Our Volvo takes on the white stuff and wins
Facing a descent from a French ski resort after freshly fallen snow had covered the mountain pass, I must admit I was a little worried quite how our V90 Cross Country would cope.
Ok, so it might have a clever four-wheel drive system, but after a mix-up over winter tyre sizes at the dealer had left me running on summer rubber, the realisation that I'd have to tackle roads covered in more than 20cm of the white stuff was a little daunting to say the least.
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I need not have worried. Once the steep, slippery incline out of the underground car park had been dispatched with ease by the smart 4x4 system, I grew fresh confidence in the Volvo's ability to get us down out of the mountains safely.
It found traction in places I didn't think it would and with the 4x4 mode engaged and a speed limited to 40kph, it safely ploughed its way down through the snow-covered switchbacks.
The trip to Flaine, in the French Alps, was to be the Volvo's swansong. A strict 8,000-mile limit had been imposed on my long-term loan and I'd planned my time with the car to ensure I had 1,500 miles banked to end our time together on a high.
The huge boot easily swallowed three adults' luggage with ease, plus enough food and, ahem, beer, to last seven days. Before we went, Snows Volvo in Winchester was called upon to fit some roof bars and a ski rack – or the 'whistler', as the technician named it.
He wasn't wrong about that. The noise the rack made with my snowboard clamped to it was pretty deafening. It got a bit better when I turned the board upside down to improve the aerodynamics, but it still needed to be drowned out with some Best of 90s playlists.
The whopping mileage gave me plenty of time to enjoy the charms that have made looking after this Volvo one of the most enjoyable long termers I've had. The seats are superbly comfortable and the driving position perfectly set-up to keep you cosseted for huge journeys like these.
Sadly, I lost faith in the built-in sat nav long ago and have since resorted to using either Google Maps or Apple Maps via CarPlay. The latter is not without its challenges, but it worked perfectly on the journey to and from France. It's annoying that a car as advanced as this has such a backward sat nav system and it's something that urgently needs improvement.
That said, on the whole, the multimedia system is excellent. The large touchscreen controls are simple to understand and use and I love the 360-degree parking cameras and the car's ability to park itself, should you be feeling particularly lazy.
The Volvo On Call App, which lets me pre-heat the car in the mornings, has been getting a lot of use and the fact it also gives you information about the car and its location is useful.
I used it recently when returning from the States from a business trip to check that the valet parking company had returned my car. It told me exactly where it was in Heathrow and the fact the driver even had his window down. With Volvo, big brother is always watching.
I'll be sad to see the Volvo go. It's been a brilliant family car, carried huge loads on holidays and to the tip, transported many people in comfort and with neat touches like the built-in booster seats in the back that pop up when needed, it's clever design has always impressed.
My one word of caution would be on the engine. The 2.0-litre is a little underpowered and when fully laden returns a shade over 30mpg. That's really quite disappointing and proof this large estate needs a little more oomph under the bonnet to ease the strain.
Facts and figures:
Model: Volvo V90 D4 AWD Cross Country
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Max speed: 130mph
MPG (combined): 54.3
Mileage to date: 8,107