If you ever needed persuading that a truly driverless car is a real possibility, then a spell behind the wheel of the Volvo S90 should convince you it is not far off.

This is an executive saloon that can already take care of the steering, accelerator and brake to keep its sizeable bodywork inside lane markings while holding at a pre-set cruising speed.

At the same time, it constantly monitors the road ahead for pedestrians, cyclists and even animals night and day, and can unleash fully-automatic emergency braking if you do not react fast enough.

Not only that it can automatically park itself – both parallel and into a tight supermarket space – spot approaching vehicles in the blind spot and warn of approaching vehicles when reversing.

So this stylish Scandinavian alternative to a series of serious German rivals is a luxury car with safety clearly on its mind.

I am driving the sporty R-Design model, expected to be one of the most popular in the UK line-up, which looks the BMW M Sport and Mercedes-Benz AMG Line rivals straight in the eye.

It gets a piano black grille, 18-inch, five-spoke, matt black diamond-cut alloy wheels, twin exhaust pipes and sports seats, as well as a sporty suspension set-up and a lavish leather and nubuck interior.

Power comes from a 2.0-litre, twin-turbo, D5 diesel engine delivering more than 230 horsepower linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission, which makes it a supremely capable motorway cruiser. Four-wheel-drive adds an extra layer of all-weather security.

On smooth surfaces, the lowered suspension keeps the ride relaxed and taut with tight body control and sharp cornering, and an optional £1,500 electronic air suspension system on the test car helped to prevent thumps and bumps on less-than-perfect roads from feeding through to the carefully crafted cabin.

Inside that cabin, as well as impeccable fit and finish, there is plenty of space for five large adults, a host of storage space and an equally sizeable boot.

The nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system is intuitive and within minutes you will have set up satellite navigation, smartphone link, climate control, audio system and cloud-based apps and services, without having to resort to the handbook. In addition, the R-Design trim adds a clear 12.3-inch digital instrument display.

If you are happy to drive a car without all-wheel-drive and with less outright power, the S90 range costs from about £33,000 for the front-wheel-drive 187 horsepower D4 model.

Earlier this year, Volvo became the first car maker to score a full six points in the autonomous emergency braking for pedestrians (AEB Pedestrian) test procedure and an overall five-star rating for both the S90 and its sister vehicle, the V90 estate. 

The results surpass the best overall score of any model tested last year and now make Euro NCAP’s top-three best-ever-performing cars all Volvos.

With billions of pounds of investment being pumped into the company and global sales heading towards another record year, Volvo says a raft of new models, all packed with yet more technology, is on the way as it pursues its aim of developing a fully-autonomous driving car.

Volvo has a vision that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by the year 2020 – don’t bank on it missing that target.

Auto facts


Model: Volvo S90 D5 PowerPulse AWD R-Design


Price: £55,525 as tested


Insurance group: 33 (1-50)


Fuel consumption (combined): 58.9mpg


Top speed: 145mph


Length: 496.3cm/195.4in


Width: 187.9cm/74in


Luggage capacity: 17.6 cu ft


Fuel tank capacity: 13.2 gallons/60 litres


CO2 emissions: 127 g/km


Warranty: Three years/ 100,000 miles