Scandi drama. What Scandi drama ?
Having a car buying history with Swedish cars, albeit with purchasing a couple of Saab’s & not Volvo’s, I have always had a soft spot for all things Swede. From Henning Mankell’s Wallander, to TV’s The Killing, to Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman. ‘Scandic-Noir’ & their attitude to design appeals to my senses. With the demise of Saab, the continuation of Swedish car making has been narrowed down to one brand, Volvo, which despite a few rocky years with Ford, has under Chinese owners Geely, seen the brand re-emerge with some cracking models in the name of the XC90XC60 & latterly the XC40 one of my top three cars of 2018 so far. What Volvo has always done well is to build large estate cars & the latest Volvo model to compete with the Germans the V90 made it’s way to CC&V towers recently.
Replacing the V70, the V90 is aimed fairly & squarely at a sector dominated by the Holy Trinity of BMW, Mercedes-Benz & Audi, a sector made even more competitive where both saloon & estate sales are in decline, because of the British obsession with SUV’s. Nonetheless, its an important car for Volvo & continues to showcase Volvo’s four-cylinders engines aimed at reducing emissions & increasing fuel economy across all of it’s range.
Volvo’s latest Scalable Platform Architecture chassis (SPA) was first seen on the XC90 & the V90 features ostensibly the same set of underpinnings as the SUV model.
The V90 is available with a pair of diesel & three petrol engines. The two 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels are badged D4 and D5, with 2WD 190bhp & 235bhp AWD versions on offer. Petrol is offered as a T4 190bhp, T8 Twin Engine AWD 320+87 bhp & a T6 AWD 310bhp on the Cross Country Pro. The standard gearbox across the range is an eight-speed auto, with Volvo stating that it has no plans to offer a manual gearbox in the UK, which makes an awful lot of sense.
From an aesthetic perspective, the old boxy looking Volvo estates of old has been replaced by a much sleeker more attractive model with the V90. The exterior lines are softer than on the old V70 & the overall look is still most definitely Volvo, who many would claim is still the best estate maker in the world. Nice touches include the front grille, which is concave & is finished either in silver on Momentum or black on Inscription models. Taking a cue from the revamped V40, Thor Hammer headlights adorn the front lights, whilst the rear lights are typically for a Volvo, expansive & may well split opinion, but they are definitely different.
Taking it’s cue from the XC90 the V90’s interior is another positive step-up for Volvo, with soft touch plastics, supple leather & brushed walnut adorning the dashboard, seats & doors. The dashboard is dominated by the large portrait touchscreen, to such an extent, that all controls are worked from this, meaning that there are now only seven other control buttons on the dash giving the driver a clean, uncluttered instrument board. Most of the touchscreen functions can also be controlled via the steering wheel buttons. The 9” portrait touchscreen does take time to get used to, but is at least intuitive enough for this writer to have grasped it’s machinations in the seven days I spent with it. Like many others, the fact that so much is controlled via the touchscreen, can prove to be a little infuriating, not especially when you switch between the radio, phone & SatNav functions, but when you need to adjust the heating controls. Peugeot realised that this was a problem in their 308 & in their new 3008 have addressed this screen obsession, by adding buttons to the dashboard giving the driver a choice; touchscreen or button. But, despite this niggle, it’s beautifully presented & put together & I have no doubt that a bit like BMW’s ‘i-System,’ more time spent driving the V90 will enable you to utilise it properly.
In a large estate you want lot’s of space & the V90 doesn’t disappoint. There’s masses of room both in the front & the rear, with especially impressive legroom in the back. The boot comes with 560 litres of storage on offer including under floor storage & a pop-up divider which prevents your shopping sling around in the boot. The rear seats can easily be folded down to increase this to 1526 litres if required. I bought a new 40” TV in the week I had the V90 & it fitted in to the boot side ways, without me having to fold the rear seats down. I then tried the same trick in SEAT’S Ateca, in taking the empty box to the tip. The box was too wide.
