Svelte Swede

There are many, many cars that are available to us today. As a matter of fact, there isn’t a better time in the world of cars from a perspective of variety. There’s virtually a car for every kind of person.

If you employ thousands of people and keep base in a big warehouse, you could have a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. If you are a farming tycoon and often find yourself plowing through fields, but are in need of an automobile that is just at home at the Ritz Carlton, there is an SUV called the Range Rover - and it’s pretty much perfect. If you can’t decide if you want to buy a coupé or an SUV, BMW have sorted out your dilemma with the X6.

If you are a man, and you like to wear thick eyeliners on your eyes and like to spend your Friday nights in places like Black Market, there is a thing called a Nissan Juke. What else? Well, if you’re geeky and rich, you could have any car from the Audi range. So what about the people that don’t care much about cars? Perhaps those that don’t want to mess about in a commoners workhorse. I’m happy to announce that there’s a brand for you too, and that is, Volvo. 

"I’ve come to the conclusion that you’d have to be a world class idiot to crash this thing."

The Swedish carmaker have built a reputation in safety. In other words, if a Ferrari is the business idea that sets your heart on fire, which your parents have advised you against, Volvo is the insurance business - or is it still? There was a time when Volvos made a killing selling “the world’s safest car”. Now, there is no way for us to prove today that they are still the kings of in the safety category, but I can tell you that its reputation for doing so always soothes the mind.

It has never been the kind of car you buy with your emotions. I mean, have you ever bought an insurance policy and told yourself, “I’ve made it”. If you have, you are a one-off in this world. However, insurance is always a good place to put your money and that is the strongest suit of Volvo, because the truth of the matter is, their cars were as interesting as that. Those were the days of yesteryear. Today, they make some of the best cars in the world.  

Scandinavian pinnacle.

What about this all-new XC90 though? This is supposed to be the most important car in the history of the company. It’s what is supposed to dictate the very existence of the Swedish carmaker. Well, it is honestly looking very good for them. Off the bat, and I know that this purely subjective, but I think that in the correct trim, it is the most handsome SUV on sale today. I think that the Range Rover looks like a glorified Ford Explorer, the Audi Q7 lacks the presence in its proportions, the BMW X5 isn’t as handsome as its predecessors, and the Mercedes-Benz GLE is daft. Oh, and of course there’s the Porsche Cayenne, which I haven’t even bothered looking at it since the Macan came to be.


From the its proportions to its details, such as the Thor’s hammer LED daytime running lights and the iconic Volvo taillights that run through the D pillars, the XC90 has its design licked. The stance of the car is as proud as a King’s guard. I love the fact that it doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. It’s just a dapper Volvo pushed forward towards the next generation, and I can really appreciate that. It has more than enough ground clearance to drive it worry-free and it has all the technological toys to make sure that you never crash it. I’ll get to that bit later. 

Luxury exemplified.

Inside, Volvo have gone to town with this interior. Even if I am not a fan of this aluminum trim, I cannot say that it is ugly or cheap. I love how Scandinavian the design language is. It’s almost as if they bolted its bits and pieces from IKEA. I’ve always said that Volvos make some of the best seats in the business, and it still remains true today. The seats are supportive and comfortable. They offer a commanding driving position, which adds to the lavish experience behind the wheel. The start sequence is unique as well. Instead of pushing a start button knob, there’s one that you twist on the center console.

They offer a commanding driving position, which adds to the lavish experience behind the wheel. The start sequence is unique as well. Instead of pushing a start button knob, there’s one that you twist on the center console. It’s those little things that never make you forget which car you're driving today. Besides, almost all European interiors look alike nowadays, so it’s very refreshing to have something with a completely different philosophy.

Excellence manifested.

When you fire up the engine, all you see are a bunch of screens booting up. The cabin is void of anything analogue. The glass themed TFT instrument panel is tastefully done. It is, however, overshadowed by the gigantic iPad-esque center infotainment display that's bursting of the highest resolution. All of the car's settings can be accessed through the gargantuan display. While it can be tricky at times, locating certain menus eventually becomes second nature.

Since it’s a Volvo, it has all the safety features you’ll ever need. Let me rephrase that, it has some features you’ve probably never heard of. For instance, while driving on the highway, I happen to have made a mistake by pressing one or two buttons on the steering wheel. Before I knew it, the steering had stiffened up, the SUV was braking on its own and it was steering by itself. Sheesh, I have never felt more unneeded by an automobile. The thing was driving itself!

It goes without saying that it came with all the pedestrian cross alert systems and blind spot and collision blah blah blah. The truth is, some of these features can be far too sensitive and obtrusive. Sometimes, you also cannot fully shut them off. At least, I couldn’t. While I would be caught off guard at times and suffer mild anxiety attacks for suddenly ringing bells and braking on its own, I’ve come to the conclusion that you’d have to be a world class idiot to crash this car. Even when you’re parking, it’s nearly impossible. As a matter of fact, it can parallel park or perpendicularly park itself and it can pull itself out too. 

I honestly don’t care too much about those things. While they definitely add to the insurance policy that is a Volvo, it no longer defines the brand. For me, the XC90 is defined by its genuine 7-seater capacity and its bombastic 2-liter diesel engine. I do think that they could do some more work refining the engine or the cabin from absorbing a lot of the noise, but my God does it pull. Its relentless and absent-minded pace will get you in trouble if you are caught napping. It’s relatively frugal as well. I did a combined cycle of roughly 10.3 kilometers per liter, and that’s a respectable figure considering how huge it is.

"At roughly 6.5 million pesos, I cannot think of a more fully loaded vehicle that can sit seven at the lap of luxury."

The ride is decent, but it could smoothen out bumps better. I suppose the optional air suspension should do the trick. Also, it has one of the most, if not the most, stunning adaptive LED light systems I’ve ever used in a car. BMW’s system included. It is smart and bright and it offers all the confidence you need when light posts run out of your line of sight. The audio system, as with most Volvos, even when not equipped with a Bowers & Wilkins system is still great. At roughly 6.5 million pesos, I cannot think of a more fully loaded vehicle that can sit seven at the lap of luxury.

If it were up to me, I would get the upgraded wheels, air suspension, and the very IKEA like wood trim. In as much as I think that the petrol engine would suit the character of the XC90 more because of its ultra refined characteristics, you cannot simply go wrong with loads of torque and great fuel economy. I had very high hopes for the XC90 as it is somewhat of my favorite in its segment, and I am so happy that it exceeded my expectations. Volvo have beaten the odds. They have outdone themselves and this should put all the questions about their future existence to rest.

There's more to life than a Volvo, that's why you drive one.

2017 Volvo XC90 D5 AWD

Engine: 1,969cc, DOHC 16v, Inline-4, Turbocharged
Fuel: Diesel
Power: 223 bhp @ 4,250 rpm
Torque: 470 Nm @ 1,750-2,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic, AWD
0-100 km/h: 7.8 seconds
Top Speed: 220 km/h
Fuel Economy: 10.3 km/L Overall
Price: PHP6,495,000
+: Beautiful, practical, quick, frugal, and luxurious
-: Diesel engine could use more refinement, needs better variety of trim
Verdict: Easily one of the most capable SUVs on our roads
Rating: 9.5/10

Ex-Automotive Executive

Instagram: @enzoteodoro