I suddenly became very self-conscious as I rumbled through traffic in a shiny Volvo XC90, which is exactly the type of vehicle being targeted in this debate. So, in the first of a series of reviews of four-wheel drive vehicles, we find out the benefits of using these vehicles within the chauffeur industry.
There’s no doubt, the most popular 4×4 vehicle in the industry is the Range Rover Vogue, mainly for its British status and ability to pretty much go anyway it wants. Saying that, I am one of very few people who have managed to get a Vogue stuck in the middle of nowhere!
Vehicles such as the Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz M-Class and BMW X5 are becoming more common place since the bout of bad weather over recent years. Chauffeurs soon discovered that keeping the wheels turning when the white stuff falls is paramount – having a £60,000 car stuck in on the driveway could be crippling for a small chauffeur firm.
The Volvo XC90 is one of the vehicles which is on the list of 4×4 buyers (or All Wheel Drive as Volvo prefer to say). Not only is it the cheapest option, but it offers acres of room, flexibility and even a seven seats. Although the two rear seats which are located in the boot area are not really suitable for client space, but it may give the chauffeur some peace of mind if an extra passenger arrives on the job.
It was unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show in 2002, And soon become Volvo’s top-selling vehicle in the United States. The XC90 was also Volvo’s best selling model worldwide in 2005 with 85,994 cars sold. To the eye very little has changed over those ten years – Volvo has made have made regular improvements to the car as a whole over that ten years rather than launching an ‘all-new’ model after just five years like many other manufacturers.
The engine certainly won’t win any drag races and isn’t as smooth and quiet as some of its competitors, but it returns a reasonable 35mpg with a CO2 of 219 g/km. The cabin offers a spacious environment with good quality leather, especially on the ‘R Design’ range of XC90’s. However, I do feel it is time for a little facelift, maybe to match is younger brother the XC60 which is a little more modern inside and out.
So, should chauffeurs feel guilty driving around town in a 4×4 vehicle which is never likely to see more than a dirty puddle? No, because there are more reasons to owning a 4×4 than the obvious like the driving position for example. The higher ride gives the chauffeur a better view of the road ahead which is ideal for giving Mr Client a smoother ride – this is also ideal for the security side of the business. If an escape is ever needed, then the extra ride height gives more flexibility to make it happen effectively.
The Volvo is a great option for a company on a smaller budget than the Range Rover guys, also it benefits from smaller running costs compared to the others. 4×4 luxury is never going to rival that of a 7-Series or Bentley, but at least the Volvo offers sliding and reclining middle seats and a few gizmo’s in the back to make it a relatively nice place to be for clients.
The Volvo XC90 range starts from £35,175 however an R-Design version with a sharper design comes with a price tag of slightly over £40,000.
Editor: Paul Gibson