Cross Country with the Volvo V90

Earlier this year I spent a week behind the wheel of the Volvo S90, the first Volvo I’ve been in since the family 340, a 1991-badge hatchback that was better known for its safety than performance. An immediate contender in the executive market, the S90 is a fabulous car – powerful yet sleek on the outside, very comfortable on the inside, filled with gadgets and quite fun to drive.

The V90 (and its Cross Country version) is essentially an S90 with a squared rear end, albeit with a few tweaks here and there. It’s not quite as good looking, in my opinion, though both share sleek lines, a forward stance and that aggressive Volvo prow – there’s no mistaking it for anything else on the road. Having said that, the V90 Cross Country is one of the most stylish estates on the market today, in a segment perhaps more known for practicality than looks. Straddling the line between estate and SUV, it’s been raised 60mm compared to the ordinary V90 (offering a more composed ride), but doesn’t look any bit awkward on the road.

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Swedish delight

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When I was about five years old, my parents purchased a grey 1991 Volvo 340, a 1.4L compact five-door hatch that was renowned more for its safety than its performance. I remember it because it was one of the first cars to follow our luminous green Ford Fiesta, and because it had wipers on the headlamps. Five-year-old me was quite tickled by this – clearly some sort of mistake had been made at the factory. That marked the last time I was in a Volvo until quite recently, when I sat behind the wheel of the new S90.

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Decisions, decisions: Audi’s updated A3

One of my favourite places to drive in Ireland is Cork, right after the Wicklow Mountains. Getting there is relatively painless on the motorway (though a little boring), Cork city – compared to Dublin – is actually quite pleasant to drive around, even during rush hour, and the countryside boasts some nice and twisty roads combined with a truly beautiful landscape.

My most recent trip to the Rebel County was spent behind the wheel of an Audi A3 saloon. Audi, like fellow executive brands BMW and Mercedes, has spent a great deal of time and effort in building a range of vehicles to suit every need and desire, from the entry level A1 for urban dwellers who want something small and light on its feet, to the R8 supercar for (at €235,000) the very wealthy petrolheads. The A3 is somewhere in the middle – not too big and not too small, not the cheapest Audi on the market, but not the most expensive either.

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The Well-Dressed Hooligan: Part II

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Before Christmas I drove Skoda’s diesel Octavia RS, which I summed up as a ‘hooligan in disguise’ – a family car with plenty of comfort and space, but with a wilder side. It’s certainly a decent car, with a sporty design, smooth gearbox, and is both fast and fun to drive. What I was really looking forward to, however, was the chance to get behind the wheel of the boosted petrol version.

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A Hooligan in Disguise

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There are a few cars that have made a lasting impression over my few years of motoring reviews. The Audi R8, for obvious reasons. The outlandish electric BMW i3 and the fantastic Toyota GT86. And now the Skoda Octavia RS has joined that list.

There is the possibility that I may be a little biased when it comes to the Octavia. My first car, the car in which I learned to drive, was a Mark I Octavia, which I quickly came to appreciate for both its simplicity and its cavernous boot during my college years. And the latest Octavia RS is a great example of how much the brand has evolved.

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From Tokyo to Turin: Meet the Fiat Fullback

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If you think that Fiat’s new Fullback is familiar, you’re not wrong. Essentially speaking, it’s an Mitsubishi L200 with a bit of a nose job, a case of what’s known as badge engineering. It’s the first entry from Fiat in the mid-size pickup segment, going head to head with the likes of the Toyota Hilux or the Nissan Navara, as well as the aforementioned L200. I test drove the L200 last year and was really impressed with it, from its handling on the road to its comfort, so I expected great things from the hulking black Fiat that served as my test model for the week. It didn’t disappoint.

Two things in particular impressed me about the Fullback, not counting its muscular and flowing physique, which I found a little more appealing than the L200. Firstly the acres of space, both inside and out. It’s a big machine, with a wheelbase of 3 metres and an overall length of 5.3m. Inside there’s comfortable seating for four adults and a skinny teenager, though it could do with a few more cubbyholes for storage, while the glovebox is a little cramped. Headroom is in abundance – you’d need to be pushing 7 feet to feel claustrophobic. Secondly, the fuel economy. Combined driving (with a less than light foot) resulted in an impressive 41mpg (6.9L/100km), which is by no means terrible for a beast with a kerb weight of 1,860kg and propelled along by a 2.4L diesel engine producing 180hp. If you tend to drive fast and without regard to your fuel spend, expect somewhere in the region of 34.7mpg (9.1L/100km).

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A Renegade Life

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The new Jeep Renegade represents a number of firsts for the US carmaker. It’s their first entry into the miniature SUV market for one thing, while it’s also the first Jeep to be exclusively built in Europe and then sold in the US and other markets, instead of vice versa.

To look at, the Renegade is very much a blend of European and North American influences. It’s got the iconic Jeep grille and headlights, for example, and various nods to its heritage around the cabin, though it’s not quite as square as the Wrangler. Style-wise, I still find it hard to say whether I like it or not. The front grille is fantastic – pure Jeep (and chrome) – while the rear, including the lights, is certainly interesting. When you look at it from the side, however, it does seem a little squat, like the offspring of the aforementioned Wrangler and a Skoda Yeti. It’s more adorable than macho.

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