Everything about the global SUV (sports utility vehicle) car market smacks of money, as you might
Everything about the global SUV (sports utility vehicle) car market smacks of money, as you might expect.
Even this week’s drive — the remarkable all-new Volvo XC90 — comes in, with options added, north of £60,000.
By some luxury car standards, of course, this is a relatively modest price to pay.
But as the gap, we are told, between rich and poor widens worldwide, the market for this type of vehicle has correspondingly grown.
Indeed, I read recently that Cadillac — that symbol of conspicuous American consumption in bygone years — has appointed the former executive of a German carmaker in the top league of luxury SUV producers to revamp this iconic marque.
To show it means business, General Motors, owners of Cadillac, has even opened an office in Manhattan from which to plot an assault on this moneyed end of the market.
Of course, there is considerable wealth washing around the Big Apple and a £60,000-plus (around $92,000) car might be considered a bit of a snip.
Certainly, the all-new Volvo XC90, on the evidence of my time with it this week, fits the bill.
However, size and stature is everything with these kinds of vehicles. Not only the depth of your wallet but the physical presence of such giants on the road.
More of which later. For the moment, suffice to say that the Volvo XC90 — a car in my opinion of greatly understated majesty — has connected with that all-important “wow” factor among its first buyers.
And when car magazines unequivocally praise a new model everyone sits up and takes notice.
On the back of an unprecedented period when Volvo sold out the first new XC90s within hours of making it available to order online, Auto Express made this luxury SUV its Car of the Year 2015.
Volvo reported in September 2014 that the first edition of the all-new Volvo XC90 — 1,927 individually numbered cars only available for sale via digital commerce — sold out in 47 hours. Most of the cars were reserved within one hour. At its peak, seven cars were sold every minute.
Another magazine What Car? went barmy for the all-new XC90, scoring it a full five stars overall and on just about everything else from “quality and reliability” to “buying and owning”.
So, you might well ask, what is all the fuss about? Well, two things struck me immediately about driving the XC90: firstly, its aforementioned size and secondly, Volvo’s absolute commitment to the latest car technology.
Some new cars feel “old” as soon as you sit behind the wheel. I have just driven another large SUV (that shall remain nameless) whose reputation has been finely established over decades. Yet it badly needs updating to face an unforgiving 21st century global car market.
No such problem exists for the XC90. In fact I see those Manhattanites with money to burn that fancy the XC90 (with a basic starting price of £45,000) getting in line to drive it. Actually, I can see motorists worldwide keen to follow suit.
However, you have to be convinced that a car of this magnitude is the vehicle for you. Some people consider these big luxury SUVs anathema to everything they hold dear in present-day motoring: a symbol of what is wrong with the world of cars.
There is a certain aloofness about any large SUV. I suppose, like all things to do with people and wealth, these big vehicles act as security blankets against a perceived hostile world.
But as I say, one of the remarkable facts about the XC90 is that it is a modestly priced SUV within the reach of many motorists’ pockets.
What you do get — as with all Volvo models produced in the last decade with the backing of Chinese owners, Geely — is a car that offers comfort, economy, reliability, safety and quality in spades.
Inside the cabin you also get the beauty of simplicity of design: everything is laid out in reachable form, especially the nine-inch centre console touchscreen. This is the “brains” of the car: everything to do with what’s going on in the XC90 can be accessed from here at the touch of the screen.
I am growing slightly weary at mentioning yet again the dangers of distraction in a car when operating such touchscreens. However, it is an important issue. I think what you need to do is spend time (stationary, of course) with the car to familiarise yourself with everything available at a touch.
Once you have mastered this, it is reasonable to assume that you should sort out your navigation, heating and air conditioning — and details such as which radio channel you want to listen to — before you set out. Drivers must play their part too, mustn’t they?
So my verdict on the new XC90 does not differ much from the car magazines’ accolades: providing you accept the fact this is a big car with a large road presence both in town and on the road, then if I was going to rate it, I too would give it five stars.
Volvo XC90 factfile
All-new Volvo XC90 â?? D5 AWD Inscription
Model as tested, including options price: £61,880
All-new XC90 range available (on-the-road) from £45,750
Engine: D5 â?? 225hp
Colour: Electric Silver
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Upholstery: Charcoal Nappa soft leather
Packs include: Winter Pack with head-up display, ie, heated front seats, heated washer nozzles, head-up display on windscreen: £1,175
Highlights of entry level specification include:
• 9in Centre Console Touchscreen
&bull Three Rows / 7 Seats
&bull Sensus Navigation â?? full European mapping with traffic information and lifetime map updates