By: Dave Abrahams

Johannesburg - Volvo's range-topping XC90 Excellence, released this week in South Africa, marks a new direction for the Swedish carmaker, simply because it's produced on a separate, specialised assembly line at the Torslanda plant in Gothenburg line. And that's a first step towards joining the world's automotive elite with a 'bespoke' division.

And it's a big first step: the XC90 Excellence is based on the T8 Twin Engine hybrid, with 235kW and 400Nm of supercharged and turbocharged petrol powering the front wheels through an eight-speed Geartronic transmission.and a 65kW / 240Nm electric on the rear axle - but as a luxury four-seater with just two armchairs in the back, offering their pampered passengers every mod con in the book and then some.

The interior trim is also a cut above the 'standard' T8, including extra sound insulation and an upgraded 20 speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system, with special perforated nappa leather upholstery to match the door panels and dashboard, complemented by trim elements in genuine open-pore walnut and real aluminium.

All four seats have heating, ventilation and massage functions, as well la adjustable side bolsters and an extendable seat cushion, while the rear seats also have built-in footrests, a well as two extra storage pockets and an armrest glove box. A touch-screen control panel, neatly recessed in the centre console, extends to let rear-seat passengers control their seat adjustment, heating or cooling, and the massage function.

Earl Grey or Dom Perignon?

Also standard are tablet holders in the front seat backs and folding tray tables, a 230V power outlet for charging laptops and phones on the move, and two USB ports.

The cup holders can be heated or cooled, depending on whether you are drinking Earl Grey or Dom Perignon, and there's a fridge between the two rear seats, complete with two handmade Orrefors crystal champagne flutes to match the Orrefors crystal gear selector knob that's standard on all T8s, as well as the special finish on the cup holders in the centre console and on each tray table.

There's a glass partition between the rear seats and the luggage compartment which, thanks to the removal of the third row of seats, will now house 431 litres of Louis Vuitton under the automated load cover - or 726 when loaded to the headliner.

Just about every optional luxury extra you can think is standard on the Excellence, including air suspension all round, adapative full LED lighting with auto high beam, 21 inch alloys, a panoramic glass roof, four-zone automatic climate control including rear-seat controls and cooled glove box, satellite navigation with free map updates for life, smartphone integration for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, privacy glass and rear window sun blinds.

All you have to do is choose one of 10 paint colours, decide between dark grey or beige leather, and plonk down R1 550 000, which includes a five-year or 100 000km warranty and maintenance plan.

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