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Road Test: Volvo S90 (2017)

Volvo.. it's the future. And it's good news for reindeer

By Nick Francis Published

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I USED to think being a motoring journalist would be an easy little number.

Drive some cars, drink some tea, compare notes. Home in time for dinner.

That was before I went on a Volvo launch.

Those goddamn Swedes are so tech-crazy, keeping up with what their cars can do requires a degree in quantum mechanics.

Joking aside, whatever you think of Volvo, they are world leaders in driving technology.

They boldly claim their first unsupervised autonomous car will be on the roads by 2021.

But the systems are already filtering through to the cars you see here.

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The arrival of the S90 and V90 completes a journey which started in 2014 with the introduction of the XC90 — pound for pound one of the best SUVs ever made.

The S90 is a large saloon, aiming to tackle the likes of the Beamer 5 Series, and the V90 is the estate version.

The R-Design is the tighter, nippier, more athletic version of them both.

Plus, and I know it’s not easy to keep up, there’s an S90 Cross Country — a beefed-up crossover version which can tackle off-road conditions better than a Humvee (think Audi A4 Allroad).

These are the final additions to the 90 range, Volvo’s top-end product. They promise there’s no more to come.

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Key facts: VOLVO S90

Price: £32,995

Engine: 2 litre diesel turbo

Economy: 64.2mpg

0-62mph: 8.2 seconds

Top speed: 140mph

Length: 4.9 meters

CO2: 116g/km

So where to start? If you want a solid, highly capable saloon or estate, the 90s are worth taking for a test drive.

Do not expect mind-blowing performance, jaw-dropping looks, or driveway status.

But I hardly need to tell you that, do I? Volvos aren’t cars which tick those boxes. But they are still one of the most important brands on the market. Why? Because they show us the future. In 20 years, whether the car looks sexy or not, or can do 0-62 in under five seconds, will only be important to a small section of society — people like us.

Non-petrol- heads will drive a Volvo. The autonomous driving and safety kit that comes as standard on the S90, which starts at £33k, would take remortgaging the house to afford from another manufacturer.

The architecture of the car is a mind-boggling composite of bulletproof metals.

The autonomous braking system can differentiate between a pedestrian, cyclist, and — this is new — a large animal. Well, I suppose reindeer are a menace in Scandinavia.

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The Pilot Assist tech, which Volvo rightly call a “semi-autonomous drive system”, does everything from keeping you in lane on the motorway to crawling through heavy traffic for you.

But, and here’s where you’ll see what I mean about Volvo being the brand of the future, for a few quid extra you can load up the Volvo On Call system (comes as standard on the XC90).

With this, you can unlock your car via an app, turn the heating on before you get to it, and even sound the horn or flash the lights when you’re struggling to find it in a car park.

In Sweden, you can already order your shopping and have it delivered to the car while you’re at work, unlocking remotely for the delivery man. No more stopping at Asda on the way home.

Not too far away, all cars will have this in the UK. Volvo is just the first.

Talking too much about how they drive is a waste of time. All models drive beautifully — but in that precise, sanitised way. Even the 235bhp R-Design is simply good at what it does, nothing exciting.

But when you’re driving a Volvo you know you’re in the presence of greatness. No flair, no fun, just superb engineering.

There is a Polestar edition down the road, which will bring silly levels of horsepower to the same car, but Volvo only do that to show they aren’t wimps — no one is buying it to beat their track personal best.

If you want to know what cars of the future will be like, just look at Volvo.

It’s not sexy but it is brilliant. A bit like Dame Judi Dench.

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