Long live the Viking

Bulmer pens a final ode to a Nordic warrior



STUDENTS of Norse mythology, or simply fans of the bawdy and bloodthirsty SBS TV series Vikings, will know that the Norsemen of medieval Scandinavia burned their dead chiefs in a ship-like funeral pyre, en route to their final destination of Valhalla.

I considered showing the same respect for the XC90 but soon realised Volvo would probably prefer it back unsinged, even if the funeral pyre is the ultimate sign of respect for a Scandinavian warrior.

Respect is very much the appropriate descriptor for emotion accrued over the six months Black Betty has graced our driveway. During this time, there hasnít been a lot of pillaging, but plenty of packing, plodding and perambulating.

Of course, the Vikings were known for more than just sacking and pillaging; among their skills was the ability to craft lightweight vessels that combined speed and durability. While this land-based descendant of that Nordic bloodline may not be particularly svelte or rapid, itís surely a masterpiece of durable design, evidenced by the fact itís still in one piece after a hammering from a voracious horde of tiny horned warriors.

Life was undoubtedly hard for the Vikings as they bobbed about the Baltic, but consider the battering this XC90 copped at the hands (and feet) of the rampaging Bulmer brood and their ferocious little friends.

Iíve no idea how car companies calculate a lifetime of doors being slammed with the ferocity of Thorís hammer, of seatbacks being furiously pummelled by angry little legs in dirty little sneakers, and of touchscreens prodded with the sensitivity of an angry inquisitor. But as I watch the handsome black XC90 emerge gleaming from its ritual cleansing at the hands of the Druids at Sprinkles car wash, I marvel at how well it stood up to the rigours of this particular campaign.

With footwells finally clear of wrappers, receipts and rubbish, windows wiped clean of olfactory offerings, and a mysterious smear on the back seat sent to forensics for identification, I can once again admire the big Swedeís handsome lines.

Minus road grime and pigeon poop, the XC90ís honest, muscular design still looks fresh and distinctive. It may lack the dramatic headlights, plunging rooflines and raked pillars of some rival SUVs, but its elegant surfacing and fine detailing lends it a suitably premium Euro air, while that box-like body delivers the space a modern Viking crew requires.

That restrained pragmatism continues on the inside. Deceptively simple but undeniably elegant, it locates various vehicle system controls within the (prone to smudging) 12.3-inch touchscreen. With its swipe up or across interface, the screen proved a little frustrating at times as it isnít entirely intuitive, but weíll forgive it that sin for the obvious decluttering benefits.

Clutter is something the roomy Swede easily accommodates, thanks to its generous 651 litres of boot space, or a stillrespectable 291 with the third row in use.

Fold both second and third rows and thereís room for 950 litres of stuff you donít need from Ikea, accessed via an electric tailgate worth its weight in Aldi coupons.

The high seating position found favour with my vertically challenged better half, while the rug-rats in the cheap seats had nothing to complain about, with individual ventilation controls and ample space between to avoid fisticuffs.

The stylish leather-clad pews provide excellent support and comfort for short or long trips, while the versatile configuration and ease of folding the other rows meant loading a raiding party was ever easy.

Refined, roomy and utterly practical, the XC90 is a superb family wagon, and surely one of the best of the breed.

While full burial rites for this Viking warrior may be out of the question, there is another Norse tradition thatís arguably more appropriate, involving ritual drinking. And thatís surely something Swedes and Aussies can agree on. SkŚl!

The glitch is back

As a poverty stricken student I did my share of running-out-of-fuel stunts, so these days rarely allow a tank to get near vapour. But The Wife likes to live dangerously and swears that the Volvoís trip computer is errant, randomly recalculating from 70km remaining to 0km in the blink of an eye. The seat heater on the passenger side has also started switching off of its own volition recently, which begs the question whether an earlier electrical glitch that threw out systems and required a visit to the dealership to flash and fix has paid a return visit.


Date acquired: November 2015 Price as tested: $93,085 This month: 2043km @ 9.5L/100km Overall: 7468km @ 9.6L/100km

Dare to believe

If youíre a bit old-school and struggle to see how a 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel can possibly propel 1970kg of Swedenís finest down the road with anything approximating alacrity, then do yourself a favour and take an XC90 for a spin. In combination with its excellent eight-speed auto, the Volvoís 165kW/470Nm four-pot is a revelation, proving easily capable of hauling a full payload of passengers and luggage in impressive style.