For the past six months I’ve been driving a Land Rover Defender. Obviously, in many ways it’s terrible, as you may well be aware, but I have enjoyed every single one of the 15,000 miles I’ve driven in it, even though most of those were on my own, on a motorway, which is hardly natural Defender habitat.
Motorways are rather more the preferred ground of the car that has come to replace it: a Volvo XC90, in what counts for entry-level XC90 specification these days. It has a 2.0-litre diesel engine producing 222bhp and has arrived in entry-level Momentum trim, in which form it costs some £45,750 before options.
“What’s an XC90 for, then?” asked a passenger, who’d known the Defender, the other day. “Well, it’s an off-roader like the Land Rover,” I said. “Only it’s longer and wider, it won’t go as far off road, it’s more expensive…”
I trailed off, getting the distinct feeling this wasn’t really selling the XC90, which wasn’t my intention at all. It was one of my favourite new cars of last year and, if you’re going to drive more than 30,000 miles a year in anything, a Volvo XC90 is quite the choice.
So I better explained. It’s a seven-seat executive car, I went on, explaining how Volvos have exceptional seats (the driver’s one being electrically adjustable) and a terrific driving position, and that the XC90 in particular has in its centre console a cool new touchscreen that is as easy to flick around as a smartphone’s screen. Then there are the safety features, I said, of which it has loads. It’s comfortable, posh and practical, but at the same time it’ll tow things and go through a field if you want it to.
All of which is true. The XC90 is one of those do-anything vehicles, the sort of thing that would migrate to near the top of the list if someone said you could have just one car.
Even in its base Momentum form, the Volvo comes well specified. There is leather trim, that touchscreen infotainment system as standard, including navigation, and a fine stereo. There is also cruise control and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.