Scandinavian Flick

The DTW fleet gains a new entrant. 

All images: the author.

Humans: funny creatures with emotions, feelings and urges. What was the divining moment, the will to leap from a car I’ve known and enjoyed for nearly five years to one that could be respectfully called a Swedish Bentley? A feeling named ennui – my Octavia was perfectly fine – but that was then. Could it be vanity coming a’ calling, age related issues (knees, back) maybe, appealing to more sybaritic senses, or could it be boiled down to simply wanting a change?

Even with regular washing and polishing, the Škoda sparkle had waned. I’ve compared the feelings I underwent, for no-one forced this issue upon me, to that of a seasoned motor racing driver. Not necessarily a champion, but one in need of a new direction, a fresh challenge with an unfamiliar team, and, most importantly, a new steed. With change, different objectives could be sought out. The daily commute might remain constant but the excitement could be enhanced, surely?

The decision to change came swiftly, but to what badge would my allegiance fall? I most certainly didn’t want a smaller car. German offerings were out, which will surprise and probably annoy some friends but the decision was not purely made from DTW readings, more the Teutonic trio’s determined attempts to out-aggress one other.

Japanese considerations were twofold: Lexus? Ultra-reliable but some outré outward styling effects did for me. Infiniti? With a diminishing presence on European shores? Sayonara. The French always have a way with my heart strings, but Citroën (forgive me, DS…) have yet to tempt with their 9, whilst Peugeot’s 508 did initially (and continues to) attract with that fastback shape and frameless windows, but interior oddness sunk that ship.

Blighty’s wares then. Bentley would have required (those non-materialising) payments from the Nigerian prince. The West-Midlands crew… hmmm… Solihull’s finest were a distinct possibility for at least seven days. My price bracket however, could only cover the models slightly older than I would care for. Being a risk averse character, aches were felt over the lure of the L322, pain was experienced on researching running costs – it remains the only SUV considered.

The Leaping Cat, then. Well, the XE registered for all of a few seconds; somewhat bland, rather forgettable. The XJ was a possibility until my wife made a comment that “only thugs drive Jags.” Apologies to those more law abiding XJ steerers…

Leaving what exactly? No longer aspiring to Mladá Boleslav’s fare, The Blue Oval could only convince me to search elsewhere and where’s the nearest Maserati dealer for that Ghibli when you need a service or repair? Miles away. In reality, il Tridente was never a go-er.

Lo, we reach the lands of the midnight sun. Seeing as Norway and Finland have yet to bother the car market, and SAAB went deep South long ago, the Swedes began their push for supremacy. With my better half’s idea of an SUV quickly dispelled (we can afford one dear, but only if we eat beans on toast every other week), and lacking either dogs, fishing tackle or children (to say nothing of associated paraphernalia), to require an (admittedly, handsome) estate, the saloon (Koensigsegg are so passé…) was obviously the shape thus affixed in the crosshairs. To my surprise, my wife proved most amenable to the chosen steed.

First impressions count, and it took no time upon viewing the Thomas Ingenlath-supervised S90 to have me salivating. Barely seen in these purlieus, the synapses became invigorated over this Chinese built, Swedish designed (along with multinational inputs from Robin Page (interior), Maximilian Missoni (exterior), Christine Lindberg (digital stuff) along with Ebba Maria Thunberg, (materials and colours ), almost fastback with hints of coupé, saloon. Target finally acquired; now, to which version?

With the internet’s glut of information roundly ignored, I stuck to my gut instinct and teachings from the dim and distant past – get the best you can afford. Being old fashioned on car buying matters I dismissed the base models for no other reasons than better was available. But nor did I want the slightly more shouty, R-Design version. Inscription was the only way. Initial adjectives I found myself using regarding internet pictures were, in no particular order; sober, esteemed, luxurious, balanced, unpretentious, uncommon. A DTW kinda car.

An early morning trip to the local, closed dealership, skilfully avoiding the loop eared, grey haired chatterboxes (other descriptions of car salesmen are available) gleaned an idea of dimensions, trim specifics, available hues (Sigh…black or grey) and equipped with some DTW-sourced advice rattling round the cranium, my mind became set.

Forewarned being forearmed, I then set to finding an example I deemed worthy of my hard earned and harder saved shekels. With the trepidation of a 1980’s teenager asking for a girls number, dialogue was opened with a dealer in… Scotland. Yes, this risk averse half centurion decided to make matters even more interesting by looking at a car over 250 miles from home. Distance would normally be no problem, but in our Covid afflicted times, for one requiring a pit stop every fifty miles or so, requiring possible contact with hideous amounts of the great un-masked, a complete non-starter.

