This past fall, the Pope was given a Volvo XC90 for his official transportation. I keep telling myself that even though I'm not a VIP (holy or otherwise), I'm sure I will fit in the XC90 just fine. I can't imagine Popes are the target market for this particular vehicle, being that there's only one. Anyway, I am thrilled to test-drive the new 2007 Volvo XC90.

First off, I have trouble getting the kids into the XC90. They have a heck of a time climbing in. The doorjamb is a slightly narrow, sloping metal entryway that's slippery and difficult for little feet to grip. Consequently, the kids are trying three and four times to get themselves in on their own. I even commit blasphemy while trying to help them. The third row is difficult to access, the primary problem being that my kids don't want to wait patiently while I get the seats forward for them to climb behind, so I grant permission for them to just hurdle the second row seat backs to get to the third row. I beg forgiveness as I buckle everyone up.

Speaking of the third row, the XC90's is small. Church pews are more comfortable. This is not a surprising fact with a smaller SUV, and it seems that the third rows in these cars are small and difficult to access. This conundrum is why they're great for carpooling with kids but not to be relied upon for grown-up transport. I do want to highlight, though, the benefit of Volvo's third row as opposed to most other manufacturers out there. There are thirteen inches of space between the third row headrests and the tailgate. In the event of an accident, that space becomes a precious cushion between kids' heads and another vehicle.

Because of the Integrated Center Booster Cushion (which is a total dream), I can avoid using the difficult third row most of the time. The booster slides forward so I can have easier access to whoever is sitting there. Another perk, there's a fold-out activity table in the center console that the booster user can color on, or place a snack upon. If you don't allow crayons or snacks in the car, you can remove the center console altogether to give that kiddo in the booster seat a bit more leg room. Kind of reminds me of when we were little and three people in the front of my friend's mom's land yacht was the norm...

You should also know the XC90 has so many standard airbags (including a curtain airbag in ALL ROWS of seating), Rollover Protection System, Side Impact Protection System, Dynamic Stability Traction Control and more that make this Volvo a mom's dream, and one heck of a Popemobile, er, mom-mobile! Again, I love that these features are standard and not part of a package that costs extra.

Safety is not the only feature that grants the XC90 salvation. The amount of passenger space, cargo area, and a fun drive all undercut my previous complaints. While the XC90's interior is simple, functional, and clean, I wouldn't call it luxurious by typical American standards. It's a purist's Scandinavian kind of luxury, which I have grown to like more and more. I don't have anything I don't need, and I have everything I want. I do appreciate that there are still some knobs in the Volvo. I know, it sounds weird, but many cars I drive are all buttons and require a sit-down with the manual to figure them out. There is something so basic and comforting about a knob and I appreciate them on the climate controls and the stereo.

All told, I really enjoy the XC90. I am a little shocked at the price tag, over $45k for the model I'm driving. That's a pretty high price for no seat heat. Still, I adore the fact that when I'm driving (either in perfect weather or in a snowstorm), I have the utmost confidence in the XC90, and my kids have a great, comfortable ride. Hey, if it's good enough for the Pope...

*For more information on the Volvo XC90 and its safety features, visit Cars.com.