Pre-warming our Volvo V90 from afar

I'm sat inside having a coffee on an incredibly cold December morning. Outside my Volvo is covered in thick ice and there would have been a time I would have been forced to reboil the kettle and tackle the windows with some hot water – much to the disgust of experts everywhere.

However, no longer do I need to risk cracking windscreens by thawing it out with hot water, as thankfully the V90 has a neat trick up its sleeve.

Following a visit to the local dealer it's now been set up with the Volvo On Call app that lets me start the engine from anywhere with a phone signal to pre-warm the car. I can even open the doors, flash the lights or beep the horn, or find out how much fuel it has left.

It uses a 4G connection in the car and your phone to talk to each other – and the pre-warming has come in very handy indeed. It's also a very neat trick to impress friends and family with.

I popped along to Snows Volvo in Winchester to have the work carried out. There the SIM card was fitted and the On Call app set up. It wasn't the smoothest process as the connection took some time to get going, but since it's been up and running it's worked well.

The SIM card also gives the car internet connectivity so passengers can use it as a wifi hotspot and the car can access the internet for Spotify and other internet-based apps on the large touchscreen. It means there are now three different ways to listen to Spotify in the car – via the car's streaming, Bluetooth or Apple CarPlay. Some would say that's overkill, but it certainly beats a tape deck.

The online functionality has been a welcome boost, but the system has not been without its problems. The built-in sat nav is woeful – nearly to the point of being unusable.

On a recent trip to London it sent me down a dead-end street which it thought could be used as a cut through. It couldn't and had clearly been blocked up many, many years ago. Then a few moments later it advised me to turn left at a no-left turn traffic light.

I also can't understand why the map displays detail for just half the screen – the top half is blue sky. This is a completely pointless use of screen real estate when it should be showing you what's coming up further down the road. It's all very frustrating and means I usually resort to Google Maps – something you really don't want when your car has built in navigation.

That said, I'm still mostly enjoying time with the V90. The 2.0-litre engine is hardly the punchiest, but it's quick enough and I find it incredibly relaxing to drive, especially over long distance. I also love the space inside. Rear seat passengers get acres of leg room and up front, while the uncluttered layout and comfy seats are a real joy. What's more the fact there are two pop-up kids booster seats in the back is brilliant – my daughter absolutely loves them. It's a very clever Swedish touch.

I've been using the cavernous boot for all manner of activities too. From business trips with lots of luggage to trips to the dump, the Volvo's monstrous boot seems to swallow the lot. Estates offer so much practicality and that's never more evident than when you need to carry something in the boot.

And I've also carried out some basic maintenance – filling the washer fluid bottle up so I can see out of the windscreen again. I love the fact the fluid seeps out of the wiper blade arms and doesn't spray out of two holes in the bonnet - it's far cooler.

Next up for the Volvo is a trip to the Alps. I'm currently trying to arrange some winter tyres, snow chains and a roof rack for her, which will need a second trip to the local dealer. I'm looking forward to being rather comfy indeed for the long drive there. More on that next time.

Model: Volvo V90 D4 AWD Cross Country
Price: £46,755
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 190bhp
Torque: 400Nm
Max speed: 130mph
0-60mph: 8.5s
MPG (combined): 54.3
Emissions: 138g/km
Mileage to date: 6,065

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