Fortunately, following many phone calls over several days leading to insomnia along with more teenage heart flutterings, I got not only the girls number but also the real deal. A car initially costing close to £46,000 when new three years ago was now mine for well less than half that amount. And I set foot in neither dealership nor car – no test drives, barring a nice video from the seller, bought unseen. To these eyes, that’s a result. Yes, some old fashioned cat and mouse shenanigans took place along with many missed calls from both parties, the downside to distance relationships. Technology, whilst helpful, is no substitute to getting up close and personal.

The brigands north of Hadrian’s wall then decided to prioritise a delivery of an XC90 to the Land of our Fathers; don’t get me wrong but as a Yorkshireman who adores Wales, nothing comes before Gods Own County, leaving my purchase floundering in the salty Scottish air. Let us silence those infernal bagpipes, sergeant.

In the grand scheme, these delays led to mild frustration but stronger feelings of anticipation. It’s not everyday one knocks up a half century as well as being driven to something, for a modern car, so ornate. With the final twist of having the Volvo delivered to the Scottish dealers’ owned Leeds-based Lamborghini outlet, the Škoda’s final trip proved most surreal; from a solid hatchback to a large, luxurious saloon, surrounded by Italian exotica. And the sun shone.

My trip home in the Luminous Sand Volvo was as serene as anticipated. The next instalment will cover initial thoughts on ownership. And waves – lots of waves.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

41 thoughts on “Scandinavian Flick”

  1. Well done Andrew, a fine car, and a very intelligent choice. Looking forward to your further reports, and some nice photos. (You’re just teasing us thus far!)

  2. Yes – many congratulations; its a lovely car and it sounds like you got an amazing deal.

    I’m looking forwards to more details and pictures.

  3. Good on you, Andrew! Very fine looking car, inside and out. I hope you have found a good one and it gives you miles (every pun intended) and years of tranquil and happy motoring.

    I still manage to find much to admire about the bodywork on my Octavia Estate, and the overall stance and proportions of the car, not to say the excellent Rio Red (AKA Heinz Tomato Soup) paintwork … but it’s hard not to envy you your very handsome new steed.

  4. Congratulations on your new purchase. I look forward to your early impressions in the next instalment.

  5. I have to admit I ceased to be a Volvo fan when they replaced the Amazon with the 144. I remember reading an Autocar test of the XC90, and the only thing that registered was that it was 4 inches wider than a Disco. Now the road I live on is barely wide enough to pass a Disco if you are unfortunate enough to meet one.
    I hope Andrew has a better experience than ‘Which’ magazine did.

  6. Excellent article Andrew and good luck with your new purchase. I’ve just ordered a new car following similar reasoning to yourself. After 20 years of Foresters a change was due; the Teutons were too aggressive, Honda salesman wanted to come on test drive with no mask, Rav4 very impressive but so ugly inside and out. I actually do need a 4wd SUV so now awaiting a Denim Blue Volvo XC40. Unlike you I go for the base model and add only what I need, in this case spare wheel, tow hitch and reversing camera.

    1. Volvo seems always an honest offer. And after 20 years of FORESTER ownership i am curious as to how it feels! Looking forward to you sharing the new experience.
      My wife says she will never let go of ours 03 XT. She gets dizzy with most other SUVs!

  7. The S90 is a magnificent looking car. I pass one every morning parked in the same place and always stop to admire it. I’m going to stick my neck out here, does anyone else see echos of the Volvo 164 in it’s grill/headlamp treatment?

    1. Agreed. The S90 is the current holder of the title “world´s most beautiful large saloon”. Previous holders included the Maserati QP (2003), Audi S8 (generation 1) and BMW 7 series (E32 1986) and Mercedes S-class (W-126, 1980). I leave out any of the older Jaguars because they weren´t actually that large. The doors of the S90 are delightfully scalloped and almost voluptuously French. I have to say I also really like the previous S80s too.
      I´ve ommitted the Lexus LS400 because while it´s very, very good it´s not beautiful so much as impressive.

    2. Hi Richard. Regarding the “world’s most beautiful large saloon” did you actually mean the 1986 E32 generation 7 series? I’ve always thought it was a bit lardy, and prefer its successor, the 1994 E38:

      I think it is nicely understated and hides its size rather well. Others will think it just looks like an XXL 3 Series, and I get that.

