A private jet on four wheels

2014-12-07 11:00

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Volvo’s revolutionary newXC90is almost here. Dubbed by ­Volvo as “the most luxurious Volvo ever made”, it’s set to fluff out some serious tail feathers in the premium SUV department.

And what a joy the XC90 is to behold. Just looking at it, you can sense the expertise, passion and craftsmanship that went into its design and manufacture. The radical new design language is a taste of things to come, and will reaffirm Volvo’s intention for world SUV domination.

Attention to detail is evident everywhere – even the gorgeous leather steering wheel and soft leather seats have been hand-stitched. Then there’s the gear lever made of crystal glass from Orrefors, the famous Swedish glass maker, and diamond-cut controls for the start/stop button and volume control.

And for the music aficionados, Volvo promises the XC90 will have the best sound system on four wheels. The top-of-the-range Bowers & Wilkins ­premium sound system features 19 speakers.

So how did the Swedes manage to make the interior so clean and uncluttered? By omitting a whole lot of buttons, of course, thanks to Volvo’s Sensus system.

This means the internet-enabled, central touch screen controls everything – from the temperature to checking facts on Wikipedia.

And you don’t even need to physically touch it – an infrared film means it can sense even a gloved finger, so some commands can be performed by swiping a hand.

Feeling hot or cold? Just say so.

The voice-activated XC90 will keep adjusting the temperature by one degree until you’re comfortable.

Then there are the safety features. New to the Volvo City Safety system is intersection braking. When the driver is crossing into the path of an oncoming vehicle, the system will detect this and engage the brakes.

Queue assist, much like Mercedes-Benz’s radar-based distronic plus function, will automatically brake and accelerate in heavy traffic situations, while you’re putting on your mascara or adjusting your tie.

At the unveiling at the V&A ­Waterfront in Cape Town, we had football star Lucas Radebe on the launch with us – he was the first person in South Africa to buy a XC90 AWD D5 First Edition, priced at R1?050?000.

The unveiling also coincided with the Volvo Ocean Race, the most gruelling yacht race in the world. From the relative comfort of a rubber inflatable boat, we had the opportunity to ride alongside the Volvo race teams as they competed in the in-port race.

Conditions were extremely choppy, but we were kitted out in waterproof gear from head to toe, and ­returned to shore weather-beaten but exhilarated.

I can’t imagine what those poor sailors have to go through for weeks at a time – exposed to the elements and eating 5?000 to 6?000 calories’ worth of goop a day, yet they still manage to return to port a few kilograms lighter.

Every team member is only allowed one personal item, such as moisturiser, iPod or lip balm, so the yacht ­remains as light as possible.

The Swedes are very focused on protecting the environment, so instead of finding a gas-guzzling V8 under the XC90’s bonnet, you will find an efficient 2l, four-cylinder petrol engine or diesel Drive-E engine, with impressive power output.

One can expect ludicrously low fuel economy – as little as three litres per 100km in the diesel models. But I’ll have to see that for myself when they become available in South Africa in August 2015.

So how much does this five-star Scandinavian hotel on wheels cost? Prices will start at just less than R800?000.

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