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The Volvo V90 isn't the biggest executive estate on sale, but what it lacks in volume it makes up for with style and comfort

Volvo's latest V90 estate is no longer the stand out choice if you want the maximum amount of boot space. While that's a shame, it has plenty to recommend it otherwise. It's practical enough and crammed with useful features, while its versatility combines with an eye-catching design, a classy and minimalist cabin and a relaxed driving experience.

With the emphasis on comfort, the V90 is largely a pleasure on the road - as long as you don't expect handling to rival the class best. Despite the lack of any six cylinder engine options, the punchy and refined diesels are a great choice, while attractive pricing, a long list of standard equipment and wallet-friendly running costs mean it's a serious class contender. 

The V90 shares chassis parts and engines with the excellent XC90 SUV, and the S90 saloon. It reflects Volvo’s different approach to premium big cars, with relatively small-capacity four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol and diesel engines instead of a big V6. There's even a rugged Cross Country version with enough off-road ability to make a five-seat SUV largely redundant. 

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The real strengths of the V90 are its cabin and cruising refinement. The interior is roomy enough for four adults and superbly finished, with a clean, uncluttered fascia that’s easy to use. And on the move, the D5 diesel engine is a refined cruiser, even when you’re pushing along at motorway speeds.

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Volvo V90 D4 Momentum

Volvo has a long history of producing big, practical estate cars, but the latest V90 sacrifies ultimate carrying capacity in favour of comfort and upmarket style. That's not to say it's tight in the back like the older V50 and V60 models, but with 560 litres available in five-seat mode, it's not quite as big as rivals such as the BMW 5 Series Touring or vast Mercedes E-Class Estate.

Still, what the V90 lacks in load volume it more than makes up for with stylish looks. The striking lines are an evolution of the S90 saloon, and there's some of the XC90 SUV in its make-up, too. That also applies to the V90's running gear, as it also uses the same platform, running gear and electronics as these two. As a result, the V90 has a host of advanced technology on board, including a suite of advanced safety tech.

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The V90 engine range consists purely of 2.0-litre four-cylinder units, in petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid forms. The petrol range comprises the T4 190 and T5 250, while a T6 320 is only available in the high-riding V90 Cross Country. For diesel power, there's the D4 190 and D5 Power Pulse 235, while the most powerful model in the range is the T8 Power Pulse petrol-electric plug-in hybrid, which has 320bhp and a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds.

There are three basic trim levels on offer: Momentum, R-Design and Inscription. Even Momentum cars are well equipped, while R-Design adds a sporty look, and Inscription is positively luxurious. In addition, there are Ocean Race special editions on offer that add extra kit and are tired in with Volvo's yacht racing sponsorship, while the V90 Cross Country is a high-riding variant that rivals the Audi A6 Allroad and Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain.

As well as BMW and Mercedes estates, the V90 also challenges cars like the Audi A6 Avant and Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Prices start from around £37,500, but only the entry-level petrol and diesel models scrape in under the £40k barrier for £140 annual road tax. The plug-in hybrid models are pretty expensive, weighing in at around £60,000, although if you keep the battery charged up, you'll save hundreds in petrol costs.

The V90 is the latest in a long line of family estates that have gone increasingly upmarket. Family-friendly models like the original Amazon, 140 and 240 models. The 850 introduced front-wheel drive to the estate mix in the 1990s, while the V70 moved further upmarket for each of its two generations before the V90 replaced it in 2016.

Engines, performance and drive

4.1
Excellent cruising refinement, but the chassis isn't quite the ultimate in this class in either ride or handling terms

Volvo has had the sense to focus the V90’s development on making it a capable long-distance cruiser instead of something you’d want to throw around a Welsh B-road, and it has, in the most part, succeeded.

On a motorway, you should be pretty impressed by the V90’s ability to eat up long distances; the diesel engine has enough punch to get you up to speed pretty quickly, and once you’re sitting at a fast cruise, the motor fades away nicely into the background.