      No argument over the D2 generation Audi A8/S8:

      A perfect design, impossible to improve upon, in my humble opinion.

    3. Hi Daniel, I completely agree with you, the audi a8 in the picture has a design that is difficult to improve, I find the S-class Mercedes (140 designed by Bruno Sacco) overrated, I prefer by far the E 124 class, same designer “smaller” car

  8. Congratulations, Andrew, the S90 certainly a beautiful looking car, inside and out, and by all accounts they are very pleasant to drive and occupy as well. Like everyone else here, looking forward to hearing how you get on with it!
    And how often does one get the opportunity to drop round the local Lambo dealer to pick up one’s new car? Even if one doesn’t actually *like* Lamborghini, there has to be a certain frisson in being able to do that…

    1. We can never have too much Opel Manta on DTW! The Manta A was lovely, every bit as nice as the Mk1 Capri. I never noticed before, but the bonnet is extraordinarily short, necessitating an unusually deep fixed panel between its leading edge and the grille.

      Incidentally (a) who are that couple sitting on the bonnet of what I assume is a heavily modified Manta B, and (b) could they be any more 1980’s with those fluorescent colours, stonewashed denim and big hair?

    2. Good point – the “British” Capri has overshadowed the early Manta. Take a look at the remarkable sculpting in the link. This, I believe, is the result of Opel borrowing from the very best of Detroit clay modelling. Chevrolets from the same period have some very complex and non-obvious shaping going on as well. The Ascona A two door is also very smart. Opel turned out some excellent work at that period and often thereafter.
      I don´t really want to have to choose between the Capri and the Manta. Both series had some lovely bits of autmotive design. It would be nicer if the Opels were better known in the UK and Ireland than they seem to be. The Manta B2 was where Opel gave up a bit but then again, the last Capris were not as nice as the early and middle ones though tidier than the Manta B2. What is the equivalent car today in the market – is there really such a thing? You´d really have to parse the mush of CUVs to find something that might have the same audience. Really, the audience is gone and so is the market. Renault´s Megane coupe, Laguna coupe, the delicious Astra OPC 3-door, the Veloster and Scirocco have all pretty much sunk without much of a trace.

  9. Good afternoon everyone

    Many thanks for your kind words and well wishes. Yes, it’s been quite the ordeal getting this car but by George, worth it! I shall be quoting Mr Herriott for some time. There will be a more In-more depth analysis coming soon but what I can happily reveal is my first month of ownership clicked over today. And I’ve managed to find the long way home on several occasions with 768 extremely comfortable miles racked up.

    The cars width does have its downsides. I’m finding smaller vehicles intent of getting out of my way, regardless of right of way. Bigger stuff either want to brave it out or respectfully slow/pull over but being a laid back kinda guy in an ultra comfy motor I wish to keep for some time, I’m more than happy to allow them “after you.”

    The wheels are a pig to clean and keep clean – regardless of weather- that bodywork in moonlight is something to behold. I’m proud, honoured, lucky and have no regrets in moving from Škoda to Volvo. More updates later and thanks again.

  10. @Daniel: It appears to be a publicity still for a film entitled “Manta, Manta”, which I must admit I have never heard of. And I agree: the only thing that could have made it more eighties would be a photobombing by David Hasselhoff…

  11. At fifty years that Manta has aged very well, thanks Micheal for making me feel old and decrepit!
    And thanks to wonders of electronic translation, what an invigorating story. To have the designer pop along too, fantastic!

  12. Congratulations. I too bought my Volvo in Scotland, despite living in Devon. We flew up (RIP Flybe) and drove home, visiting friends en route.

  13. I hadn’t realised that Duggie Park had ventured so far south – they must pay their footballers well in that part of God’s Own Country. A couple of weeks ago I had to turn down an invitation to see the Evija at their Lotus outlet in Hamilton. I sent a friend in my place to confirm it did happen:

    On the S90 matter, I note from my Foundation Course in Dacia Studies that the “Thor’s Hammer” headlamp feature has, in the space of four years gone from the top of the market to absolute entry level.

    There are quite a few S and V90s in my neighbourhood, at least one of which has replaced a KA9 Honda Leg End. It seems to be a car of the same genre as the much missed big Honda, for people with a yen for quality who want no truck with suvs, and have no time for Teutons.

