All this made big news in the automotive world. Volvo, a brand once synonymous for its big saloons and cavernous estates is now exclusively offering SUVs on both the UK and American markets. This sounds almost unbearable to die-hard Volvo stalwarts such as yours truly.

Hearing this snippet of news was just as momentous as news that Ford had pulled the proverbial plug on its gutsy little city cars, such as the ever-popular Fiesta or the venerable Focus. These cars had represented bread and butter motoring for as long as most of us can recall. Nowadays, if you don't hurry up, they'll soon all be gone and the only way to keep on our motoring pathways will be in one of those increasingly ubiquitous hybrid or electric SUV’s. A case of SUV or BUS(t). See what I did there?

Anyway, all these changes at Volvo had been looming for quite some time. Back in June of this year, Volvo deleted the S90 and the Cross Country versions of both the V60 and V90 from its UK lineup. Now, the S60 saloon and the remaining V60 and V90 estates have also suffered the same fate.

To me, and many others of my generation, it seems quite extraordinary how fads and fashions have evolved to get us to this point. I guess, in Volvo’s case, trends have arguably shifted fairly gradually - until recently.

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time, big Volvo estates and their luxury saloon siblings were de rigueur in many walks of polite society. Lately, however, Volvo saloons and estates accounted for less than 10% of their UK sales. In a word, it's the market that ultimately dictates what generates profits for car corporations.

Despite Volvo’s past traits for a gradual (almost tectonic) pace of evolution; these days things are moving along far more swiftly. This means that Volvo has been somewhat compelled to transform their product range. Not only does this mean moving towards full electrification but it also means evolving new platforms and brand new technologies across their now much leaner model range. These days there are plenty of compelling reasons for motor manufacturers to develop and consolidate their line-ups as more and more electric and hybrid models appear.

Volvo has long embraced the notion of sustainability and the employment of environmentally acceptable working practices. They have also gravitated towards the use of environmentally friendly materials in their cars, such as water-based paints. Therefore it comes as no great surprise that the company is now at the forefront of making those all-important eco-friendly technological transitions too. As things stand, in the UK, Volvo is now definitely an SUV-only brand with the internal combustion engine rapidly being consigned to Volvo's history books.

Between 1991 and 2003 I had been an ardent Volvo driver. My choice carriages back then were the venerable 700 and 900 Series saloons. I even had a 940 estate ready for when our first child arrived! At the time a Volvo estate was the perfect choice because they not only offered the exact same creature comforts as the saloons but, of course, the fabled estates came with that famously cavernous load bay.

The 940 estate was even, strangely, quite stylish in its own uniquely wardrobe-like sort of way. There was something timeless about the Jan Wilsgaard design. I suppose timelessness was honed over time because the good old Volvo estate had been around for such a long period. Certainly from the 200 Series days to the later 900’s, there was a very familiar theme to the styling. But us stalwarts just loved it! That ‘boxy but good’ theme didn't really change all that much even when the cutting-edge 800 Series hit the market during the early 90’s. After all, why alter what was very clearly a winning formula?

Bite the bullet

I was actually rather sad when I traded my Volvo 940 estate for a seven-seater. Although my 940 estate did have rearward-facing seats mounted in the cargo bay, we didn't really feel too confident about putting our precious cargo in what was effectively the boot. We had to bite the bullet and look for a car that had seven forward-facing seats and still had room enough for all the usual “infantstucture”.

I was definitely loath to give up my Volvo but it was simply a case of needs-must. And so began many years of 7-seater motoring. Our seven-seaters came in the form of Land Rover Discoveries. They just ticked all the boxes at the time.

Eventually, I did get myself another Volvo (a used but very low mileage 850 estate in pristine condition). It was to become our “second car.” We needed two cars because we’d moved to a larger house in a rural location. Both my wife and I needed a vehicle of our own because we both worked some distance from our new home in rural Wales. When I got the 850 estate, I was like a small child with a lollipop because I’d got my beloved Volvo back! It was so familiar and it just felt right!

Those were the days. Motoring solutions were pretty easy to find because there was an almost unending and often bewildering array of choices. Recently though, I discovered that those choices have diminished as manufacturers move away from fossil-fuelled combustion engines. It's especially noticeable since 2019 or so.

All this EV stuff is all very well for town dwellers who might have access to plentiful public charging points. In our case, we still cover large distances and don't really have ready access to public EV infrastructure. We also still need lots of space too. Prams and buggies may have long gone but now it's become a case of shipping tons of chattels, books, clothes and computer equipment to various University campuses. This is before I even mention grandkids! Most EV and hybrid SUVs are quite small compared to large estate cars or big 4x4s such as a Discovery or a Range Rover.

Workable solution

Recently, I actually pre-empted the demise of the internal combustion engine by buying another very low-mileage diesel Volvo estate. It's a two-year-old V90 with just 14,000 miles. Having bought 3 consecutive diesel-powered Ford Mondeo Estates (which are enormous), I simply couldn't find another purely diesel-powered example to replace my 2017 model. Any MK5 Mondeo beyond the 2020 model year tends to be hybrids with a CVT or semi-automatic “Powershift” transmission system. For me, those transmission types simply don't appeal. Especially since the intention is to keep my trusty diesel for many years to come. By the time I need another car, I hope that EV infrastructure will be much improved and actually workable in our area.

Even V90’s beyond 2021 are mainly plug-in hybrids. But I've managed to find one of the last of the diesels. It’s by no means a dinosaur because Volvo have loaded their super luxurious top-end estate with loads of techy gadgets including the semi-autonomous “Pilot Assist” as well as intelligent cruise control. It's a very nice way to rediscover Volvo cars. And boy, have they changed!


Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring. 

Douglas Hughes