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2017 Volvo S90 Road Trip and Review +VIDEO

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By Maureen McDonald
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

What kind of European sedan would be perfect for a cruise through Palm Beach? My friend and I decided the 2017 Volvo S90 T fits the bill to perfection.

The ice blue chariot with white leather seats rolls in regal style with all the late model luxury cars for shopping on Worth Avenue. Over the weekend we take a drive past Mar-a-lago and stroll with the sophisticates on Singer Island. We glide into campy Lake Park for an alley-wide art show.

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The Volvo holds its own through the Royal Palm lined boulevards, slowing to let us watch the sailboats glistening in the sun on the Atlantic Ocean. I'm enchanted by a chance to see Mar-a-lago, the palatial mansion with gold painted gargoyles owned by the President of the US. But the gates are closed to tourists.

"Wait," says J.B. Dixson, who lives in a high-rise condo on Singer Island just beyond Palm Beach. "Much to see on this stretch of city."

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She calls for the valet who brings the Volvo to her doorstep. The feel is taut yet elegant in this 195.4 inch car, riding on a 115.8 wheelbase and powered by a 316-horsepowered turbo engine with all-wheel-drive. With all its power, it averages 25 miles per gallon on a 4-cylinder engine. We've got miles to travel.

Volvo may be at the head of the pack for mid-size luxury. Offering more safety and technology features than the BMW 5-series, Jaguar XF, Lexus GS, Infiniti Q70, Cadillac CTS, Acura RLX, and Audi 6. Besides it has attitude.

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We start our day on Singer Island. Half the land is granted to a nature preserve where people kayak and hike the trails while the remainder is high-rise condos and mansions. Seagulls glide overhead while joggers and walkers step gingerly over the sand. Too cold for swimming but warm enough to bring people out of doors without Eddie Bauer puffer coats and Sorel's Joan of Arc Boots. (Left those at home in Michigan.)

Just as we leave in white slacks and voile shirts the rain comes down in buckets. Back upstairs for the warmer jackets and umbrellas. Then out. With all-wheel-drive the Volvo takes the new challenge in stride. Making it easier for us to shop and eat our way through town. Shopping is the statewide passion of Florida. Visitors to the state spent $108 billion in 2015, up from more than $40 billion in 2014 and $30 billion five years prior, according to Visit Florida, the state's tourism bureau.

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Not to worry. The Swedish-born Volvo has long been the forerunner in safety research, and its vehicles have the crash test scores to prove it. The company was the first to make vehicles with a three-point safety belt. It dazzled consumers with the first examples of collapsible steering columns and childproof locks.

The S90 offers a low-speed collision avoidance system, pedestrian and cyclist detection, whiplash protection, road sign information, tire pressure monitoring, LED headlights and fog lamps, even corner illumination.

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A great deal of thought has gone into the technology that surrounds the occupants, from safety to entertainment. Just beyond the steering wheel a full-color display allows full schematic of the road ahead, whether a blind intersection or a sudden bend. The Pilot Assist feature can help with braking, acceleration and lane stabilization.

We have more than 100 satellite radio stations on Sirius plus a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system to blast Frank Sinatra and Madonna in a melody with the rain drops.

J.B., a former Detroiter, enjoys sharing her adopted home of Palm Beach with visitors from the north country. Palm Beach, she notes, is the eastern-most town in Florida, located on a 16-mile barrier island. With just 10.4 square miles, it houses 30 of the 400 wealthiest people in the world.

Like many of the coastal Florida towns, it was started by pirates. The name Palm Beach came from a ship wreck named the Providencia. When it washed ashore in January 1978 with a load of coconuts bound from Havana to Barcelona. The people planted coconut palms along the beach.

Migration of the wealthy came in the Roaring 20s. Margerie Merriweather Post built a pink stucco mansion on 17 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway in 1927 for $7 million. Soon Ocean Drive was dotted with mansions, each having a tunnel under the road leading to ocean-side cabanas.

President Trump bought the property -- the largest on Ocean Drive -- in 1985 for $5 million, plus $3 million for the antiques and furniture. He installed a 20,000 square foot ballroom with $7 million in gold leaf paint, according to Town and Country Magazine.

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"Drop dead gorgeous, beyond opulence," says J.B., who has been to charity functions here. The President subsidizes the $1 million plus upkeep costs by hosting a private club on the grounds with access to a restaurant, golf course and swimming pool for $100,000 a year plus dues. He upped it to $200,000 a year when he rose to the White House.

Alas no public tours today. We console ourselves with shopping on Worth Avenue with over 200 shops and courtyard vias. We window shop at Chanel, Louis Viutton, Kate Spade and Pucci. J.B. eyes a crystal necklace for $4,000 at Kapsiki, a marvelous boutique and decides it runs a bit over budget.

We nosh awhile at Ta'boo, the restaurant where some of the town's wealthiest citizens vie for the front tables and maximum visibility. I tell the hostess I'm driving a $65,000 Volvo S90 but that doesn't get a seat in the front section.

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We jump back in the car. The rain resumes. So much so that we forgo a tour of the Chesterfield Hotel where well-to-do singles mingle at the Leopard Lounge to a Frank Sinatra impersonator. Next time.

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Back in the Volvo I run my hand along the low-gloss brown wood along the dash and eye the black leather on door and dash tops. The Chinese automaker Geely Holding Group has spent billions to upgrade Volvo from boxy to svelte. The car asks for voice commands but I'm far too much of a Luddite to test it out.

I telephone my friend Karin who has the Volvo V60 and toured Sweden with her husband after purchasing it at the factory and says the love affair continues two years into the experience. "It's tight driving so to speak which you feel the road. I like that, as opposed to too smooth luxury ride. LOVE the fact a switch turns automatically from brights to dim on the headlights. I like all the warnings for a car too close. We bought the car because of Volvo's goal that no one dies in their car by 2030."

We take time for a coffee a Harold's Coffee Lounge in the revived Northwood District of West Palm beach. A young, passionate group of urban dwellers have restored antique shops, trendy bars, coffee shops and thrift stores with a southern, sophisticated attitude.

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Night falls and we land in Lake Park for the Back Alley Arts Festival where artisans sell bikes made into rolling sculptures, leather jewelry and artwork made by folding pages of books. An artisan is painting murals on the walls and the bar features live rock and roll wafting out to the street.

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Time to say goodbye to coconut palms, fresh seafood and great conversations. The Volvo navigation system leads me through all the twists and turns with total grace. I lean back in the white leather seats and revel in luxury.

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