Volvo estates have always been popular, thanks to their reputation as safe, practical and reliable family holdalls, but the company itself has never been in the same prestige league as Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz – something that CEO Håkan Samuelsson hopes to put right with a new range of vehicles based on Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA)
Following on from the XC90, the V90 (along with the S90 saloon) is the second vehicle out of Gothenburg to utilise the company’s innovative modular platform. Key highlights are a steel and aluminium monocoque, double wishbone front suspension and an integral link set-up at the rear. Engines are the same as you get in the S90: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder D4 diesel with 187bhp and a more powerful 2.0-litre D5 with 237bhp and all-wheel drive as standard.
We had the opportunity to test a top-spec D5 in Spain earlier this year, and we were impressed with its well-polished dynamics and torque-laden engine. However, we suspect that the £7000 cheaper, front-wheel-drive D4 will be more popular with British buyers.
Only two trim levels are available: entry-level Momentum and range-topping Inscription. Even Momentum cars come with lots of standard luxuries such as leather, LED headlights, a fully connective Sensus navigation touchscreen and all manner of advanced driver aids. However, this has been reflected in the price, with the V90 starting at £34,555.
There’s a sense that real thought has gone into the design of the cabin as soon as you climb behind the wheel. The materials used throughout the dash feel top-notch, the 9.0in portrait touchscreen is one of the finest touchscreen infotainment systems currently available and the driving position is near enough perfect.
Turn the twist-and-go starter mounted between the front seats and the diesel motor fires up somewhat lazily, settling into a gruff idle. Pulling away, the V90 instantly feels like it has less low-down torque compared with the D5, requiring significantly more throttle input to get up to speed. However, the linear power delivery of the D5 has been retained and the eight-speed automatic gearbox gives the engine sufficient flexibility, despite being rather hesitant in its operation.
The V90 is best enjoyed when driven at a relaxed pace; leave it in Comfort mode and you can enjoy the well-judged steering and neutral chassis instead. The soft set-up doesn’t lend itself to particularly incisive handling, but the V90 feels stable and composed, particularly at high speeds on the motorway. The ‘Pilot Assist’, which is, in effect, a semi-autonomous driving system, is also impressively capable, helping to make long stints behind the wheel that little bit more relaxing.
Ergonomically, the V90 is superb at accommodating four adults. Those in the front are treated to acres of head and leg room, and the driver’s seat and steering wheel offer plenty of adjustment. In the rear, two tall adults could travel in complete comfort. The V90’s load space suffers due to the wagon’s rakish roofline, though, with its 560-litre bay with the seats up matching that of a BMW 5 Series Touring but falling short of the Audi A6 Avant’s. With the rear seatbacks folded down, the load capacity grows to 1526 litres.
Finally, Volvo has produced a well-rounded premium estate that can take the fight to the German competition. It’s beautifully designed and packed with innovative technology and offers impressive levels of practicality.