Attractor, not a tractor
THE Volvo XC90 is a contrast of a car – a large, muscular beast which is also, somehow, as quiet as a mouse. It is spacious and comfortable, but also stylish enough to attract plenty of admiring glances. This was easily the biggest vehicle I had ever driven – apart from a van I once hired to help my brother move house – and the size takes some getting used to for the uninitiated.
I may live in Edinburgh, and have even spent some time in the more affluent boroughs, such as Stockbridge and Bruntsfield, but I have never felt compelled to own what is frequently referred to as a Morningside Tractor (a Chelsea Tractor in Auld Reekie money).
The Volvo XC90 is indeed one of those four-by-fours, well equipped for country living, that is frequently owned for the city dweller and mostly used for the school run.
And, as I drove it across town on my own, I could well imagine my fellow motorists wondering how on earth I could possibly justify having such a huge car just for me.
In fact, getting used to the XC90 is how I imagine it must be for women who are pregnant for the first time. Plenty of thought goes into mentally readjusting for your new-found girth. After all, with my gleaming white four-by-four only with me temporarily, the last thing I wanted to do was hurt my new baby.
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Pretty soon, however, I realised I could not give a damn about what other road users thought. To be honest, I was having too much fun.
The car provides a smooth and quiet drive that belies its huge size and diesel engine. It smoothly glides over Edinburgh’s cobbled streets, barely even registering the capital city’s many pot holes.
Maybe I’ve lived a sheltered motoring life, but to me, the dashboard of the XC90 more resembled a pilot’s cockpit than anything I was used to.
Indeed, an entire article could no doubt be spent musing over the car’s many excellent features. My wife would certainly never forgive me if I left out the heated seating, which would only become more of an asset as the winter months draw in.
I was particularly reassured by the amber light which flashes on either side when being overtaken in traffic, and the beeping when reversing that indicates you are getting close to an object behind you.
No matter how careful and skilled the driver, a bigger vehicle takes some getting used to, and these features help drastically reduce the risk of an accident.
Like many British motorists, the gearstick and clutch are to me what a safety blanket is to a young child. I do not know why I particularly want them, but I am as wary of automatics as I would be of Armenian wine – some how, you suspect it will not feel quite right.
Now, I suspect this has more to do with some of the cheap automatics I have driven on holidays abroad, where you are forced to wait patiently for the vehicle to slip through the gears of its own accord and speed is gathered very, very slowly.
The XC90 is, quite simply, a different animal altogether.
We put the car to good use by transporting a table and four stools to be put in storage at my father-in-law’s home in the Scottish Borders.
Not only did the XC90, thanks to its ample storage and collapsible back seat (it actually boasts 64 seat combinations – we did not try them all) fit all the furniture comfortably inside, but it also provided a brilliant drive through country stretches, gripping the road in typically wet and wild Scottish conditions.
And when we approached an overtaking lane, and I readied to try and pass the 40mph crawler in front, the XC90, with its 2.4-litre D5 engine, accelerated like Usain Bolt after three Weetabix – effortlessly and with minimal fuss. In fact, the only difficulty I had in driving this automatic was remembering the things I did not need to do.
And with dynamic stability and traction control, as well as roll stability control, Volvo believes this is one of the safest comparable cars on the market.
After all, you want to be careful when driving the kids to school in your £35,695-on-the-road Morningside tractor.