Douglas Adams once set out his rules to describe our reactions to technology: "1) Anything already in the world when you're born is just the way it works; 2) Anything that's invented when you're between 15 and 35 is cool and you can probably get a career in it; and 3) Anything invented after you are 35 is wholly against the natural order of things." I'm very much in the over-35 gang ? and sometimes it seems that new cars are getting just too darned clever. I like driving. In fact, I love driving. So why would I ever let a car do it for me? But that's exactly what Volvo's new saloon wants to do. It's edging us drivers out.
The S90 has got the sort of smarts that mean it would have been mocked at school. It'd have been the kid in the front row with all the answers: "Miss, Miss, Miss, me please..." It monitors the light, the rain, your driving, the road ahead, pedestrians... It's fitted with Pilot Assist which means at up to 30mph it'll do the lot: steering, acceleration, deceleration, braking. And Volvo really has thought of everything. For instance if an "elk, horse or moose strays on to the road night or day" the car's "large animal detection" device will slam on the brakes to save you ? and it. Then, when you reach your destination, Park Assist will take over, setting the steering wheel spinning, as if by ghostly hands, as it eases the vehicle into the most awkward of spots.
Safety, of course, is second to none, this is a Volvo, remember! But the S90 goes so far as to make a plausible claim to be the safest, most risk-averse car ever made. Even a fatalistic stunt driver would struggle to override all the nannying and pile it into a tree.
Strip away all this technology and you're left with a big, luxurious, supremely comfortable saloon. It looks impressive, in a sharky, corporate kind of way. The Thor's hammer LED lights and abrupt vertical grille are real statement features. Inside it's an homage to stripped-back Skandi taste, and a lesson in understatement. The use of unvarnished wood lends a little sauna chic to the proceedings. It feels fiendishly posh. Volvo was bought by Geely in 2010 and since then the Chinese have invested $11bn in the brand. There is no sense that any corner has been cut in the S90 ? ever.
Power comes from a choice of two 2-litre four-cylinder diesels: the 190hp D4 and the 235hp D5. Both are matched to a silky eight-speed auto.
It's elegant, powerful and clever, the only problem is I feel too old for it. And saying you're too old for a Volvo is a bad state of affairs...
- Price: from ?32,995
- Top speed: 145mph
- 0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
- MPG: up to 64.2
- CO2: 116g/km
Read more on Guardian.