Volvo kindly loaned us an XC90 to take the strain out of driving to Camp Bestival, it really did do exactly that. Since its launch in 2015 the XC90 has won more than 70 awards, including Auto Express Car of the Year 2015, Business Insider 2015 Car of the Year and Sunday Times Top 100 Cars 2016: Top Large SUV and 4×4. Most interestingly to families, What Car awarded it Car of the Year Safety Award in 2016, the testers said it was the safest car they had ever tested. More on that to come…
In our house Mr A does most the long distance driving, I’m a confident driver, but if there is a choice between napping and twiddling on my phone and being the driver I know which I will take. However, with a four hour drive to Dorset it’s only fair to share the load and having driven the XC90 the night before to go wild running in the forest, I was very keen to get back behind the wheel.
Here are 10 things that impressed us:
- There is an inexplicable effortlessness to driving this car, it feels a lot less tiring than other cars I have driven. It’s been described as smooth yet punchy and I think that’s a fitting description. I missed it when it came to my next long journey in our current car.
- The controls are really intuitive, I’ve never jumped in a new car and picked it up so fast or felt so at home so quickly.
- The car is really comfortable and ergonomic, there are lots of subtle tweaks you can make to your seat and driving position. It’s spacious for all and has sun blinds in the back. Plus it has heated, cooling and even massaging seats.
- The Sat nav has traffic updates and the display is part of the dashboard behind the wheel, so you can see exactly where you are going. Sometimes car sat nav are pretty useless and we end up using Tom Tom on our phones instead, not the case here. Having the display right in your sightline also seemed to make a massive difference to my ability to follow the sat nav instructions accurately, and felt much safer too.
- I loved Sensus, the tablet operated entertainment and information system, it’s got a lot of functionality and the tablet touch screen operation makes it more logical and easy to operate than most systems. The car synchs to your phone and as an apple user I could use apple car play to immediately access my music and audio books. My 7yo is currently working his way through Swallows and Amazons on audio books – great for a long journey.
- The safety record, the XC90 has won many awards for safety and I was really impressed to discover that What Car awarded it Car of the Year Safety Award and described it as ‘head and shoulders’ above the competition. In the video, Matthew Avery, Director of Insurance Research at Thatcham Research explains ‘It offers maximum protection in the event of a crash, but also in avoiding the crash in the first place’. The XC90 has a range of very clever features to help you drive more safely. It’s not just the car’s contents that are protected either, City Safety safety aid helps detect pedestrians and cyclists. There are world first in the car’s safety make up, including runoff road protection, which reduces the likelihood of spinal injuries if the vehicle leaves the road, and front collision warning with fully automatic breaking.
- Once we hit the motorway we immediately noticed that the wing mirrors light up red when someone is passing you, alerting you not to move out. As someone who is always super cautious and takes time waiting for the perfect moment when moving lanes, I liked this a lot.
- The car can park itself. Having lived on the seafront in Brighton and on two busy A roads since, I pride myself on my reverse parking. This technology seems like alchemy to me. However, recently I tried not to watch as a friend ballsed up parking beyond belief and admitted she still can’t actually park at all, and I realised the world really does have need for these devices. Plus, it’s a larger car, so I can see even confident drivers might welcome this in more urban environments.
- Mr A pronounced the adaptive cruise control ‘awesome, the XC90 is a car that finally makes the cruise control feature useable’. He explained that ‘cruise control usually involves setting a speed, but the XC90’s adaptive cruise control responds to your environment’ setting a speed in response to the cars around you. He also played with the different modes including sport and eco, ‘meaning it suits everyone in the family and has a nice bit of poke’.
- There is a special trick, if you tap a spot under the boot with your foot it opens the boot for you! Great if you have your hands full. Other handy key features are no more rummaging round for keys, the car unlocks when you and the keys are close by, and locks with a touch of your thumb to the door handle, and there is no need to put the keys in the ignition.
What about fuel consumption?
The XC90 might not be the most fuel efficient 7 seater for MPG at 49.6, but it is also a lot bigger than many of them, and it’s efficiency is very impressive for a premium SUV. We were pretty amazed to do my journey to Sherwood Forest, to get from Nottingham to Dorset and back, to do two runs to the dog sitters and still have fuel to spare for another 100 miles.
We achieved a ‘real world’ MPG of 42 over our test period, driving mainly on motorway and country roads, that difference is normal and many cars have a much higher difference in ‘official’ and ‘real world’ MPG. Our experience of the XC90’s fuel consumption puts it on a par with the cars at the lower half of What Car’s 7 seater top ten for ‘real world’ MPG, although our tests aren’t as scientific of course!
There is also a plug in hybrid.
What about size?
The XC90 was brilliant for all our gear for Camp Bestival, it even made the huge cool box look tiny, it also had plenty of room for our very leggy greyhound on the run to the dog sitters before and after the festival. The model has been redesigned to provide added legroom throughout the vehicle.
As a family of four who don’t regularly transport a lot of gear or other family members an SUV of this size is probably bigger than we would want, but if you have a bigger family or lots of gear to move, or regularly pack a full camping set up (we cheated and glamped) the leg room throughout, and boot space is awesome. Also check out the more compact SUV, the XC60 which has been Volvo’s best seller since 2009.
If you are looking for the safest family car, a car capable of transporting 7 people, with plenty of great family travel hacking features, great boot size and a decent MPG, the XC90 could be the car for you.
You can watch Alison and I from Space in Your Case, discussing the car live from the festival here, the XC90 is priced from £46,850 with diesel, petrol and plug in hybrid models. The model we tested, with extras such as car play, was £58,250.
You can also read our full adventures at the festival!
Disclosure – Thanks to Volvo for supplying the car and our accommodation at Camp Bestival. All opinions and editorial remain my own.