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The rest of the dynamic package is sensible and safe; the V90 stays stable and composed under braking, and while its steering is a little light, it is at least consistently weighted as you wind on lock. It’s not as satisfying to use as the set-up in the BMW 5 Series Touring, though.

If there’s a blot in the copybook, it’s ride quality. That’s not to say the V90 is particularly harsh or uncomfortable; it’s right up there with other big estates like the BMW 5 Series Touring and Audi A6 Avant. Choose the £1,500 Active Four-C Chassis, which features adaptive dampers all-round and air springs for the rear suspension, and it delivers a supple ride over bigger bumps, although sharp ridges and big potholes can catch it out and send a shudder through the cabin. 

The car is on the firmer side in R-Design trim, especially with its sportier chassis settings. It has plenty of grip and fairly fast steering, so it’s more agile than an E-Class, but it doesn’t feel quite as alert or adjustable as a BMW 5 Series, and neither does it have as much compliance in the damping.

The suspension controls body movement well but struggles a little more with mid-corner bumps when the car is loaded up. The drive modes have less of an effect on how the V90 steers and handles compared with its rivals, too. But it’s still lovely to cover long distances in, as the dampers serve up enough composure that only big jolts and expansion joints at higher speed affect comfort – and even then it’s controlled relatively well, just lacking that final degree of finesse compared with a BMW.

There is, incidentally, a conventional suspension set-up on the V90 - but we haven’t been able to find a Volvo test vehicle that’s not on the optional adaptive system, and we’d wager it’ll be the same when you ask for a demo model at your local dealership. 

The V90 Cross Country features an additional 65mm of ride height, and as such trades a bit of body control for the ability to climb over rougher terrain. It's far from the sharpest tool in the shed when the going gets twisty, but it's better than most large SUVs and the soft ride is a fair compromise. 

Regardless of which engine you choose, you’ll end up with an eight-speed automatic transmission. There’s no manual gearbox, for the time being at least, but you’re unlikely to miss it, because the auto has smooth and quick shifts. It does get caught out a little more frequently than BMW’s eight-speed unit, but not to the point where it’s an issue.

The V90 gets an arsenal of safety equipment - both active (which tries to stop the accident) and passive (which protects you when it’s happened). Its features include large animal detection, which is designed to watch for creatures like elk and moose, but is also said to be capable of warning you when deer are at the side of a dark road in front of you. 

The car also gets Volvo’s latest semi-autonomous technology, called Pilot Assist. You still need to keep your hands on the wheel to let the car know you’re ready to intervene, but do that and it’ll look after acceleration, braking and keeping the vehicle in the right lane. It works at speeds of up to 80mph, so it’s possible to use it on long journeys - though the real strength is in slow-moving or stop-start traffic on urban dual carriageways.

Engines

The engine line-up comprises two twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels and a plug-in hybrid petrol, which makes use of a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit.

The entry point is the D4, which produces 187bhp and 400Nm, enough to take the V90 from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds. The D4 is available with front-wheel drive only, and it’s the greener of the two diesels, with CO2 emissions of 119g/km. 

Those power figures are similar to the BMW 520d Touring, but it feels quite different on the move. The Volvo’s unit is noisier, especially if you rev it – and you need to do that to extract the performance as the gearbox holds on to ratios longer, while shifts aren’t quite as smooth as in the BMW. Even in the more driver-focused R-Design you don’t get steering wheel paddles, either. Despite jerkier full-throttle shifts the V90 was the faster than the 520d from 0-60mph, taking 7.3 seconds.

The more potent engine is called D5; it packs 232bhp and 480Nm, and features a trick electric compressor, called PowerPulse, that’s designed to spin up the turbocharger with air and reduce the amount of turbo lag – the delay between pressing the throttle and the engine providing its maximum boost.

The D5 is offered with four-wheel drive only, but while it’s quicker than the D4, it’s also a couple of BIK bands higher thanks to CO2 emissions of 129g/km. 

