You can picture the judging panel, sat there quaffing coffee in their beige chinos, all deliberating whether or not some mind-numbingly boring hybrid Hyundai or seven-seat SsangYong should receive a pointless award. Manufacturers’ hyper-active PR guys love awards, though, so you’ll definitely see lots of exclamation marks in the subsequent press release and stickers lauding its model’s triumph for following motorists to view in its rear window.
The Volvo XC90 has a bulging trophy cabinet and anyone from the Swedish firm will be quick to tell you about it. I’d normally switch off at such chat, but a week with the XC90 is more than enough to reveal just how deserving it is of its multiple accolades. I know, it’s a huge four-by-four SUV, and with that comes instant hate from other road users who you can see questioning if something so gargantuan is really necessary. It’s too big for me, but my one-year-old’s tiny and my pug’s even smaller, but those five several youngsters and a big labrador absolutely do require such space.
The big Volvo, unlike footballers’ wives’ Range Rovers, isn’t the ‘cool’ choice for women with wrinkle-free foreheads and plumped-up lips as it’s very much geared towards families. Sure, it’s expensive, but it goes without the usual connotations. It’s a respectable car, not a brash one, and that appeals to me.
Looks-wise, I’ve never really been bowled over by Volvo’s designs but the XC90 looks great, especially from the front with its signature deep grille that we’ve grown to love on things like the XC40 and extremely good-looking V90. Open the door and you’re met with a great interior that’s well-made, covered in quality leather and extremely spacious.
Its iPad-like infotainment panel controls everything from its fantastic satellite navigation to the heating controls, but it’s effortlessly smooth and is by far the best system I’ve ever used.
Volvo - known for their safety features - have once again gone to town with masses of kit on the £62,000 XC90 and although I’m not a fan of annoying lane-keeping assists and pre-collision warnings, thankfully it’s easy to switch everything off. It’s full of tech and has several stand-out features, including its fantastic 360-degree cameras which enable a bird’s eye view setting to help parking, while its clever headlights are adaptive so change direction through the driver’s steering inputs.
This car, powered by a 242bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, is full of grunt and somehow gets the heavy car from rest to 60mph in six-and-a-bit seconds - more than enough to keep hot hatches on their toes. However, given its weight, it’s costly to run and averaged a disappointing 24mpg during its week with me - unacceptable given its family-friendly promise - although there are diesel versions to choose from which are far more frugal and would be my pick.
The automatic gearbox is a joy, though, and a great match for the XC90’s laid-back character. There’s undeniable pace but it’s a car you don’t ever feel like grabbing by the scruff of the neck, so selecting ‘D’ and wafting along is what it does best.
I shouldn’t really like the XC90 as it’s not really my bag, but I loved it after the first drive as it’s something that’s very clever and different to ten-a-penny BMW X5s. Perhaps surprisingly it matches its German rivals for quality inside and spec-for-spec is the far superior option, combining rear-world practicality, pace and that ultra-safe feeling you get with every Volvo.
It’s a class-leading car, the XC90. It might cost a few quid but its quality shines never once fails to shine.