How to take a stylish family holiday by car!

We tried out the new Volvo XC90 to see if we could drive and arrive at a Scottish holiday resort in style

How to take a stylish family holiday by car!

Destination family holidays usually involve flying to reach sunnier climes but with heighted security and ever shrinking baggage allowances this can make far-flung getaways seem a little less luxurious. Driving to a holiday resort in the UK, believe it or not, can make packing, travelling and holidaying a whole lot easier, especially if you have a larger family to transport, sporting equipment to take and the luggage to load up. Since the arrival of our 3 daughters we’ve had several large family cars in order to travel but without wanting to limiting the type of holiday we take. Activity holidays are something we enjoy as a family  – and with the new Volvo XC90 we are going to see if we really can hit the Scottish hills in style.

The new Volvo XC90 D5 driven in Tarragona, Spain
The new Volvo XC90 D5

First-class style

On the face of it the Volvo XC90 screams class. With it’s contemporary Scandinavian design and craftsmanship, which is evident both and inside and out. So, even with those last-minute holiday (panic) moments you arrive looking like you just stepped out of first class. After closing the doors we really felt like we in our own private jet – no queues or check-in delays here – and once we breathed in its carefully filtered, clean air the stresses of the city, work and school literally faded into the background. We really felt like the journey was the beginning of our holiday. When was the last time flying felt like that? The ability to go anywhere in style, comfort and yes, luxury meant we arrived at our destination unruffled and calm – and with all of our luggage (and nerves) intact.


Extra legroom?

Although, driving to adventure type holidays presents its own set of challenges – this is not your average suitcase per person each rule – as you need extra specialist clothing and equipment.  The first hurdle for me would simply be the interior size having had three children in three years; we’ve always struggled with the issue of the ‘trio of car seats in the back combination’.


Surprisingly, the new XC90 has a very generous interior thanks to the new wider shape, so had we needed them, those three car seats would have fitted in with ease. The window blinds, USB ports and vast sky roof – which provided a beautiful viewing space when the sunshine beamed through – and made us really take in the journey as we drove along. The vast interior is definitely one of XC90’s strengths, and this new model improves things further. The seats are comfortable and roomy, legroom is good in the first two rows – although the floor in the second row isn’t entirely flat due to a transmission tunnel that also houses the batteries in the plug-in hybrid which limits the foot space for the middle passenger slightly

Space in the back third row is reasonably generous for adults also– although the headroom may become tight for anyone 5’8” or taller – at least the kids don’t have to be put right at the back.


Family Friendly

There’s enough room for the kids that the elbows aren’t constantly nudging each other (limiting squabbles) and there’s enough pockets to stash all their random toys, magazines, electronics and snacks.

The Sensus Connect, Apple Car Play and new center display effortlessly integrated all our various devises too – allowing us to all seamlessly connect with the digital world (hey, we can’t totally disconnect!) with ease.  Everything is controlled through the touchscreen and there are ports in the front and back. So, far so good – we’re driving to our holidayt and it feels like a little like home.  To pass the time (and ease the 11 non-stop hours on the road), we stared out of the huge windows, repeatedly lifted and dropped the in-built blinds (sturdy, thankfully) and even played I Spy. There was also a highly scientific survey of those travelling in the back as the children reported their favourite things about the XC90:

Youngest child: “I love the special-ness

Middle child: “The sky roof is cool – and, I like the window blinds”

Eldest child: “It’s really easy to put the extra seats down by myself, so I don’t have to sit with those two!”

Here she is talking about the easy versatility of the seats. The spare fold-up seats are easy enough to activate with one hand even for older children (or, parents can while holding everything said child owns in the other hand!) It also meant that we didn’t need to bother with a roof rack, which proves how family friendly the XC90 is. We packed the kids, luggage and adventure equipment In fact, we got in everything we needed in for our break and no worries about excess baggage either. Backpacks – check.  Spare snacks – check.  Suncream – check. Several pair of shoes – oh, yes!

The Drive

If you have all the systems activated the car almost drives itself. Thanks to its Pilot Assist programme it brakes for you, thinks for you and even steers for you (shame it can’t unpack for you too!) The automatic lane management system is designed to prevent you from poor lane control and also prevented the husband’s preferred method of overtaking. 

He discovered that if he followed that trusty old rule: mirror, signal, manoeuvre (quaint, hmm?) that the car would let him go. Frankly, it’s a feature that should be installed on all cars: particularly for those who rarely use indicators! It would also make the school-run a little easier especially when the kids are bickering in the back! The technical capabilities are impressive too and the 360˚ camera makes parking and maneuvering in narrow places a simple operation. With an impressive bird’s eye view of everything surrounding the car on the center display – manoeuvring out of those tiny mountain roads, or equally those tight supermarket parking spaces a doodle. Our model had the winter pack added, which meant better tyres for varying weather conditions, as well as a heated steering wheel – I mean, what a treat!

It certainly has a nice driving position on the road, equal to that of some larger rivals, such as Range Rover or Land Rover, while retaining a nimble edge. Having driven all brands over the years what impressed me most about the Volvo XC90 was the feeling of lightness and ease on the drive. This is in part due to its design as a crossover car, rather than straight 4×4. This is notable and now I’m a convert.


It’s certainly spacious, stylish, full of the latest technical capabilities – an all-round family-pleaser. I personally love it. From its outstanding safety features (Volvo’s goal is that no one is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020), to the automatic driving programme and luxe extras, it’s really so well thought out for todays modern family.


A pleasure to drive and it’s better looking than ever. Practical, quiet, effortless – and with more technology than the average home – it made this family of 5 feel like we had travelled as VIP’s.

** Natalie Johnson drove the Volvo XC90 D5 AWD Prices for the XC90 start at £47,350 and £52,050 for the Inscription.