Car of the week – November 26 – Volvo XC90

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Car of the week: Volvo XC90

In the world of the SUV, Volvo is not a brand that immediately comes to mind when considering high-end options and there are plenty of them to choose from.

Chances are if you are looking for luxury and performance, the German marques will be the ones you will go to first but having driven the excellent new Volvo XC90, that might not be the case for very much longer because the Swedes have produced something pretty special.

– Car of the week – November 11 – Ferrari 488 GTB

– Car of the week: October 29 – Toyota Land Cruiser Prado VXR

And when it is as good as this vehicle is, word soon gets around with the result that even before this vehicle hit the showrooms Volvo received more than 33,000 orders.

So what is it that makes the XC90 so special? It’s not necessarily the design because, although it is very sharp and sophisticated looking there are rivals out there which look much more aggressive and have more aesthetic appeal, particularly to men. Porsche, Mercedes, Audi and BMW spring to mind.

No, the answer is that this vehicle is like a breath of fresh air. From the minute you climb into the cockpit, you realise this is something that stands out from the norm. It feels different and indeed it is.

For starters it is powered by a four cylinder 2-litre supercharged turbo engine which punches well above its weight with 320bhp and 400nm of torque, providing surprisingly responsive acceleration and exceptional fuel economy. 

It puts the power down through the all-wheel-drive system via an eight-speed automatic with gear changes as smooth as silk.

I drove the XC90 T6 but the top of the range T8 comes with what Volvo call a Twin Engine which is essentially a hybrid, teaming up the turbo petrol engine and an electric motor which creates an impressive 400bhp.

Inside, the car is luxurious with lots of nappa leather and metal trim, amongst other bespoke options, and is spacious without being overly extravagant. 

The seats are streamlined and superbly comfortable – a Volvo speciality – and the centre dash is dominated by a 12.3-inch Active TFT Drivers Information Display which looks like an iPad and is almost button free, setting a new standard for auto-technology.

The virtual instrument cluster is fab and the steering wheel is a nice size and comfortable to use without being over cluttered with buttons.  The centre console houses the gearlever and the novel ignition switch which you twist rather than push, again, another pleasant change from what you would expect.

I have to say that the touch/swipe screen takes some getting used and I found myself concentrating too much on that and taking my eyes off the road which is not clever, but once you have familiarised yourself with the Sensus infotainment system it is a pleasure to use with high resolution graphics and an intuitive menu. It also has one of the best sat-nav systems on the market and the optional Bowers & Wilkins audio system delivers concert-hall quality to complete the classy persona of this vehicle. There is also an excellent head-up display.

The cabin, as a whole is spacious without being cavernous and ideal for a young family with a couple of kids and you really do get a feel of genuine quality. Volvo have always had a reputation for building some of the safest cars on the road and this vehicle takes it a step further with such things as full auto brake for driving in the city, driver alert control, pedestrian and cyclist
detection, cross traffic and blind spot alerts, high beam assistance, lane departure warning, road sign information displays and whiplash and side impact protection.

 It is a fabulous car to drive, extremely comfortable, and while it won’t blow you away with its acceleration it is no slouch with a 0-100kmh time of around six seconds. It has air suspension which rises when you start the car and adapts to whatever mode you want to drive in, including Eco, Comfort, Off-Road, Dynamic and Individual.

I wouldn’t take this vehicle off-road, and neither will many who buy it because it is more suited to the school run than dune bashing and I spent most of my time driving it in dynamic mode when it is at its most responsive and handles exceptionally well.  I never imagined a Volvo SUV would blow me away but the XC90 is one of the best vehicles I have driven all year.

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Car of the week – November 11 – Ferrari 488 GTB

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Opening a new chapter: Ferrari 488 GTB.

During a chat with the head of Ferrari Middle East, Giulio Zauner, the other day he was reasonably dismissive of claims that a switch from naturally aspirated engines to turbos had resulted in the demise of the legendary engine note that had become synonymous with Maranello and therefore lessened the appeal of his beloved cars.

