There are two things I’ve always struggled to understand: Australian’s incessant love for SUVs and their lack of awareness of everything South Australia has to offer. So in a bid to debunk the stereotypes, I decided to drive a Volvo XC90 Inscription D5 to the south coast.
The Volvo XC90 is a seven-seater SUV, and as you’d expect from the Swedish carmaker, it’s jam-packed with safety gear.
As a childless-20-something, the appeal of an oversize SUV with no off-road capabilities and two extra seats is lost on me. But from the moment I sat on the leather-covered seats surrounded by the spacious and luxurious interiors, a bond was formed.
When I realised the boot was able to fit the gear for two people heading on a month-long vacation – two suitcases, two overnight bags, picnic hampers and gifts – I knew we were in business.
But first, I had to get the XC90 across the Victorian/South Australian boarder for some exploration of the state’s best wine regions – the Barossa Valley and the Fleurieu Peninsula.
THE BAROSSA VALLEY WITH A FAMILY OF THREE
It took less than one tank of the XC90’s 71-litre diesel tank to drive from Melbourne to the Barossa Valley and back to Adelaide. That’s almost 900km. The Volvo XC90 is ridiculously fuel efficient, with Volvo claiming 6.2L/100km for the D5.
Situated close to one-hour northeast of Adelaide, the Barossa is one of South Australia’s premier wine regions, specializing in Shiraz. But there was no wine tasting this time, just a chance to have some lunch with some friends at the delicious Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop.
If you don’t know who Maggie Beer is, you haven’t been watching enough Masterchef. The Australian cook and food author originated from Sydney but she’s lived in the Barossa Valley for nearly 40 years and is an icon of the region.
In 1979 – along with her husband – Beer set up a restaurant, which is now known as Maggie Beer’s Pheasant Farm and Farm Shop; a delicious, homely café that merges rich aromas of home country cooking and fresh coffee.
An assortment of Beer’s locally produced quince, pate and verjuice are on sale in the shop, and the pheasant farm is a special treat for wandering toddlers who will no doubt get a kick out of the free-roaming peacocks.
After lunch, it was time to test how the XC90 performs as a family car. My friends’ two-year-old was still a bit small for the Volvo’s second-row in-built booster seats, but ISOFIX made transferring his seat nice and easy. Even if we had two child-seats in the back, there would have been plenty of room for an adult in the middle. Win!
Driving through the streets of the Barossa while vineyards flashed past our windows, it wasn’t long before the toddler fell asleep. Even the XC90’s road racket and noisy aircon wasn’t enough to push the exhaustion.
Stating the obvious, the XC90 is made for families, so it was interesting, then, to get the perspective of two new parents with an only child. First thing noticed was the lack of cup holders – two in the front, two in the back. By the time we secured our takeaway coffees, and the toddler’s drink bottle, there was nothing left, which meant forgotten water bottles rolling on the floor – every parent’s dream, right!?
It was also luckily we didn’t have any pooey-nappy emergencies on the way home, because the lack of a fold-down rear tailgate would mean my leather seats become a de-facto changing table, and I was just not ready for that kind of challenge.
For a young family of three, a large SUV is not a practical choice – it’s a lot of money for a lot of wasted seats. Unless you regularly play weekend taxi (in which case do you really want to spend all that money to accommodate other parents?), you’re probably better off looking at a medium SUV, like the Volvo XC60.