Volvo V90 review
The Volvo V90 is the estate version of the S90 saloon and is a left-field alternative to executive cars such as the BMW 5 Series Touring, Audi A6 Avant and Mercedes E-Class Estate.
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There was a time when Volvo estates were all about boxy space, but the Volvo V90 shows what today’s Volvo is all about – style. Its sharp nose and sweeping roofline help give it classiness that its German alternatives struggle to match. Inside, its interior is heavily influenced by the luxurious XC90’s – getting soft leather and natural wood throughout.
Two diesel engines, three petrols and a plug-in hybrid are available. The diesels consist of a 188hp D4 and 232hp D5, the latter coming with four-wheel drive as standard, the D4 sending power to the front wheels – but both getting an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The petrols are called T4, T5 and T6 with 190, 250 and 310hp and are smoother than the diesels but use more fuel. Lastly, the 390hp T8 petrol-electric hybrid boasts huge performance, cheap running costs for company car drivers and an ability to move under electric power alone. Find out more about that car in our separate Volvo V90 Plug-in hybrid review.
The V90 shares its underpinnings with the XC90 SUV, so don’t expect a sporty ride like you get in a BMW 5 Series – instead the Volvo rivals the Mercedes E-Class’ comfort.
The V90 is a rival to premium estate cars at a great price
Safety credentials are impressive, with an advanced automatic emergency braking system detecting not only people and cars, but animals as well – coming as standard and a semi-autonomous driving assistant that follows the markings on the road.
The Volvo V90 may not have the boot-capacity-bragging rights of its forebears, but in every other area it’s a truly worthy alternative to the Germans. Volvo expects the more-powerful D5 to be the best-seller and we can see why – it’s just about fast enough for all occasions and cheap to run, too. It may not have the dynamic edge of the BMW 5 Series, but with its plush cabin and relaxing ride the V90 fits the remit of a premium load-lugger and has every right to be at the top of executives’ shopping lists.
So, if you want to see the kind of offers that you can get, go to our Volvo V90 deals page.
The Volvo V90 provides more than enough space for four adults and their luggage, but it may well be a surprise that some alternatives do have bigger boots
What little the Volvo V90 lacks in outright boot capacity, it more than makes up for with lots of useful features that help make it easy to live with on a day-to-day basis
There’s plenty of space in the V90’s front seats for you to get comfortable – even if you’re very tall – and both front seats come with height adjustment and electric lumbar support as standard. As a result, you get a good view out over other cars and don’t have to worry about backache on long motorway journeys.
All V90s get lumbar adjustment and extended seat cushions as standard to give your legs even better support on long drives. These models also get a memory function for the front seat – handy if you regularly lend your car to someone else.
Space in the back is pretty generous in all V90s. The front seats are thinner than in a Mercedes or BMW so your passengers in the back have plenty of legroom to stretch out. There’s just enough headroom for six-footers to get fairly comfy, too.
Carrying three adults side-by-side is a bit of a squeeze – thanks to the tall lump in the floor and hard central seat – but there’s enough space under the front seats for three rear passengers to fit their feet comfortably. That said, an E-Class is better still for carrying three adults in the back.
The V90’s wide rear door openings make it easy to lift in a large child seat and folding covers help you quickly locate the two sets of Isofix points. Unfortunately, the Volvo’s low roofline means you have to stoop down low to strap in a child, but you’ll have a similar issue in almost all large executive saloons.
The Volvo V90’s cabin comes with plenty of handy storage spaces to help you keep it looking as tidy as possible, All four door bins and the glovebox can comfortably hold a 2.0-litre bottle and there’s some extra storage space under the central armrest for your phone or a pair of sunglasses.
You get two cupholders beside the gear lever under a neat folding cover and two more that pop out of the folding rear armrest. This also comes with a neat storage tray with a lid to keep thing safely in place if you need to fold the armrest away.
People used to buy Volvo estates for their enormous boots so it may surprise that the V90 doesn’t lead the class in this respect. With a capacity ranging from 560 to 1,526 litres with the rear seats down it’s still very practical, but that maximum capacity is about 150 litres less than a A6 Avant offers – or a couple soft bags in luggage terms.
