Volvo V90 Review
What is it?
The V90 is the latest in a long line of Volvo estate cars, replacing the aging V70. It's a premium choice in the estate car segment, aiming at the classy Audi A6 Avant, Mercedes E-Class Estate and BMW 5 Series Touring rather than chasing cars like the Skoda Superb Estate.
It offers a genuine alternative to the German rivals, with a minimalist Scandinavian-style interior that's a breath of fresh air in the segment. It also continues Volvo's commitment to class-leading safety, with a range of extraordinary technology.
The V90's styling is a continuation of the latest Volvo design language, seen first on the XC90 SUV and S90 saloon, with which the V90 shares a platform. It features a large, upright grille, 'Thor's Hammer' daytime running lights, and an angular rear end which, though it harms practicality, looks great.
It also comes with Volvo's extensive and sophisticated suite of active safety aids, known as Intellisafe. The V90's autonomous emergency braking can detect not only cars, but pedestrians and animals in the road. It will even swerve to avoid them. There's also a semi-autonomous driving mode for city and motorway use, known as Pilot Assist.
What's under the bonnet?
Though international markets get a larger choice of engines, in the UK there's just three – two 2.0-litre diesel units, and a hybrid, called the T8 Twin Engine.
Our test car was fitted with the lower-powered D4 diesel engine, which has 188bhp making for decent performance. There's also a high-powered 232bhp D5 which comes with 'PowerPulse' technology – a sophisticated compressed-air system which aims to reduce turbo lag on acceleration.
While our car claimed a theoretical economy figure of 62.8mpg, we found low 50's to be more realistic. The T8 Twin Engine claims a ridiculous figure of around 135mpg, though this will be very dependent on how you drive it. If you stick to short journeys and make plentiful use of the pure-electric power, you may find you rarely have to use petrol at all.
What's it like to drive?
The V90 is unashamedly comfort-biased, with soft suspension making it a comfortable cruiser. However, when you press on it becomes clear that the driving experience is the weak link, and it doesn't feel as sorted as its German rivals do.
The D4 engine feels unrefined for a supposed luxury car, and isn't well matched by a smooth gearbox. Power comes in surges, making smooth progress more difficult than it should be.
The steering is over-light and offers no real engagement or enjoyment, as well as being twitchy on the motorway.
On the plus side, Volvo's suite of autonomous driving technology is a pretty good system. Pilot Assist mixes adaptive cruise control with active lane-keeping, and really takes the sting out of slow-moving traffic. It can even change lanes for you on the motorway.
How does it look?
The V90's styling is a real highlight. It stands out in car parks filled with endless identical German executive cars, with a crisp, modern exterior design.
Up front, the V90's distinctive headlights give the car a slick look which is mirrored on the rest of the latest Volvo range – the XC90, XC60, and soon-to-be released XC40.
What's it like inside?
Inside is where the V90 sets itself apart from the competition. While some other cars in this class could be accused of thrusting too much technology at you, the V90 is minimalist Scandinavian style at its best.
Almost everything is navigated through a large, portrait-oriented central touchscreen, which works well despite being a little slower to react than you might like. What few buttons and switches there are feel beautifully crafted, especially the knurled metal starter switch and drive mode selector.
Though the V90 isn't the most spacious offering in its class, it's got enough room for four adults and plenty of luggage. The sloping roofline limits boot space compared to cavernous rivals like the Mercedes E-Class, but you won't be cursing the lack of the few extra litres.
What's the spec like?
Our car was in Inscription trim, which is Volvo slang for luxury, as opposed to entry-level Momentum or sporty R-Design. The supremely comfortable seats are upholstered in soft Nappa leather, while 18-inch alloy wheels look slick and don't spoil the ride in the same way they would on larger cars.
Other highlights are Volvo's adaptive cruise control, upgraded LED headlights and a sporty three-spoke leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Our car came in a little over the £43,115 starting price for an Inscription trim V90, thanks to improved safety kit at £600, a winter pack at £525 and smartphone integration for £300.
If you want a large, executive estate car, you can now look outside of Germany and towards Sweden. The V90 places its focus in different areas to the German three – with poorer driving dynamics but improved comfort – and is more than just a quirky, left-field choice.
Like its saloon sibling, the V90 is a highly accomplished car in its own right. It's classy, practical, and as safe as modern cars come.
Model: V90 D4 Inscription
Price (as tested): £46,690
Engine tested: 2.0-litre diesel
Max Speed: 140mph
0-60mph: 8.2 seconds