JULY 2010

Volvo has busted out from its box-like image that folk in long socks and thongs made popular to become ever so slightly cool.

Volvo’s slick XC90 SUV has shaken off the tainted, safety-before-design stigma and emerged as a seriously fun AWD. Don’t get me wrong, safety remains at the forefront of Volvo’s design and marketing.

“Choosing a Volvo will always be something you do for both yourself and the people around you because our cars will always consider the well-being of everyone. Even if those people happen to be outside your car or are part of future generations,” harps the press material.

But now cosmetics also play a major part. Much like the pop star Robbie Williams who only realised his belated coolness post boy band, the XC90 has also powered from the shadows of its predecessors to become a star in its own right.

With space for up to seven passengers and powered by a V8, the XC90 screams for the open road and does not disappoint.

To look at, it’s muscular without being aggressive with rounded shapes blended with sculpted sections, creating a confident looking Scandinavian thoroughbred.

The V8 is the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II (ULEV II) compliant eight-cylinder engine. Carrying this power also presented challenges.

To meet these, design characteristics such as a low centre of gravity, weight distribution and high ground clearance were applied. The XC90 is also available in a 3.1 litre and the sportier R Design.

Kids are kept entertained in the back watching the latest DVD and with generous luggage storage, Volvo’s AWD fuels the desire for weekends away – surfboards on the roof, golf clubs in the back.

With added comfort comes an improvement in sound and a new digital class D amplifier, 12 loudspeakers from renowned Danish sound specialist Dynaudio and iPod compatible system offers a pumping sound track to those long drives.

Available technologies can help ‘read’ actual situations and provide optimal support and protection for example, by sensing normal driving patterns or panic situations and by taking protective action before, during and after a collision.

Volvo founders are vehement that safety is, and shall always be, at the heart of what they do. As a result, the manufacturer is recognised the world over for its passion and dedication to provide the safest cars on the road.

No-one has ever challenged the smarts of the engineers at Volvo, but translating that to ‘must have’ has proved a challenge, until now.

The infamous “bloody Volvo drivers” chant has come to mean something else entirely. Perhaps even envy.

Expect to pay close to $100k for the top of the range XC90.

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