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Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
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Volvo’s largest estate majors on style, safety and super-cool image

Volvo V90 (16 on) - rated 4.1 out of 5
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PROS

  • Eye-catching and elegant styling
  • High-tech safety kit as standard
  • Impressive passenger space in the rear

CONS

  • Boot size isn't its strongest point
  • Not as good to drive as some rivals
  • Pricey high-spec models and options

PROS

  • Eye-catching and elegant styling
  • High-tech safety kit as standard
  • Impressive passenger space in the rear

CONS

  • Boot size isn't its strongest point
  • Not as good to drive as some rivals
  • Pricey high-spec models and options

Verdict

The Volvo V90 is based on the the XC90 SUV and S90 saloon, and spearheaded the Swedish carmaker's transformation into a fully-formed premium manufacturer following its 2016 launch. Not that Volvo is a newcomer to this market sector – it built up a solid reputation through its functional wagons throughout the 1970s, '80s and '90s, and now enjoys an image of left-field Scandi-cool, which buyers seem to love.

The V90 faces some formidable opposition for the money, though: the Parkers award-winning BMW 5 Series Touring, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate and Audi A6 Avant are all direct rivals, and each is staggeringly good. They have been built by companies that have perfected the art of building premium models sprinkled with desirability – and Volvo has its work cut out going head-to-head with these players.

As ever, though, Volvo can count on a number of pioneering safety features to stand out from its rivals, most notably the standard-fit Pilot Assist adaptive cruise control system (with lane-keeping assistance), and highly-effective crash mitigation systems to help avoid accidents in the first place. We'll go into that more fully in the features section of this review.

Volvo V90: based on the XC90, but even more stylish

There's no denying that the V90 is a stylish car. There's little boxiness you'd normally associate with big Volvo estates from the past. It's immediately recognisable thanks to the company's signature T-shaped LED 'Thor's Hammer' daytime-running lights.

Inside, Volvo's gone its own way, too. Large swathes of the cockpit may well be borrowed from the XC90, but this is a good thing, as it’s a great car. It's light and airy, and offered in some very interesting colour/material combinations, which will appeal to those who want to move away from the more usual blacks and greys. 

The way it drives is familiar too. Volvo calls this ‘Relaxed Confidence’ and it’s a refreshing change from the sporty pretentions of its German rivals. It’s no driver’s car (although very capable nevertheless) but there’s plenty of confidence-inspiring traction allied with a quiet, comfortable ride – providing you opt for the adaptive suspension package.

Volvo V90 interior

Volvo V90 diesel, petrol and hybrid options

The Volvo V90 is based on the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) underpinnings as the larger XC90 and S90, as well as the smaller S60/V60 and XC60. That means the engines, transmissions, safety systems, and much of the interior tech is shared across all models, meaning that they're tried and tested across pretty much all of Volvo's range, aside from the entry-level XC40.

The primary power unit for the V90 is Volvo's 2.0-litre, four-cylinder in diesel, petrol and hybrid forms, and available with a myriad of power outputs. The diesels are referred to as D4 and D5 PowerPulse producing 190hp and 235hp respectively, while the latter are badged are badged T4 (190hp) and T5 (250hp).

All conventional engines are front-wheel drive, four-cylinder, 2.0-litre turbocharged units and boast impressive claimed fuel economy figures plus some clever tech to aid driveability. The D5 in particular features an innovative PowerPulse system that helps spool up the turbocharger at low revs for faster throttle response, and it makes the V90 feel more spontaneously powerful than you’d expect from a big diesel estate.

Coming in as the most expensive engine variant is the T8 hybrid, It produces 318hp from its 2.0-litre petol engine, combined with another 82hp from an electric motor. Unsurprisingly, it’s the T8 hybrid that, on paper at least, is the cheapest car to run, returning a claimed 135mpg (we averaged 33mpg over four months in our Volvo V90 T8 long-term review) and produces just 47g/km of CO2.

Why the Volvo V90 has the best safety

Safety and space are the main selling points of this car, but it impresses more on the former count. Standard features include Pilot Assist, which takes care of the throttle, steering and brakes from traffic jams all the way up to cruising speed; plus a sophisticated crash avoidance system that can spot pedestrians, cyclists and large animals in front of the car, day or night. And in models built from 2020, including the V90, there will be an electronically governed top speed of 112mph.

The large Sensus touchscreen in the centre console is a step away form the opposition, most notably for being in portrait, rather than landscape format. It's easy to use once mastered, but because it replaces a huge number of functions and buttons from around the cabin, drivers new to the car might find it takes some getting used to. In addition, you also get a set of digital dials and a raft of driver assistance equipment.

Now for the V90's raison d'etre – its luggage capacity. And it's here that the V90 disappoints. You get a 560-litre boot that expands to 1,526 litres with the rear seats folded, but rivals are considerably bigger and more adaptable. Volvophiles with doubtless lament the absence of a vertical tailgate to boost capacity, which ironically, the newer V60 has – and as a consequence, the smaller car has more space to play with.

VerdictShould you buy a Volvo V90?

Yes, with some provisos. We really like the Volvo V90. It's a stylish, usable and unpretentious car that has a lot going for it. It stands out from the crowd, is efficient and comes packed with some of the most advanced safety kit currently on the market. The diesel models make more sense than the petrols (for high-mileage drivers), while the T8 plug-in hybrid is very useful if you can make best use of its 21-mile battery-only range on a regular basis.

The V90 not perfect, however, with a number of competitors offering greater practicality and a more rewarding driving experience. The question is – if the last word in luggage capacity and dynamics aren't top of your list, then you can buy with confidence.

The fact it’s not one of the usual suspects (Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz) will also tempt plenty of potential buyers who are looking to do their own thing in the premium sector. Would we take one over a BMW 520i Touring or Mercedes-Benz E 200 estate – if comfort and space are a priority, and making a design statement is important to you, then the answer is yes.

Volvo V90 rear view

Read the full Volvo V90 Estate review to see why we rate this Swedish wagon so highly.

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