If you’re male, aged over 45 and went to boarding school, you’ll remember Matron. She could be kind and motherly if she chose, but if you put a foot wrong her wrath was instant and fierce.
So it is with the new Volvo XC70, a car that cossets and corrects in equal measure. Let’s deal with the cossetting first. The seats are as soft and deep as anything in Harrods’ furnishing department and the accommodating ride means you can almost float over potholes as if they weren’t there.
It’s got oodles of kit, too, and not just the usual stuff either. How about heated seats with three warmth settings, audio controls for rear seat passengers and a lift-up flap in the boot that gives you something to strap your bags of groceries to?
It’s good-looking and classy, too, with angled reflectors making for a ritzy rear that reminds you that that Abba weren’t the only Swedes who could let their hair down. There’s a burly 2.4 litre 180hp diesel up front too, with more than enough power to gobble up straggling Nissan Micras. And the boot, of course, is characteristically huge.
Being an XC, it has on-demand 4wd that shifts drive to the rear if traction is lost on the front wheels. Plus there’s Land Rover-style Hill Descent Control to keep you from rolling down hills and 66mm (2.5in) of extra ground clearance over the standard V70.
But back to matron. She may not be physically sitting in the back of the car, scowling at you when you brake too hard, but her spirit is there in the many safety systems that are fitted to the XC70. In fact this car is so honest and upright it makes the Archbishop of Canterbury look morally doubtful.
First there was Lane Departure Warning, which uses a camera to monitor the white lines and beeps at you if you change lane on a motorway without indicating first. Then there was Adaptive Cruise Control, which employs a forward-facing radar to spot cars in front and automatically slow you down if you get too near.
Next up were Distance Alert and Collision Warning which flash up red lights on the dash and beep if they think you’re bearing down too fast on the snail-like pensioner in front.
You want more? OK, what wasn’t fitted to the test car (but is on the option list) is Driver Alert System, which beeps at you if you get dozy and start driving erratically. And finally, you can have the Blind Spot Information System which tells you if you’ve failed to spot someone in your blind spot.
Having an electronic matron in the back may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does make you drive better. As to the XC generally, it’s well-made, well-equipped, smart, and quiet. Downsides? Not much. The ride can be a bit wallowy and, at £31,035, it’s a premium price.