THE biggest incentive for car makers to get something right first time around is that if they do they can continue with their winning formula until the cows come home.
The Volvo XC90 is a classic example, along with the current Range Rover, both of which coincidentally have now been around for ten years.
Ten years is a long time when it comes to an automotive life cycle so the fact both models are still in production – and still proving popular – is a feat that should not be under-estimated.
Sure, both have had mid-life makeovers and revisions along the way, but Volvo’s revamp of the XC90 in 2007 was fairly cosmetic with restyled front and rear and a new interior.
There’s no denying the XC90 continues to be one of the best designed and family-friendly SUVs in its class, arguably still the benchmark for competitors to ape.
Style-wise it sits somewhere between the 100 per cent traditional boxy SUVs and those modern more curvaceous ones and amazingly it doesn’t really look dated – even after ten years.
Its profile is easily and effectively enhanced by the addition of darkened glass in the rear windows, a feature that really helped this model stand out. It’s a simple enough modification but one which makes a huge difference and doesn’t look at all tacky or over the top.
The interior is classy and looks and feels fairly modern, even if the instrumentation doesn’t quite have the cutting edge quirkiness that characterises current Volvo models.
Apart from looking good the XC90’s real strength is its level of family-friendliness.
As a family car the XC90 gets ticks in pretty much every box. Everything you are likely to ask for seems to be taken care of with plenty more features you might never even have thought of too but which turn out to be extremely useful.
Many of the clever design touches make you wonder why no-one thought of them before.
The rear seats, even the centre one which also has a built-in child booster seat, slide forward and back echoing MPV-style versatility.
You also get two extra rear seats that fold up in the boot to turn it into a more than competent seven-seater. Best of all even when they’re in use there is still a fair amount of load space.
One example of the XC90's clever little touches are the cup holders for the two rear-most seats. Maybe it wasn't even intentional but they double as splendid wine bottle carriers, meaning you should never have the misfortune of a dangerously loose wine bottle rolling round your boot ever again.
The cleverness continues with the dual-purpose seat belts for the rear seats, which double-up as securing belts in order to secure a bulky item like a pushchair in the load bay that might otherwise be prone to movement.
There is much more besides, including handy little storage compartments here, there and everywhere.
The D5’s diesel engine is a decent all-rounder, even if it at times feels like it has to work hard to propel what is ultimately a fairly big car around.
And while it might not be one of the fastest accelerating SUVs in its class it comes into its own at higher speeds and will comfortably cruise along a motorway all day long, making long journeys an absolute breeze.
Ride quality is excellent and while handling is by no means sporty it manages the job well enough for a large SUV, with pitch and roll kept to a minimum.
And if you plan on going off-road the XC90 will cope with most terrain.
Looking back to those Range Rover comparisons, the next generation model of Land Rover’s flagship model has just been unveiled and will be here before long but the next generation XC90 won’t be going into production until 2014.
The existing model will therefore be with us for a little bit longer, during which time it will no doubt prove as popular as ever, thanks to a winning design formula that still shows little signs of ageing.
The tough job for Volvo will be how to come up with a replacement that continues the success story so far.
Volvo XC90 D5 SE Lux Geartronic
Mechanical: 200bhp, 2,400cc, 5cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox
Max speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
Combined mpg: 34.4
Insurance group: 42
CO2 emissions: 215g/km
BIK rating: 35%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles