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When it comes to Bahrain’s famous brunches, I’m usually the designated driver (supposedly I’m ‘the sensible one’). However, this often poses a problem as I only have a two-door sports car which is no use at all for carting family and friends around.
Luckily, my friends at Motorcity solved all of my problems this weekend by offering me the new Volvo XC90 for a three-day test drive. By the end of the day, all our group could talk about was this shiny, superb beast and not the plethora of food and beverages that were consumed!
The XC90 oozes style out of every pore. Its stocky, rectangular features and its sculpted shoulders might appear imposing, but what you’ll find inside is a comforting, welcoming animal that just wants to be your friend.
In fact, as soon as I had the nappa leather key fob in my hand, which is easily the most attractive door-opener I’ve ever laid hands on, I knew I was in for a luxurious experience.
The soft lighting which greets you when you open the driver’s door, along with the soft jingle from the infotainment screen that announces your entrance, felt like an old friend embracing me after a prolonged absence.
After the usual juggling of mirrors, seat positioning and the last stop of switching the driving mode into Dynamic (where it would firmly stay for the duration of the test drive), it was time to hit the highway.
The XC90’s 2.0L engine is quick out of the blocks and extremely smooth when shifting up and down gears with the eight-speed transmission. It’s particularly fun when switching the stick into manual and driving the old-fashioned way, although a small part of me missed the option of gear-shift paddles behind the wheel.
As to be expected with Volvo, safety is at the forefront of design, and I could barely go two seconds without some sensor bleeping off at me. Whether this was Intellisafe Assist warning me about over-eager drivers trying to edge into my lane or tailgating me a little too close, I felt that I was safe from harm.
There are a plethora of features available on the centre console’s gorgeous touchscreen, including full navigation, phone connectivity settings and the ability to turn the huge raft of safety features on and off.
All of these are accessible through a swift twist of the jewel-like, diamond-knurled start knob and one of the most intuitive infotainment systems I’ve used.
I did have to disable a couple of features eventually though, as the constant interruptions made me more nervous than I’d like. There are so many sensors and noises that it becomes a tad intimidating, even when there isn’t any immediate danger!
Not to mention that they interrupted my thorough testing of the media entertainment features! There’s nothing that quite ruins a screaming guitar solo like ‘beep … beep … beep’.
The Lane Steer Assist is another feature I couldn’t quite buy into. In Europe, for example, I can imagine it working a treat on the motorway when the long-haul treks leave your eyes tired and the propensity for lane drifting is at its highest, but not so much here where you always have to be at 100 per cent alert in case a Lewis Hamilton-wannabe from across the causeway swerves in your way. The last thing you need when a split-second lane change is necessary is the steering wheel fighting you and trying to turn you back the other way to keep in lane!
Outstanding technological feats that I did enjoy though were the Adaptive Cruise Control (utterly fantastic, as it balances your speed but also speeds up or slows down depending on the distance of the car in front of you) and the Pilot Assist, which steers for you and maintains distance to the car in front on slower roads. Both autonomous driving systems left me feeling like a passenger at times, a welcome relief from the stress of the kingdom’s traffic!
The absolute best feature was the Park Assist, though. After picking up friends and family for the aforementioned brunch (who all complimented the amount of space and comfort they had in the back), we cut significantly into our scoffing time by messing around with this amazing addition.
This feature, which works for both getting in and out of spaces, scans 360-degrees around your vehicle (complete with an overhead display on the large touch screen) and finds any space, no matter how tight it is. Even better, it parks for you (in either parallel or perpendicular format) by controlling the steering … all you have to do is change gears. Genius!
The drive back to Sitra to drop the car back to the showroom is usually either a very melancholy or very joyous occasion depending on how the experience went, and this time if the journey had taken any longer my tear ducts might have been put into work.
Luckily, I had the friendly faces of sales executive Igor Pavlenko and marketing manager Mirela Micic to greet me and talk about my experience with the car over a cuppa. As always, the customer service is second-to-none, and Motorcity remains the standout branch when it comes to delivering a top class test drive experience, regardless of the vehicle on offer.
The 2018 Volvo XC90 is available from the Motorcity Volvo showroom in Sitra, starting from BD21,500. The model tested for this article, including many of the features discussed, comes in at BD26,900. This comes with five years unlimited kms warranty and five years of road-side assistance. For more information, visit the showroom or call 17736222.