If I cast my mind back to February 21 of last year - the day before my son arrived - my ideal car would have been manual, small, quick, communicative, have no electronic nannies and be petrol-powered. A simple hot hatch or something like a Toyota GT86 is my idea of motoring nirvana - it doesn’t have to have a six-figure price tag or crack the 200mph barrier. I wouldn’t care if space was limited, if its interior’s quality was somewhat lacking or if its suspension was possibly too compromised for day-to-day driving. As long as the simpleton behind its driving wheel - me - was happy, then that’s all that mattered.
However, the make-up of my ideal day-to-day car now couldn’t be further away from pre-fatherhood. I’d plump for a diesel, not only to annoy the tree-huggers among us but also because of their exceptional range, it’d have automatic transmission, it would simply have to have a large boot to swallow the masses of baggage a small human somehow requires and there would be rear doors in order to put said small human into his seat without needing to be a contortionist.
However, one key aspect of a car is its level of safety because it has to protect your little bundle of joy. You need something large and something clever and Volvo has all of those requirements covered. I don’t mind admitting that I perhaps unfairly associated Volvo’s cars as being dull, bought by the beige chino mob whose idea of fun was perusing the paint aisle in B and Q followed by afternoon tea. I now see an XC40 drive by and I think its driver is cool - what has happened to me?
But there’s a reason for it, and Volvo’s line-up is nothing short of exceptional. Each one of its cars, whether it’s the trendy XC40, the S90 with its supreme comfort or the handsome XC90 stand out among their rivals and deserve the credit that’s continuously heaped on them by journalists and award-givers.
This car, the V90, encapsulates all of my new-found loves because it’s big, automatic, has acres of boot space, it’s safe and it’s comfortable. It’s also quick, thanks to it being in 300bhp ’T6’ petrol guise and while that hampers its fuel economy somewhat, it has something in its armoury to keep petrolheads interested. There’s a host of diesel-powered variants, too.
It’s a looker, isn’t it? The V90 - which is effectively an estate version of the S90 - shares its chiselled face but goes without the saloon’s finicky rear light design, so it’s an improvement on that car through my eyes. Open the door and you’ll find all of the S90’s quality components, something which actually trickles down through Volvo’s entire range. 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 - well-known for their safety features - have once again gone to town with masses of kit on the £50,000 V90 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.
The automatic gearbox is a joy, though, and a great match for the V90’s laid-back character. There’s undeniable pace on tap thanks to that 300bhp 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. There’s a nice sense that if you need power it’s there, but the 0-60mph time of under six seconds and 155mph top speed aren’t ever really on your mind despite it being undoubtedly potent.
Like most of its Swedish stablemates, it too is a class-leading car. It’s everything to everyone, especially in T6 spec, and combines practicality with performance.