The plug-in hybrid T8 option is the most potent powertrain choice, boasting 401bhp and claimed performance figures of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. It's also the greenest too, with CO2 emissions of 46g/km, claimed fuel economy of 141mpg and an all-electric range of 28 miles on the NEDC scale. 

On the road the D5 feels extremely punchy and comfortable with a car of the V90’s size. You rarely need to rev it much beyond 2,500rpm, and it’s perfectly happy to sit at around 1200rpm when you’re holding a fast motorway cruise. Volvo’s PowerPulse technology doesn’t quite eradicate turbo lag, but the engine’s response is impressively quick and the power delivery feels smooth and linear.

The engine is refined for a four-cylinder diesel, with not much harshness or rattle to speak of. It quietens down to a hush once you’re up to speed, too; you’re more likely to hear wind noise from around the large side mirror than any diesel thrum.

The T8 powertrain is punchy, though given the weight of the V90 it's not as fast as you'd expect from 401bhp. It's a refined powertrain, however, and the all-electric injection means that at town speeds you'll drive around in complete silence most of the time. 

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4.5
Cleaner of the four-cylinder diesel models is among the most efficient offerings in the class

Volvo offers the V90 with a choice of four-cylinder diesel engines and the more modest of the pair, badged D4, is a bit of a star performer on economy and CO2 emissions. Even when paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, it emits just 119g/km of CO2; that puts the V90 into a cleaner Benefit in Kind band than the BMW 520d Touring, and matches Audi’s cleanest .

The more potent D5 isn’t quite so economical, and its extra shove drags CO2 emissions up to 129g/km; that’s still cleaner than the 525d Touring, though, as well as the six-cylinder 530d Touring.

The V90 D4 gets a 55-litre tank, which gives a theoretical range of 760 miles on the official combined fuel economy figure of 62.8mpg. In the real world, you should be able to achieve north of 600 miles between fills, especially if your route includes some empty motorways. 

The D5 model has poorer official economy, at 57.6mpg, but it gets a slightly larger fuel tank (60 litres) so its theoretical range remains the same as the D4’s. Adding four-wheel drive, in the case of the V90 Cross Country, reduces the D4's official figure to 54.3mpg and the D5 to 53.3mpg. There's also a T6 Cross Country, but that only manages 36.7mpg. 

Insurance groups

The V90’s insurance groups basically fall into two categories, depending on whether you’re dealing with the D4 or the more potent D5. The more efficient D4 unit falls into group 27E in Momentum trim, rising to 28E if you choose the better-equipped Inscription.

Move up to the more potent D5 powertrain and the groups jump to 33E (Momentum) and 34E (Inscription), but even these are pretty competitive within the class. BMW’s 5 Series Touring, for example, falls into group 34 in 520d SE spec, and that jumps to group 36 for 520d M Sport.

The overall view, therefore, is that the V90 is extremely competitive on insurance costs.

Depreciation

There’s no data on the V90’s residual values just yet; however, given that there’s likely to be strong demand from long-time Volvo estate buyers, we’d expect depreciation to be in the same ballpark as the car’s rivals from BMW and Audi.

Interior, design and technology

4.6
Distinctive, stylish and nicely finished, with only a few weaknesses

Volvo estates used to be the epitome of the firm’s boxy styling, but the V90 builds on the company’s latest look to be one of the best-looking estates on the market. 

Many of the V90’s design features, such as the Thor’s Hammer running lights, imposing front grille and muscular shoulder line, are shared with its S90 saloon cousin. However, from the B-pillar back you’ll discover that Volvo’s designers have done a neat job of integrating a more upright estate car rear.

The V90 gets a steeply raked tailgate that’s clearly intended to boost the car’s kerb appeal rather than improve practicality. The eye-catching vertical tail-lights that stretch from just above the bumper to the roof only enhance this impression.

