Volvo V90 D4 review
For some, a Volvo really should be an estate. It's been a while now though since the Swedish manufacturer relied on its wagons for sales success, thanks mainly to the popularity of its SUVs. Nevertheless, the return of the big Volvo estate is a welcome one, especially when it looks as good as the V90.
Review by Chris Lilly
Tested was Volvo's D4 diesel engine, which produces 190hp and 400 Nm of torque. It's not a huge amount for a car as big as the V90, but you never feel short-changed by the four-cylinder unit and its broad power range. The V90 D4 will settle down to cruising speeds with very little noise coming from under the bonnet, making it ideal for long distance motorway runs. It is versatile enough though to flex its muscles in and out of town, with a decent slug of power available when you depress the right foot. Pick up is good for a large estate, and the Volvo will run around inner-city routes and traffic with surprising aplomb. Likewise, on the open road, the V90 deals well with both relaxed and spirited driving, making the most of an eight-speed automatic gearbox that's quick to respond to changing driving styles. The 0-62mph dash is completed in 8.5 seconds, with a top speed of 140 possible.
As the flagship executive model in the Volvo range - V90 for the estate and S90 in the saloon categories - you would expect a comfortable ride from the V90. You won't be disappointed either, with Volvo setting up the handling and suspension to smooth away both poor road surfaces, and furrows from a wrinkled brow. The V90 is a first class exec-barge in the sense that it can float along with the best of them, especially at motorway speeds. It's no barge when it comes to cornering though, with the V90 providing a decent set of handling attributes all things considered. There is some noticeable body roll, but it is kept in check pretty well, and the V90 is easy to pilot accurately and confidently through a series of bends. The steering is light which helps around tighter streets and lower speeds - urban driving basically- and there isn't a lot of feedback through the wheel. You quickly gain confidence in the V90's handling ability though for those rare occasions when the road opens out ahead of you. For the rest of the time - dual carriageway driving, inner-town trips, supermarket and school runs, and tackling the car park - the V90 is easy to drive and comfortable too.
The V90 is a stylish car in the very best Swedish tradition. Volvo is gradually working its way through what had become an ageing model range, bringing in new cars with a modern style. There is nothing yet released that hasn't worked well and Volvo's designers can rightly pat themselves on the back, especially at the V90's design. Small details and subtle surface design elements stop the V90 being a large, slab-sided affair. The shape is naturally very practical, though surprisingly the V90 doesn't offer quite as much space as some of its rivals. Still, to criticise the V90's practicality would be extremely unfair as the Volvo's boot space is easily large enough for all sorts of load-lugging situations. The interior is equally spacious, with plenty of space for four adults, two and three children, or various other combinations thereof. There is a fairly sizeable transmission tunnel restricting middle seat leg-room in the rear for adults, but that's the only thing of note in what is otherwise a very pleasant cabin in which to sit.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The V90 is certainly comfortable, with the aforementioned suspension set-up aided by Volvo's famously excellent seats. There are few better pews available in this or any other class of car, with the chairs providing plenty of support, but also a high level of cossetting-capability too. Those up front have the best view of the excellent dashboard, but everyone can keep an eye out for small nods to the Volvo's Swedish heritage dotted about the cabin. The driver gets the best seat in the house naturally, with a digital instrument screen complementing the large portrait infotainment system that dominates the centre console. There are very few buttons around the place which keeps the whole design clean, but the Volvo doesn't suffer from this aspect of cabin design where some other cars do. The easy to use Sensus touchscreen system is easy to customise, can be swept left and right to quickly access other menus, has the option of one main display with a couple of others stacked beneath it, and air conditioning controls ever present, sitting just above a 'home' button. It's very similar to an iPad and is made all the better by its portrait placing, meaning you can see more of the map ahead when using the sat-nav. The rest of the switchgear feels beautifully made, and the starter switch/driving mode select wheel are both great elements in what is a superb cabin.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Driven with care, the Volvo V90 D43 returned a highly creditable 50.6 MPG in real world driving conditions by the end of my time with it. Compared to the 62.8 MPG officially quoted, this is a strong performance compared to the nigh-on unobtainable NEDC figure. It's certainly not going to break the bank in terms of running costs, and with careful driving, better fuel economy could be achieved I've no doubt. Likewise, CO2 emissions of 119 g/km mean tax isn't going to be too bad, with the new VED rules meaning the V90 will cost £140 a year, after an initial £160 for the first 12 months, which is included in the OTR cost.
Volvo's engine range is both simple and clever. A while ago, the company realised that it had a huge variety of different units for only a few model options. It set out to make life simpler and cheaper, and now has two core units - one petrol and one diesel, both 2.0 litres and four cylinders. A smaller three cylinder unit is on the way, but for now, you have a choice of two engines. These are then tuned to different power levels depending on requirements, with the use of turbocharging, supercharging, or both, with electrification also possible and increasingly available. The engines also use low-friction systems to improve efficiency, and in the case of the D4, uses a series-sequential two-stage turbo charger to deliver good power levels and excellent economy figures. The new platform the V90 is built on is lightweight too, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox has been designed to change gear quickly, allow stop/start technology usage, and has very high ratios for the top two gears for low-rev cruising at high speed. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 42.
Well equipped no matter which option you pick, the V90 offers good value for money considering its a large executive car. Entry-level Momentum models get features such as leather upholstery, LED headlights, climate control, keyless start, heated front seats, Volvo's 9-inch Sensus infotainment system with sat-nav and smartphone connectivity, Pilot Assist for semi-autonomous driving (very useful in heavy traffic) and a powered tailgate. Inscription spec includes 18-inch alloys, a larger digital driving instrument display, keyless entry and hands free boot opening, and walnut interior trim. R Design adds a sports chassis, sporty design details inside and out, LED fog lights, Nappa leather seats and sport seats. Finally R Design Pro boosts R Design kit by adding a heated steering wheel, heated windscreen, active LED headlights, 20-inch alloys, and electric driver's seat.
The Volvo V90 is one of my favourite cars on sale at the moment. A stylish practical estate what will easily cope with life as a family workhorse, the Volvo is one of those few 'classless' cars. The V90, along with the likes of the VW Golf and Range Rover, looks right wherever it is driven or parked, and can appeal to a wide range of customers. It offers reasonably low running costs, is extremely comfortable, and can be a relatively engaging drive when the opportunity presents itself. A fantastic car then with few weaknesses and a long list of strengths.
Model tested: Volvo V90 D4 R Design
Body-style: Executive estate
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre turbo diesel / 119 g/km
Trim grades: Inscription, Momentum, R Design
On-road price: From £35,865. Price as tested £38,365
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 stars