Diesel is dead. The president and CEO of Volvo, Hakan Samuelsson, virtually said as much in the middle of last month when he indicated that the latest generation of diesels developed by his company could be its last.
Now, while he did later row back by maintaining his position was not definitive, his assertion that the cost of reducing NOx emissions on diesels was too high to warrant further investment in developing new generation engines is indicative of a growing trend among automakers against oil-burners.
It seems now, if Samuelsson is to be believed, that even the cost-effectiveness of diesel in fuel economy terms is not going to be enough to satisfy those lawmakers and regulation-setters who decide such things.
The exception to the rule, of course, is US President Donald Trump and his merry band of supporters who have convinced themselves that the planet is not under any threat from carbon emissions and they intend to carry on a level of environmental vandalism which is no longer acceptable, even in China, the worst polluters in the world.
And, mention of China brings us neatly back to Volvo, which is now owned by the Chinese and which, as a result of the investment monies they have brought to the Swedish table, is now right bang in the thick of the action in the premium automotive smorgasbord, as it were.
For now being a player in this segment means having a mix of diesel and petrol engines to propel their cars with (although they are predicting all manner of hybrid and pure electric cars coming quickly down the tracks). Volvo has that mix and the units they are manufacturing are certainly close to the top of the pile.
So too are the cars that go with them and since they unveiled the new XC90 a couple of years ago and then came along with the stunning S90 last year, Volvo has very clear intent about where it is going and how it is going to woo new and old customers.
This week’s tester is yet another statement of intent from the Sino/Swedish conglomerate and while we initially thought we were going to be driving the mere V90 estate when we booked the car, what arrived was actually the V90 CC (that means cross country).
Some nomenclature confusion may arise here, but this is the latest iteration of various rugged but not actually SUV models, which were on the books when the company was, wisely or not, cast to the four winds by Ford.
Basically the CC is a muscled-up version of the regular V90 estate aimed at people who don’t want a fully blown SUV but who still want to climb mountains, ford streams and generally lark about in the wilderness.
Thus there is an extra 60mm of ground clearance built into this car for mountain climbing, stream fording etc. There is also an all-wheel drive system and various other electronic bits and bobs which will allow Mr and Mrs Activity and their activist children take on the wilderness with gay abandon.
A very substantial car then, the V90 CC. But not so substantial, it has to be said, to be of SUV or JCB magnitude. No, despite being over 5m in length and having a cargo capacity of Antonov jet proportions, the V90 CC is actually quite an elegant thing and that is very much to the credit of chief designer Thomas Ingenlath and his team.
The designers have pulled off the trick of making a very large car look chic and svelte and not at all like and the “abandoned oil tanker” effect which some companies have come up with when it comes to their large estates.
Mechanically, the biggest difference between this and regular V90s is the suspension set-up. Aside from having pulled off a visual trick or two, Volvo has managed to do the same here.
Many companies, when trying to persuade us that their latest all-road creations will tackle K2, simply jack-up existing suspension systems and let us get on with it.
No so Volvo. This system has been designed not only to provide greater ground clearance, but also to provide regular driving characteristics. Others will wallow and buck about the place like rutting wildebeests, but not this one, which is as composed on the road as it is supposed to be off it.
On top of that, Volvo has given the V90CC air suspension at the rear with a self-levelling system for when you are carrying really heavy loads, or ferrying the jet-ski.
In the case of the test car which was fitted with the D5 engine option, boosted by Volvo’s PowerPulse technology to provide an output of 235bhp, one could not but be impressed by the fact this is a mere two litre turbodiesel. That it will cover 0-100 kph in just 7.5 seconds given its bulk, is nearly amazing.
The top speed of 225km/h and will emit just 139 g/km (for a €270 per annum tax bill) and consume just 5.3 l/100km (52.8 mpg) is pretty mind-blowing as well. Worth noting too is the excellent eight speed auto transmission which is very nice to live with.
As a genuine five seater estate — it is genuinely hard to express how roomy this thing is — and something whose driving characteristics are more akin to something sporty than something lumbering, the V90CC truly has a lot going for it.
That point is emphasised by the excellence of the interior design which, despite minimalist intentions is every bit as classy as the saloon and that makes it very classy indeed.
And, when you cast your eye down the list of standard equipment you will be gob-smacked. It seems there is little they have left out of their calculations here — from the brilliant and easy to navigate 9” centre console touchscreen to the adaptive cruise control.
The only extra on the spec sheet for the tester was the metallic paint job at €1,125. Mind you, I was not taken by the official colour described as ‘Maple.’ In reality, it looked rather more than something having just emerged from a treatment plant — at the wrong end.
All of this, colour and all, comes at a price which should cause some opponents to flinch with embarrassment. It is yet another strong indication that the Volvo freight train has only just left the station and is only now gathering momentum. In fact it’s only just left China.
It may be, as indicated at the outset, that the days of diesel motoring are gone long-term, but for now — while we can still be impressed by the technology — this is as good an example of the genre as there is to be had. And the rest of the car is not bad either, paint scheme aside.
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