For many buyers the sacrifice of space for style will be worth it, as the V90 is a real head-turner. Strong proportions and neat detailing combine to give the Volvo real presence. The standard wheels are 17-inchers on the D4 Momentum editions, rising to 18in items on all versions of Inscription - but Volvo offers a range of 19in and 20in items as options on all trim levels. There’s no doubt that the V90 has a more sporty, classy look on the larger wheels - but it doesn’t look particularly under-tyred on the 18-inchers.

The Cross Country will suit those after a less brash alternative to an SUV. With 65mm added to the ride height and a wealth of plastic lower body cladding and skid plates, it looks imposing enough for people to notice it isn't a regular V90. It's also much lower than an XC90, which will suit some (but not all). Inside it, however, you'll struggle to spot any differences. 

Two solid colours are available at no cost, but most V90s will be specced with one of the eight metallic finishes and two ‘premium metallic’ shades.

Inside, the V90 builds on the dashboard architecture and materials quality of the XC90, with leather as standard even on Momentum. Inscription gets a plusher Nappa material. The quality is right up there with the best in the executive estate class because, while there are harder, scratchier plastics, they’re generally well enough hidden.

The highlight of the interior is the huge nine-inch touchscreen tablet. This intuitive and clearly laid-out unit controls almost everything, including entertainment, navigation and ventilation.

As a result, there are only a handful of buttons elsewhere on the facia, which helps give the car a minimalist look and feel. Elsewhere, light wooden veneers run the width of the interior and flow back on to the doors, while the hugely supportive multi-way adjustable seats are covered in soft leather.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

THE V90 has a nine-inch tablet-style screen as standard. It’s not as big as the displays in a Mercedes or BMW, but the portrait orientation makes it less of an issue.

Everything is controlled by the touch-sensitive screen, so it’s similar to an iPad – although it can sometimes lag behind your inputs. It offers lots of features, including traffic info and, in R-Design Pro trim, Volvo’s On Call app. This allows you to send destinations from your phone to your car and will help in emergency situations or breakdowns by ringing 999 or a recovery service.

A 12.3-inch digital dash showing the sat-nav map is standard, while there's a £3,000 optional Bowers & Wilkins stereo, which delivers a punchy sound thanks to its 1,400W amplifier and 18-speaker set-up, including a subwoofer. Connectivity is good, but you have to pay for it as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are part of the £300 Smartphone Integration pack. Like the BMW 5 series, this seems stingy on a £40,000-plus exec car.

One negative point is the relative scarcity of USB sockets; there’s only a single one up front, so rear passengers don’t even have the option of charging, let alone feeding their music through to the car’s stereo. Volvo says it is working on offering an aftermarket kit to fix this - but it’s likely to be no more than a charger, leaving those in the rear seats frustratingly disconnected from the in-car entertainment.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

4.6
Capable enough, but it’s strange for a Volvo wagon to no longer be the biggest load-lugger in the class

There’s no way of avoiding this, so let’s just get it out of the way: Volvo’s big estate is no longer the biggest load-carrier in the class. The V90’s 560-litre capacity is a significant 80 litres down on the Mercedes E-Class Estate, and while the back seats fold flat at the touch of a button, the expanded volume of 1,526 litres is 294 less than that of the E-Class.

In a paradigm shift from the days of the 760 and V70, the V90’s load capacity is beaten by most of its rivals, including the BMW 5 Series Touring and Audi A6 Avant - and dwarfed by the likes of the Mercedes E-Class Estate.

In fact, with the rear seats in place the V90’s boot is actually marginally smaller than the V70’s; the relatively rakish angle of the rear hatchback is to blame.

Size

The V90 is not a small car; indeed, it is one of the bigger vehicles in the executive estate class. At 4,936mm and 1,895mm, Volvo’s offering is around three centimetres longer and wider respectively than both the 5 Series Touring and E-Class Estate. The Volvo’s roof sits slightly lower than the other pair’s, though - at 1,475mm, it’s a centimetre lower than the BMW and three centimetres down on the Mercedes.

