WE HAVE become so accustomed to the cookie-cutter approach to recent car design, it is hardly surprising that anything even slightly off script can fire the imagination.
So when something truly fabulous comes along, naturally, it is hard to contain the excitement.
The Volvo S90 has its tyres planted firmly in the latter school of thought; its sweeping lines, chiselled grille and Thor-inspired headlights creating both a feeling of awe and inspiration.
Volvo may be Chinese-owned now but it remains completely Swedish at heart.
The design is elegant and uncluttered, the purpose is precise and the overall package stylish and efficient.
Like the new XC90 SUV, the interior of the S90 is beautifully refined with a measured mix of leather and wood, with brushed metal highlights adding the required interest.
The absence of dials and buttons are noticeable, replaced by a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 9-inch integrated infotainment system.
This iPad-style device is the control for all things, including sat-nav, climate control and personal settings, and is intuitive enough after a bit of practice.
Seats are supportive and ensconcing with plenty of pleasures for those in the rear pew too.
The sloping roof does impede on head room and it's a pity the sunroof (a $3000 option) doesn't extend to the back.
There are integrated booster seats - love these - and Isofix anchors for the kiddies' car seats and plenty of storage, including a deep and wide 500-litre boot.
On the road
There are some cars that make the journey rather effortless, keeping you relatively engaged and nicely comfortable whether your foray is a temper-fraying city commute or a more carefree longer run.
The S90 D5 (its turbo diesel engine offering 174kW and 480Nm) is one of those offering a composed, balanced drive with steadfast assurance in almost every situation.
There is a little bit of understeer through the corners but steering feel, for the most part, is decidedly accurate and the car often gives you the kind of confidence that sometimes has you pressing forward faster than you think.
The D5 can be slightly slow to get going but that is easy to get used to, and once up to speed it is hard to fault. Despite its impressive size and length the S90 is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre; a great turning circle and 360-degree camera making negotiating tight spots a breeze.
Okay, so safety has long been a Volvo staple and the brand is also at the forefront of autonomous driving technology so it is hardly surprising that this S90 D5 is bursting at the seams with these niceties.
Aside from the usual blind-spot monitoring, self-parking and active cruise control, the S90's autonomous braking system has an animal recognition feature and will stop the car if you don't react to the warning.
Great for moose in Sweden, handy for kangaroos and wombats for us Aussies.
The S90's semi-autonomous IntelliSafe system will keep you on course but works better in built-up cities than dark country roads.
Disappointingly, some of the features you would expect in this price range (our car was a cool $100k once on-road costs were factored in) are optional extras. The multi-view camera ($1750) really should be standard in this model.
Once you get over Volvo not being as generous as it should, make sure you tick the box for the Tech pack ($3000) which includes the multi-view camera as well as head-up display, Apple CarPlay and digital radio.
Requirements, really, for such a luxury offering.
There is no doubt the Volvo S90 D5 is on the pricey side but it is a fun, super-safe car to drive with a stunning design inside and out.
It offers a great alternative to the German triumvirate - Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series -and has the luxury and technology that buyers in this class demand.
Model: Volvo S90 D5 Inscription.
Details: Five-door, all-wheel-drive luxury mid-size sedan.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel generating 173kW @ 4000rpm and 480Nm @ 1750-2250rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed sport automatic.
Consumption: 5.1 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: From $96,900.
What matters most
What we liked: Smooth, capable ride, fine looks, luxurious finishes.
What we'd like to see: More standard inclusions. Warranty and servicing: Three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Smartcare capped price servicing ranging from $2095 (3 years, 45,000km) to $6925 (5 years, 75,000km).
Driving experience 18/20
Features and equipment 17/20
Functionality and comfort 18/20
Value for money 13/20
Style and design 18/20
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