THERE was a time when Volvos were seen as being sturdy but boring… the sort of car your super sensible geography teacher drove.

Not any more – now Volvo’s are cool, and none more so than their flagship top of the range XC90 – especially the T5 R-Design version we got our hands on, which is currently the range top seller.

It’s not the fastest XC 90 – that honour goes to the T8 Twin Engine hybrid which can hit 60 in a very impressive 5.5 seconds – but our petrol T5 turbo is no slouch (0 to 60 in 7.5 seconds) and it is some 15 grand cheaper at £55,360.

Volvo say the XC 90 range are ‘luxury’ SUVs and the level of equipment reflects that aspiration. Standard across the range – which starts at £51,860 for the T5 Momentum – are: a 9” I-pad style ‘swipable’ central infotainment touch screen with Volvo On Call plus Senus nav and connect, voice activation, adaptive cruise, power tailgate, rear camera, all round parking sensors, a 12.3” TFT crystal driver info display, seven seats and, as you would expect from Volvo, a whole raft of safety systems.

As a world leader in car safety and with a stated aim of no one being killed in or by a Volvo within a few years the company continue to be at the leading edge of innovations.

On the XC90 that means: pedestrian, cyclist and even large animal detection plus front collision warning with fully automatic emergency braking (a world first); lane assist; pilot assist; run-off road protection (front seatbelts automatically tighten if the car detects it has left the road) and another world first in collapsible front seat sections to minimise spinal injuries.

Also with all-wheel drive and switchable driving modes (Comfort, Eco, Dynamic, Off Road and Individual) on every XC90 the car is ready for anything our changeable climate can throw at it. Oh – and it can even book itself in for that next service!

Volvo have made great strides in design, shaking off that old safe but boxy image to come up with great-looking vehicles like the XC90. Volvo say the SUV has ‘minimalist’ design using high-grade materials inside and out.

Also the Swedish car giant has made much progress in terms of economy. The XC90 is a big seven-seater and despite being a 250bhp petrol vehicle over 35mpg is possible on the combined cycle, which goes up to well over 40 on the extra urban run.

The power train choices range from a twin turbo diesel (235bhp), our turbo petrol (250bhp), a T6 turbo and supercharged petrol (310bhp) and the fire-breathing 390bhp T8 Twin Engine plug in hybrid.

Trim wise things start at the Momentum model, which still boasts a great spec list including part leather seats and 9” touch screen, through Momentum Pro, R-Design (our car), R-Design Pro, Inscription and Inscription Pro.

Now it is no secret that some car makers are struggling after a few years of booming sales but, probably for all the reasons above, Volvo are still on the up.

Now seen as a stylish and a ‘cool’ alternative to other big SUVs the XC90 is helping Volvo to continue sales growth, especially here in the UK. Globally Volvo made £14.2 billion in 2018!

Our car had a few options – premium sound, blind spot info, cross traffic alert and rear collision mitigation, smart phone integration and premium metallic paint – but at £57,245 for such a premium SUV it is still a lot of car for your money.

After a week at the wheel of the big Swede I got to fully appreciate what a well built, good looking and safe vehicle it is. Oh, and it also ticks all the right boxes when it comes to impressing the neighbours.

By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth