camera and radar cruise control.
Official combined figures stand at 8.5l/100km but our test car was much thirstier than that returning figures or 13l/100km after a week in the driver's seat. Warranty is three years or 100,000km and capped price servicing packages can be purchased in the first year. They start at $1850 for 2 years/45,000km.
The segment has hardly stood still in the last decade and there are a host of contenders including the Mercedes-Benz GLE (from $109,900), BMW X5 xDrive (from $107,510) and Audi Q7 200kW (from $103,900).
This is clearly a car made for families and there are a number of niceties including a built-in booster seat to underline Volvo's commitment to their target audience.
But as good as this XC90 is, it is not perfect. It could do with a couple of USB ports in the second row and while the powered tailgate is nice, the split cargo door will be missed. The third row may be easier to access but getting the seats up in the first place can be a tad cumbersome - surely an electronically raised and lowered third row at this price point is expected?
Volvo's safety innovations may be world firsts but asking buyers to fork out extra especially for things like a 360-degree camera and head-up display is a bit cheeky.
The exterior of this new XC90 is markedly different from its predecessor. We like the new chrome grille, nifty Thor's Hammer running lights and colour-coded wheel arches and embossed running strip.
Expectation may make for a tough task master but this new Volvo XC90 is no shrinking violet. It is beautiful inside, comfortable and spacious with a capable and refined on-road performance. It is technologically advanced, superiorly safe and certainly nice to drive. A little bit of generosity, however, wouldn't go astray.
What matters most
What we liked: Luxurious interior, comfortable refined drive, safety features.
What we'd like to see: Top-end safety features as standard.
Warranty and Servicing: 3 year/100,000km warranty with capped-price packages.
Model: Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription.
Details: Five-door four-wheel-drive large luxury SUV.
Engine: 2.-0-litre four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of 235kW @ 5700rpm and peak torque of 400Nm @ 2200 - 5400rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed geartronic auto.
Consumption: 8.5 litres/100km combined.
Bottom line plus on roads: From $100,950.