Boot

While the V90 isn't the largest estate in the class, the load bay should be big enough for most users. With the rear seats in place there’s 560 litres on offer - and with them lowered, the capacity extends to 1,526 litres. 

By comparison, the BMW 5 Series Touring’s boot extends to 1,620 litres when the seats are folded down, and the biggest wagon of all, the Mercedes E-Class Estate, can manage a whopping 1,855 litres.

At least the Volvo’s space itself is pretty clever, with a nice flat floor to slide big loads on and conveniently placed handles to drop the rear seats without having to open the back doors. Volvo’s flap to stop shopping sliding around and gas struts to support the lid for underfloor storage are neat touches, too. Keyless entry and a powered tailgate also feature. Neat touches include the Family Pack which costs around £400 and adds a pair of integrated child booster seats to the rear bench.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Inside the cabin, there are few grumbles. There’s decent room in the rear for three adults, although the middle seat is pretty thin and has less lateral support than the other pair. Two grown-ups will have more than enough space in the same area, though, and headroom is decent in the front and rear; this would be a comfortable car for four six-footers on a long journey.

The tapering roofline does make it a little darker in the rear cabin than it would be in an E-Class Estate, mind you, and it also means that while front passengers can get in and out easily, taller rear occupants may need to dip their head slightly as they jump aboard. It’s far from an awkward squeeze, though - to the point where you may not even notice it unless you’ve had lots of experience travelling in an E-Class or a 5 Series Touring.

There are two ISOFIX points in the outermost rear seats, and they are relatively easy to access; you simply flip up or remove plastic tabs covering the mounting hooks, so you don’t have to worry about your seat chassis snagging on the base of the seat back.

Reliability and Safety

4.2
Engines and chassis are still new, but Volvo’s safety reputation speaks for itself

Volvo has a strong reputation for safety, and the V90’s sister car, the S90 saloon, was awarded a five-star result earlier this year. There’s lots of technology inside the V90, and a lot of it debuted in the XC90 SUV. One highlight is the semi-autonomous driving pilot that can guide the car – a similar system on a Mercedes will set you back around £1,700.

The Euro NCAP crash test rates passive safety - or the car’s ability to protect the occupants and pedestrians in an accident. But Volvo is also focusing on avoiding the crash in the first place - active safety - and the V90 gets plenty of functions on that score, including large animal detection, which can spot deer emerging from the side of the road and take avoiding action, and semi-autonomus Pilot Assist, which can keep the car in lane and at a safe distance from the car in front, at speeds of up to 80mph.

The V90 also features Volvo’s Run-off Road protection system that debuted on the XC90. Sensors in the car detect when a car has uncontrollably left the road, at which point all the seatbelts are pulled as tight as possible, locking occupants in place. In combination with the special energy absorption features in the seats, this set-up is claimed to reduce spinal injuries by a third.

It’s too early for the 50,000 owners in our Driver Power survey to deliver a verdict even on the XC90, which shares lots of components with the V90 - and since the V90 is almost completely changed from its predecessor, the V70, it’s hard to use that car for comparison either. However, while some early cars have suffered from a few electrical niggles that have been remedied with software updates, we’ve heard no horror stories emerging from XC90 owners, so it appears that Volvo’s SPA chassis technology and its four-cylinder engines are proving reliable so far. We’d expect that to continue on the V90.

Warranty

Volvo’s standard warranty is for three years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes soonest. That’s a little shorter than the cover offered by BMW, which last for the same period but with no mileage limit. Volvo offers the chance to extend the warranty - either adding a year, or adding a year and a further 20,000 miles.

Servicing

The standard servicing interval on the V90 is 12 months, with the schedule alternating between interim and major services. Volvo hasn’t confirmed servicing costs for the vehicle yet but it is expected to follow other models in the line-up by offering an interest-free service plan to spread the cost.

Last updated: 
16 Mar, 2018
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