    That said, more Mantas are always welcome. I’m now ashamed that in my youth I preferred the B to the more finely crafted A. A neighbour had a Manta B with a Rover V8 which looked more at home than the CIH Opel engine.

    Until recently I was unaware of its rich and subtle place in mid-late 20th century German culture and societal observation. How many PhD theses have been written about that aspect of the Manta?

    1. There must be a PhD in the semantics of design to be written, with the Manta as one of the subjects. Or is semiotics? I can´t be sure of the difference. In fairness to the Manta B, the entire car industry was moving away from the muscular shapes of the Manta A´s period. The theme was geometry and simplicity. Look at the way the Rekord went technical in 1977. The predecessor looks like it is a surface of thinnest material stretched over a skeleton; the 1977 car is much more about cold steel folded. Both have their charms. In contrast with the current crop, these cars don´t seem bulky.

  14. I’m thinking it’s hermeneutics – the study and interpretation of the Manta’s textual significance. (or ‘significances’ if you’re a speaker of International Arts English)

    1. It could be phenomenological as well, now I come to think of it.

      I do enjoy the use of hyperplurals in IAE. The “histories” of the Manta, perhaps?

      As a member of said IAE community, I have to stand up for the occasional use of hyperplurals such as “histories”. The idea is that there isn´t one telling of history which is what you might think if you read the Daily Telegraph. There is one history, yes, but many ways to tell it. We could have the German and British histories of the Manta and Capri which is a way of talking about how they were viewed. The German history will deal with the Manta´s strong place in German pop culture and perhaps say less about the Capri. The British history will see the Manta as a footnote and quickly get to the bit where you have a photo of Bodie and Doyle.

      This is probably a bad case – it make more sense in terms of real, national history where there would be a good number of Irish and Scottish people who would agree that their side of the story of the UK might be a little different from, say, Boris Johnson´s history of the UK.

      If I was to be a bit analytical, the semantics of the Manta would deal with the meaning of its forms. The hermeneutics might deal with the message of the entire car (and would allow one to dip into the semantics). The phenomenology of the Manta? Borrowing from the Stanford Encyclopædia of Philosophy: “Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness of Mantas as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something such as a Manta, as it is an experience of or about some object like a Manta. An experience is directed toward an object such as a Manta by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions.” Is a Gavin Green review of a Manta a phenomenological study of some sort? His 1988 review of the Ford Sierra Cosworth comes close. Marvellous to read!

      There is a phenomenological study of underwear choices available at Google Scholar, by the way.

    2. “There is a phenomenological study of underwear choices available at Google Scholar, by the way.”

      Richard, I hope you found that by googling “phenomenological”, otherwise I’d delete your search history.😁

    3. Well, actually, a search for new undies led me to inquire into the whole stupid business of boxers versus briefs. Had anyone on Google scholar addressed this, I wondered. And they have, under the rubric of fashion studies. The Americans have some very odd ideas about pants, it seems.

    4. This has to be the best below the line DTW digression ever. Bravo Richard.

  15. Andrew, congrats on the new arrival. I await your missives on the subject anon. I quite fancy one myself..
    Richard, YES! The Manta merits your learned attentions. I grew up in the Nordrhein region between A and B, witnessing Irmscher transformations and street racing along the way. Manta is more than Capri, it is Camaro. My much-missed friend, Jean Francois Venet was instrumental in bringing transatlantic beauty to this most alluring of bodies. Manta A, Rekord C / Commodore B remain high-water marks in styling. The cultural impact of Mantas is still felt today..

    1. That would be the designer, Jean Francois Venet? Some elementary research showed he was an Opel designer. There is a veritable swarm of fine designers who have passed through Opel´s doors whose names we don´t know. There is a rich seam of oral history waiting to be documented (design histories, Robert P.?) because we don´t know enough about how Opel has done its detail work or how the underlying consistency of approach was maintained despite there being no signature Opel “look”?

  16. Thought long and… I’d probably choose the same.
    Congrats & many niggle-free miles!

    Will be eager to read on your initial impressions.

  17. P.S. your transition from Škoda to Volvo reminded me of the often iterated
    comparison that contemporary Škodas have been consuming the target
    market of ’80s / ’90s Volvos.

    Could it be that the Octy was so Volvo-ishly competent in doing its business
    (I have used an Octavia Mk3 as a company car for quite some time, and know
    how it can distort traditional views on cars – its sizing notwithstanding…).
    that you perhaps started perceiving as not fully faithful to its brand values,
    and actually spoiling its owner that much that he/she should
    really switch to a ‘genuine Volvo’?