The naturally aspirated V8s produce a sort of primeval scream that stirs the passion deep within your soul, something the new turbo power plan cannot produce.

However, Zauner’s point was that the allure of the new Ferrari 488 GTB was more the way it looks and the emotion it delivers than the noise it makes.

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– DMIS: highlighting major confidence in the Middle East

– Car of the week: October 29 – Toyota Land Cruiser Prado VXR

And to be fair, he’s not far wrong, because this is a stunningly beautiful car and although it does not sound quite as raucous as the 458, the car it replaces, it has a distinctive engine note which in its own way is just as sonorous.

The GTB (Gran Turismo Berlinetta) is not only a work of art to look at but it is an engineering masterpiece, a turbo engine without a trace of lag and one that comes fully loaded with the DNA of Ferrari’s Formula One and GT racing heritage.  

Expertise gleaned from Ferrari’s XX programme, which makes track-only performance cars for wealthy drivers, has also found its way into the 488.

Combined with the sophisticated aerodynamics and dynamic controls it delivers race-like responsiveness, even better than the 458, something you would have thought virtually impossible having driven that car.

And that is the point. No matter how good the last Ferrari was the mission is always to produce something better, even if it means building turbo engines to satisfy the emissions police.

The 488’s turbo is actually the Prancing Horse’s highest performing power plant ever.

It is a 3.9-litre V8 turbo and delivers 660bhp and torque of 760nm putting the power down to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox which delivers lightning quick changes.

The paddle-shifts just make what is already a sensational experience in full auto even more enjoyable.

Bearing in mind that this a light car, weighing in at 1,475kg,  that sort of power is monstrous and you might think a machine this potent might be a bit of a handful but you would be wrong. 

I drove the 488 on the track at Dubai Autodrome where it was an absolute dream to drive.

I am no racing driver but I pushed this car to the limit of my capability which is half-decent and it stuck to the track as if it was on rails and the agility was simply awesome.

It is perfectly balanced and blasting through the gears down the pit straight with that turbo delivering a fine soundtrack goes down as one of life’s great pleasures.

You really would have to drive like a complete maniac before this Italian stallion would spit you off the track. There is absolutely no question that this car sets a new benchmark in terms of power output, torque and response times from a turbo.

The aerodynamics obviously play a huge part in the car’s handling and engineers at Maranello have managed to deliver 50 per cent more downforce than  on the previous model along with lower drag. 

They have achieved this  thanks to the Aero Pillar and an F1-style double front spoiler, the side air intakes and, at the back, active aerodynamics coupled with a revolutionary, Ferrari-patented blown spoiler design. 

Inside, the car is typical Ferrari, all carbon fibre and heavy-stitched leathers and the instrument cluster, as always, is dominated by the rev counter. The leather and carbon flat-bottomed steering wheel has the Manettino dial to select drive modes – Sport works best on the road while Track is best left to circuit driving.

The car also has a new colour, Rosso Corsa Metallizzato, which was developed to underscore this model’s sporty personality, exclusivity and elegance.

At the end of the day all Ferrari’s are brilliant and this car is no different. It is a sensational piece of kit which is tremendous fun to drive, makes you feel pretty special, and is set to write a new chapter in the history of this iconic brand.

Verdict

It is amazing that a car this beautiful has caused some grumpiness among the Ferrari aficionados over the fact that it doesn’t sound like a traditional Ferrari.

They are, of course, correct but the fact remains that Ferrari had no choice but to turn to turbos and they have done a magnificent job.

This car still sounds glorious and is a real game changer for the Prancing Horse. If you can afford it, buy it.

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GALLERY: DIMS star attractions

fahad 11/11/2015

The Dubai International Motor Show, now undoubtedly among the best of its kind in the word, is all set to break exciting new ground with one of the finest displays of automotive excellence ever seen.

Spurred on and inspired by record GCC car sales of 1.88million this year, the 13th edition of the show looks certain to be the best and most interactive in its history.

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