The recent journey taken by Volvo has been transformational. New owners have instilled a newfound sense of virtue that had been shrink-wrapped and left in cold storage by previous owners, Ford.
This freedom has allowed Volvo to develop an elegant new design language. While the engineering “language” goes unseen what is on display for all to see is the V90 estate (station wagon). Released in late 2016, it’s been developed using Volvo’s new modular platform which is lighter and stiffer than the V70 it replaces.
The V90 is Volvo’s flagship estate offering, visually it looks like a shooting-brake concept, Volvo’s new design language flows masterfully from one end to the next. The interior is equally as elegant and simply presented. Virtually all of the car’s functions are accessed via the centrally mounted touchscreen. Like an iPad in portrait position.
Volvo calls it Senus Touch, it’s a fully digital UI and de-clutters the interior which in and on itself is alluringly presented and finished. The use of leather, wood inlays and soft-touch materials combine to give a premium luster to the interior.
Four well-equipped trim levels are offered, the D4 Inscription on test sits near the top end of the ownership spectrum. Entry level models start at £35k and range up to £40k for the V90 Cross Country, tasty options can increase the cost further.
Standard equipment levels are considerable, the Sat Nav is updated for free over the lifetime of the car, the leather-faced interior also gets heated front seats as standard. Semi-autonomous technology such as radar guided cruise control with semi-autonomous steering is also standard as is a host of safety features.
Volvo raided the options list for the D4 Inscription on test such as a heated steering wheel, lane assist, Park Pilot Assist and the latest driver safety aids. Some options are bundled up into “Packs”. Overall, Volvo spent an equivalent of £5k on optional extras.
The engine range consists of diesel, petrol and hybrid variants, Volvo will eventually switch to hybrids and add a range of fully electric cars from 2019 as the phasing out of the purely internal combustion engine begins in order to meet new emissions regulations. For now, diesel will make up a majority of sales for the UK… For now.
The UK market gets a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel which is available in 2 power variants, the D4 offers up 190bhp, the D5 variant 235bhp. The 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol/hybrid, otherwise known as the T8 Twin Engine outputs 320bhp, personally, this is the engine I would go for.
Nevertheless, the D4 engine found in the Inscription isn’t the quietest on the market, specifically at startup or at idle. And one does feel diesel vibration at low revs through the steering wheel and throttle peddle. But this is a minor quibble, most people simply won’t notice.
Like all modern day diesel engines the diesel vibration, subsidies at cruising speed. Thereupon, the V90 is very comfortable, the interior is a great place in which to spend traffic jams in. The seats, in particular, are very, comfortable, and long journey times are no problem in the V90.
The standard chassis and suspension setup allows the V90 to float over bumps without disturbing the driving experience. You can opt for a dynamic chassis with adaptive dampers and or air suspension. However, the standard setup is more than good enough.
Nevertheless, the V90 attempts to curry favor with more spirited drivers trying to blend comfort with sharp handling, and to a degree, it works. The result is mixed, mild understeer is detectable at slow to medium bends.
Conversely, the V90 tackles long sweeping B-roads without a problem, it can flow into one bend and another without pitching softly into corners, the grip levels are high, the steering is nicely weighted and this allows you to confidently position the car.
Naturally, the motorway (freeway) is home from home for the V90 thanks to that ride. For the most part, the engine and auto-transmission are well suited, however, there is a slight delay in the throttle response when moving off from a standstill.
All V90’s do have driving modes and while I prefer to just leave it in Comfort mode perhaps those wanting a bit more an edge would prefer Dynamic mode, which alters the engine and steering map to improve throttle and engine response. Doing so doesn’t turn the Volvo into an animal, there is just less of a delay when launching off the line.
The 7-speed auto transmission is standard across the range and smoothly shifts from one gear to the next, in Dynamic mode shift patterns are faster. Driven normally the D4 can easily attain up to 60mpg on a combined cycle.
On the practical side the V90 offers a favorable rear load area, the boot, while not class leading in size, is considerable enough with the seats up or folded flat. That’s 560-litres vs 1,526-litres respectively. Interior space is generous up front and for rear seated passengers.
So overall the V90 is not the class leading estate to have… if you want a class leading estate. Shame on you if that’s how you roll because the V90 has got more visual class inside and out than all of its competitors combined.
The quibbles I have mentioned such as the diesel engine, these issues are not enough of a deal breaker for me to overlook the V90. If you want to go for the class leading rival then be my guest, for style alone and comfort and that great interior I would happily choose the V90.