In reality, the main aim of the V90 is to give Volvo & customers, a viable alternative to the German estate or touring cars, which dominate the sector. Not only does the V90 have to look good, tick ,be extremely comfortable & spacious, tick & be well bolted together, tick, to match the Germans, the Volvo has to offer the right amount of standard equipment to tick all the right boxes as well. This the Volvo does comfortably. The entry level Momentum offers amongst others, a 10 speaker 300W sound system, a DAB tuner, Bluetooth, USB & Aux in ports & there’s also 2-Zone electronic climate control. On the outside, there are LED headlights, active high beam with day running lights, rear park assist, which can be viewed on the 9” touchscreen & a power operated boot lid. Throw in the aforementioned leather, walnut & shiny metal finishes & Volvo has clearly worked hard to give customers more standard stuff than their Germanic rivals. For those of you who spend a lot of time behind the wheel & may need to link your phone to your car, the Bluetooth in the V90 is easy to use & I connected my iPhone promptly to the system in order to make & receive hands free calls.
Volvo’s of course, is famous for safety & the V90 is no different coming as it does with a host of standard safety features. City safety, including pedestrian, cyclist & large animal detection with front collision & full auto brake is on all models. So too is road edge detection, run-off road detection, a speed limiter, a driver alert with lane keeping aid, road sign info display, an active bonnet, plus the usual array of airbags make this Volvo one of the safest cars you can buy. I utilised the adaptive cruise control on the motorway & also on a 400 mile trip to Surrey & back, tried out Volvos Pilot Assist, which allows for autonomous driving at speeds of of up to 80mph. It is a strange feeling to take your hands off the wheel at 70 mph, but I can safely say that having selected this using the steering wheel controls, it does work, placing the car exactly in the middle of your lane, although as with Mercedes version, you do need to touch the steering wheel approximately every 15 seconds to stop it dis-engaging.
Volvo have made a mission statement in that all of their models will until electrification, be built & will run on 4-cylinder engines, which may make a few 6-cylinder aficionados shudder. Despite these concerns, the 4-cylinder engine that Volvo has in the V90 is pretty impressive as well as refined. It’s perhaps a little louder than some of it’s competitors below 50 mph, but is seemingly quieter thereafter. The quality of the soundproofing & glass cocooning the cabin keeps all external noise at bay, which on the motorway is a real bonus. For a large estate the V90 also handles pretty well. Driving on a selection of A & B roads the car can be steered heavily in & out of a corner & there’s no real sign of either understeer or oversteer. It may not be quite as impressive as the 5 Series Touring, but it’s actually an enjoyable car to be in. Pot-holes seem to adorn all of the UK nowadays & thankfully, the suspension in the V90 is softer than on the Audi A6 or Mercedes E Class.
Those in the market for a large car may not worry as much as some about a vehicles green credentials, but the V90 proves to be an attractive proposition.The D4 returns a respectable 64.2mpg on the combined cycle, with the D5 featuring PowerPulse, to help with turbo lag a slightly lower 57.6mpg. I was driving the V90 D4 Inscription without PowerPulse & there is a teeny weeny bit of turbo lag. With CO2 emissions of 119g/km & a claimed combined fuel economy of 62.8 mpg ( I averaged 42.9mpg) the D4 Inscription is pretty tax friendly too.
A week & almost 550 miles in the V90 & it was time to come to a conclusion. Whilst the Volvo is a wonderful car to drive, is also great to look at, is incredibly comfortable & comes better equipped than the competition, it’s not quite as impressive as the BMW 5 Series. But, compare it to the E Class estate, Audi A6 Avant orthe face lifted Jaguar XF Sportbrake & it’s better than all three, offering at least as much space & equipment as these three but at a lower price & with better emissions & fuel economy. My 550 miles saw me averaging 42.9mpg in the D4, almost 10mpg more than i managed in the XF, A6 & E Class.
If you were to choose the V90 as your company car, you would not be disappointed. Despite being a diesel, I would strongly suggest that the one to go for is the D4 Momentum Pro costing £38,750 on the road, which because of its lower BIK will save you money over the more powerful D5. However, if you drive less than 60 miles per day & can charge your V90 at home & at work, then the Twin Engine petrol version is also well worth considering, in Design Pro spec. It may cost more, a lot more at £58,400, but with CO2 emissions of just 46g/km, will only incur a BIK of just 9%, compared to the BIK rate of 30% on the D4 Momentum Pro. A good way to save on personal taxation.
As Volvo customers know, with Volvo, you’re buying something a little bit different. The sell-out success of the XC40 proves that the Volvo range may not just be for architects anymore. The V90 is a car that like all of the latest Volvo models, has been crafted with the highest attention to detail & being Swedish, makes a completely different statement than if you are running a German car or even the excellent Jaguar XF. The folks in Gothenburg have done a very good job indeed. Volvo is unquestionably alone as the only European competitor to the Teutonic Trio.
A Modus 4/5