    (Asking this because personally I have felt several times a strong disconnection between a brand of a car / the perceived expectations thereof, and its true
    on-road / real-life character, leading me to subjectively loath the product
    and ultimately abandon it).

    1. That´s a subtle question. Would it mean I buy an Octavia because it is sensible, safe and well-enough made; but it turns out not to be sensible, safe or well-enough made for me so I direct my desires to Volvo instead? Or is it that the car raises my expectations by being too safe, well-made and safe to be a Skoda and I might as well go the hole hog and get a Volvo?
      These days I see Volvos as not half as sensible as the 200 and 700s were (though still very nice vehicles). Even Skodas can be a bit too grand. I have seen Superbs that rival 70s Mercs for ritziness (metallic coloured paint and lots of chrome).

  18. Richard, fair points.

    It certainly wasn’t scientifically clear – my question was much closer of the latter type (“…might as well go the hole hog…”). A rather subjective point of interest.

    As to the notion of ‘sensible’, you are right that Škoda are sometimes sitting “between two chairs” so to speak, as the base-spec. versions of most of their models are usually the epitome of sensible (whilst still attractive to a degree), whereas
    their styling somehow manages to pull it off when the same car is specced
    to almost obscene (eg. L&K) levels. The anti-luxurious, ‘military grade’ sensibility (eg. the spirit of Volvo 200- series) however, seems long lost in their recent product range – Scala, eg., is essentially aiming for a pretense of luxury. Fabia’s sizing lacks the proper sizing (width issues / victim of platformisation) to justify the character
    of the name (used to be the ethalon for a narrow, urban-fitting huge rear legroom small family car – the only one of its sort in contemporary times, after the 5dr. Uno, 5dr. 205/ Saxo etc.). Their SUV offerings, at least, are way less pompous, especially the ‘sobriety champion’ Karoq (whose DLO shape, btw. bears almost perfectly
    judged ‘weight’ and proportion, making it probably the only current SUV that
    has a modicum of good visual manners).

    There is another brand that benefits from the above ‘unconvincing sensibility’:
    Dacia. The avoidance of the temptation to exhibit an explicit ‘worship of luxury’ in their visual language, is perhaps one of the (myriads of) factors that have made them
    a somewhat decisive owner of the ‘genuinely sensible’ market landscape.

    1. There´s an inconsistency. I find L&K trim sends me into paroxysms of pleasure, much as Vignale-trimmed Fords leave me breathless on the pavement. But a Bentley or even well-specced luxury car leaves me cold.
      The phrase “military grade”sensibility is a good way to describe it. Saab had it at the same time. It vanished as the 700-series evolved. I´d either like L&K type comfort or the satisfaction of solid stuff built to last.

    2. I recall a story that VW deliberately went out to target Volvo’s traditional customer base with Škoda. The formal grille devised for the first VW-era 1996 Octavia was intended to invoke a subliminal association with the Swedish marque:

      Under Ford ownership in the late 90’s, Volvo seemed to be directly targeting the German premium trio and moving away from their traditional customer base, hence VW’s interest in moving in on that territory.

    3. Daniel: yes, that similarity was as plain as day. The idea was that Volvo was to another prong in FoMoCo´s attack on the dominance of the German trio. Or did that ever make sense? What was Jaguar for then? Volvo was itself moving upmarket when Ford bought it. It was though an upper middle market brand which didn´t have to be sporty or aggressive or cheap but good and practical. It was allowed to be pricier than Ford and Opel – this is hardly the kind of product positioning to set the product planners on fire if they have Fords and Jaguars to sell.
      To be fair to Ford, it was Volvo who began their move out of the military-grade practicality sector.

    4. Hi Richard. Under Geely’s ownership, I think Volvo has established a nice niche for itself as premium, but without the ‘sporting’ baggage of the Germans. So far, I’m unconvinced that there is a need for its Polestar sub-brand, but it’s early days and they seem to know what they’re doing.

    5. Isn´t interesting how well Volvo have done under Geely? There are some very clever people working in Ford Europe, for sure. They are hamstrung by the culture emanatig from Dearborn. The same went for Opel: a bunch of good engineers constantly stymied by daft demands from GM HQ.

  19. A bit late to the party but an excellent choice Andrew. Thanks for the interesting article too.

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