You can’t adjust the height of the boot floor, but at least there’s no lip you have to lift luggage over. It’s certainly no worse than in the BMW, Mercedes or Audi, though, and you do get some neat switches beside the headrests that’ll let you fold the back seats down from inside the car – when the rear doors are open, that is.
With all the back seats folded away, there’s easily enough space in the back of the Volvo to carry a bike with both its wheels attached. The flat floor makes it easy to push heavy items right up behind the back seats and the loadbay’s square shape means you won’t have any trouble carrying a large TV box or some bulky flat-pack furniture.
All V90s come with a ski hatch behind the rear armrest so you can carry some very long items and two back-seat passengers at once.
Being closely related to the XC90 SUV means the V90 can’t challenge the BMW 5 Series Touring on driving dynamics, but then it wasn’t supposed to.
The V90 is pretty agile for what it is and the autonomous tech works wonders in a traffic jam
Unlike most plush estate cars, you don’t get a plethora of four, six and even eight-cylinder engines to choose from in the Volvo. All V90s come with 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines.
If you do a mix of town and motorway driving, the front-wheel-drive D4 is your best bet. It’s punchy enough to overtake slow-moving traffic (it’ll accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds), reasonably quiet at speed and returns a claimed 61mpg – although you’re more likely to achieve around 44mpg in real-world conditions.
There’s also a D5 model with 235hp that comes with four-wheel drive as standard but it’s more expensive to buy and costs more to run than the D4.
If you fancy a petrol model, there’s a T4 with exactly the same 190hp as the D4, but it’s slightly slower to reach 62mph from rest than the diesel and only returns a claimed 42mpg. It’s still worth considering if you do lots of city driving, however.
If it’s a sporty saloon you’re after, you should consider the T5 models. It comes with 250hp and will sprint from 0-62mph in 7.0 seconds but it never feels that fast. It needs a bit of revs to get going as well, which is the result of it only being a 2.0-litre, but it’s a similar story in alternatives with equivalent engines. Ultimately, the T5 feels a bit out of place – you’re better off with one of the diesels. The T6 gets 310hp and does feel quick, but the trouble is it’ll use quite a bit more fuel at the same time.
Whichever model you pick, your V90 gets an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. It changes gear nice and smoothly, especially at slow speeds, but doesn’t respond particularly quickly when you put your foot down. As a result, the Volvo doesn’t feel quite as rapid as the likes of a comparable 5 Series or E-Class.
It might be a big car, but you won’t have any trouble seeing out of the Volvo V90. The relatively thin pillars and large windows give you a good view out, and the light steering helps make it reasonably easy to manoeuvre around town.
If the thought of parking a big saloon car gives you chills, you can get the V90 with a self-parking feature that’ll steer you automatically into parallel and bay parking spaces that are just 1.2 metres longer than the car. This costs a decent amount extra but comes with a 360-degree camera system and a panoramic glass sunroof.
Thankfully, Volvo’s Pilot Assist feature won’t cost you a penny extra. This system combines lane-keeping assist with adaptive cruise control to accelerate, brake and steer for you at speeds up to 80mph – providing you keep your hands on the steering wheel. This helps make long journeys – especially on busy motorways – as relaxing as possible.
Adding to the V90’s stress-free driving experience is the comfortable suspension. You can get it with adaptive dampers and rear air suspension but the standard setup does a good job ironing out bumps and potholes so you needn’t bother.
Sadly, while the Volvo does a great job isolating you from the patchy road surfaces, it doesn’t feel particularly fun to drive. Sure, it doesn’t lean much in tight corners, but a BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF both feel more involving on a twisty backroad.
If safety, rather than sportiness, is your main concern, the Volvo claws back plenty of points. It comes as standard with a wealth of active systems designed to prevent crashes including pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection, automatic emergency braking and even a feature that’ll tighten your seatbelt if the car detects a possible collision.
All these features helped the V90 achieve an impressive five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP when it was tested in 2017.
Excellent quality throughout, but the portrait infotainment system can frustrate
Volvo V90 colours
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