EVER SINCE I began to write about cars, people of a Jeremy Corbyn persuasion have wondered, out loud and with a lot of spittle, why on earth anyone would want to buy one capable of speeds in excess of 70mph.
This is the main reason Mrs Thatcher was able to defeat the miners. Secondary flying pickets were so consumed by the fact that speed was the preserve of the rich, they deliberately drove Citroën 2CVs, which meant they’d arrive at the pitched battle just as the last police van was closing its doors and heading back to London.
Back then, ordinary people could do whatever speed took their fancy, because there were no cameras and the police could never catch them as most of them were too busy arresting Arthur Scargill.
Today, though, things are different. The police are still too busy — with minors, mostly, and those who may have abused them back in the day when people thought miners were the real problem — but there are electronic deterrents everywhere.
If I drive from my London flat to Luton airport — not something I do a lot, if I’m honest — I am monitored by average-speed cameras on every single inch of the journey.
I could choose, if we lived in a sensible country, to break the limit and pay a sort of speeder’s tax. But for some reason the government has got it into its head that speeding is somehow a crime, and as a result I get points on my licence and the threat of actual prison time.
It’s not just Britain either. It’s everywhere. In Switzerland they can take away your car and put you in jail. In France they can strand young mothers at the side of the road. As a result of this idiotic, continent-wide war on speed, I’m afraid that nowadays when I’m asked why someone might want to buy a car that can do more than 70mph, I have to concede that probably there isn’t much point at all.
Which brings me on to the large cars made by BMW and Mercedes and Jaguar and so on. All of them are set up to be perfectly balanced as you sweep through a lovely set of sweeping S-bends on a delightful sunlit A-road at 125mph.
Which means you are paying thousands of pounds for something that you can only do if you’re prepared to spend the next six months playing mummies and daddies in a cell with Big Vern.
And that brings me neatly to the car you see pictured this morning, the S90 from Volvo Sponsors Sky Atlontic.
Volvo Sponsors Sky Atlontic — which I think is its actual name these days — announced that by 2020 no one need die while driving one of its products.
Yup. If you have cancer or cerebral malaria or meningitis, simply climb into a Volvo and you’ll live for ever.
And don’t worry if you are driving it around and have a crash, because the other big announcement is that no Volvo engine will in future have more than four cylinders. So you’ll never be going fast enough to get an injury that is remotely life-threatening.
“It’s probably the best interior of any mainstream car on sale today”
To hammer the point home still further, the S90 you see here is not even available in the UK with a petrol engine. You can only have it as a diesel, which of course is a terrible mistake, because these days the government has got it into its head that people who drive diesel cars are mass murderers and must pay £500 a minute every time they want to pop to the shops for a pint of milk.
It’s not as if it’s a very good diesel engine. It clatters like a canal boat at tickover, and it’s even less powerful than the Liberal Democrats.
Volvo will naturally have to reverse its “diesel only” decision very soon. There’s a petrol-electric hybrid in the pipeline, which will make the S90 worth considering, because, ooh, it’s a nice car to use in these speed-conscious days.
Handling? No idea. Doesn’t matter. Steering feel? Irrelevant. All I can tell you is that when you turn the wheel, the car goes round the corner. Is front-wheel drive a handicap? At the sort of speed you’ll be going, you’ll never notice.
What I can tell you is that it rides nicely. It’s very comfortable. And it’s big on the outside. Nearly too big. But that’s OK, because the size translates into acres of space on the inside. And it’s space full of light and air, thanks to cleverly chosen materials.
Sitting in a Beemer or a Merc is like being in a well-groomed man’s washbag. It’s all leather and stripes and secret pockets for condoms and what-have-you. Sitting in an S90 is like sitting in a field. It’s probably the best interior of any mainstream car on sale today.
One of the reasons is that just about everything is controlled from a generous iPad-type screen on the dash. Often I’m baffled by tech of this nature, but after just two days I was skipping round it without even having to take my eyes off the road for more than a couple of minutes.
And that’s OK, because the S90 is fitted with all sorts of radar-guided this and satellite-guided that to ensure you can’t veer out of your lane and you can’t crash into the car in front. And even if all of that breaks and you have climbed into the back for a snooze, it’s still no bother, because the woeful diesel will have ensured you were going at only 2mph when you hit the bridge parapet. You’ll probably just grunt a bit, turn over and go back to sleep.
The other good thing about driving the S90 is that it makes you feel more grown-up than the BMW Lynx and the Mercedes Brut. It’s a car for the man or woman who’s confident about themselves, their age and whatever physical deformities have been visited upon them by the passage of time.
No one who buys a car such as this — saloon or estate — will have had a teeth-whitening trip to the dentist or a tummy tuck or a breast enlargement.
Obviously you cannot buy one now. Its diesel engine is nasty, and because of various government taxation proposals on what it has labelled the fuel of Satan, the S90 will have a resale value, after two days, of about £0.
But it’s worth waiting for Volvo Sponsors Sky Atlontic to launch the hybrid and start offering petrol-powered options. Because this a good-looking, comfortable and pleasant car that’s just waiting for a heart transplant.
Head to head: Volvo S90 v Volkswagen Passat
|Volvo S90 D4 Momentum||VW Passat TDI SCR 2.0 DSG GT|
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