Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1

Powered by a pair of diesel engines, two petrols and a plug-in hybrid, Volvo V90 performance is as ample as you need it to be. The petrol versions arrived in the UK after the diesels, and predictably, have not sold in anywhere near the same numbers as the diesels. The interesting T8 petrol-electric plug-in hybrid followed in 2018, and with 400hp and a potential 140+mpg on short journeys, it's pretty much unique in the market.

As part of its ongoing safety drive, Volvo has announced that as of 2020 all ot its models - V90 included - will have an electronically limited top speed of 112mph, regardless of how powerful the engine is.

Efficient diesel engines – all 2.0 litres

Regardless of which V90 you pick, the powerplant is a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre, turbocharged unit. First up is the more frugal of the two, the front-wheel drive D4, producing 190hp and 400Nm of torque from a satisfactorily low 1,750rpm – so far it’s proving the most popular choice. Top speed is quoted at 140mph, while the 0-62mph dash takes 8.5 seconds, so it’s no slouch, but there’s an alternative if you want to go quicker.

That’s the role of the D5 PowerPulse AWD (all-wheel drive), courtesy of its 235hp and 480Nm outputs. Top speed’s increased to 145mph, while the sprint from 0-62mph is a hot hatch-like 7.2 seconds. The D5’s important addition is that PowerPulse function.

Helping cut down on the slight delay sometimes felt on turbocharged engines, it compresses air into a storage cylinder that is then used to spin the turbo into action when there are insufficient exhaust gases to do so, making the V90 much more responsive. It’s a lighter, cheaper system than the electronic compressor used in the Audi SQ7.

Petrol-engined Volvo V90s: performance focused

There are two petrols to choose from – the 190hp T4 and the 250hp T5. Both deliver plenty of power for the assertive driver, even though you'll need to give them plenty of revs to deliver their best. Refinement from thefour-cylinder engine is excellent, with low overall noise levels and a decent,if muted, engine note.

The T5 isn't as quick as its 250hp maximum power output might suggest. Maximum speed is 140mph and 0-60mph comes up in a reasonable and unfussed 6.8 seconds. The T4 isn't that far behind with a 0-60mph time of 8.6 seconds, and a maximum speed of 130mph – and more importantly, it really doesn't feel that down on power on the road.

We'll put the plug-in hybrid T8 version here, as although it's capable of running 21 miles on a full charge of battery only, it's more of a performance car that can be pressed into eco runnin where necessary. The figures bear this out – 0-60mph comes up in 5.1 seconds, while the maximum speed that's limited to 155mph is more than competitive.

What’s the Volvo V90 T4 Inscription like to drive?

In terms of performance and refinement, this well-powered petrol model doesn’t disappoint. It’s smooth and refined at low revs, and effortlessly picks up speed when you’re looking to make progress – once you get used to the fact it doesn’t have bottomless reserves of low-down pulling power like a diesel.

Acceleration is more than acceptable if you bury your right foot into the carpet, with a 0-62mph time of 8.6 seconds and a maximum speed of 130mph – but in truth, these figures are pretty meaningless – it keeps up easily with the flow, and its automatic transmission slurs changes perfectly, and keeps revs low when you’re not after the ultimate acceleration.

It’s also a very impressively quiet cruiser. Wind noise is admirably kept in check, and this – along with the supremely comfortable seats – makes the V90 a very accomplished distance-covering machine. On that score, it inches ahead of its PowerPulse diesel sister car.

What's the 400hp hybrid T8 like to drive?

Yes, if you value supercar-baiting performance. Considering the V90 weighs more than two tonnes, a 0-60mph time of around five seconds is seriously fast. With the combined power of the petrol-electric drivetrain, it never sounds or feels strained. Instead, it generates an curious four-cylinder back-beat overlaid by a supercharger-like whine that adds genuine interest.

Of course, if you make liberal use of its acceleration, the 21-ish miles of battery life are rapidly depleted. And even if you engage the battery-charge function, it won't recharge as quickly as it depletes. But wind back your enthusiasm, and it's unlikely you'll be left floundering with 'just' 316hp for very long.

Want a manual Volvo V90? Forget it…

There’s only one choice of transmission: an eight-speed automatic ’box that merges together its ratios in a smooth and, for the most part, timely fashion – providing you’re driving in an equally tranquil manner.

When pushing on we found the gearbox wasn’t quite as proactive as it could be, made worse by the absence of steering wheel paddles for those moments when you want to take over.

Should you buy a petrol or diesel V90?

Volvo has clearly put a lot of work into its 2.0-litre petrol engine, which is punchy, refined, and reasonably efficient. Compared with its rather gruff PowerPulse diesel sister, it’s an object-lesson in refinement, even if it lags a little behind the best that BMW is putting out right now.

On that basis, and assuming the penalty in fuel consumption isn’t too much for you (30mpg vs 40mpg for the diesel), and you’re doing mainly motorway miles, switching from diesel to petrol will be a painless, and enjoyable experience for Volvo V90 drivers.

In the week we ran the Volvo V90 T4 Inscription, we averaged 29.2mpg, which is not a bad effort given the mix of urban and motorway driving we subjected it to. We’d expect more typical drivers to squeak past 30mpg without too much effort.

Handling

  • Comfort is the watchword with this large estate
  • But it’s more successful with adaptive suspension
  • All-wheel drive is standard on top-line D5 models

Volvo’s description of the V90’s handling is ‘Relaxed Confidence’ and this seems quite fitting. Slower steering with little feedback through the wheel means you can’t hustle it like its sportier BMW 5 Series Touring rival but good body control allows you to make quick progress on a flowing road.

Based on the XC90’s architecture, the Volvo V90 is very similar in the way it drives, although the estate car’s lower centre of gravity lends it a less roly-poly character. On adaptive air suspension it dealt with lumps and bumps with sublime control, practically floating over rough roads when the drive mode was left in its native Comfort setting.

You can tighten things up with Dynamic mode but there’s no getting around the V90’s size and weight – this is no agile hatchback – the D5’s all-wheel drive system finds masses of traction but gives way to the nose washing wide if you dial in a little too much speed.

The standard suspension arrangement isn’t as sophisticated and consequently neither is the ride quality. It’s not uncomfortable, but you’re significantly more aware of rougher road services, so upgrade to the adaptive arrangement if your budget will stretch to it. Key to getting the best out of your V90 is to stick with 19-inch wheels – these give the best balance of appearance, handling and ride comfort.

Volvo V90 T4 Inscription handling

Dynamics might not be your first priority when ordering a petrol V90, but it’s good to know that its handling is predictable, safe and ultimately very capable. It’s not as sporting as a BMW or firm as an Audi, and sits somewhere close to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class in terms of its performance/comfort make-up – although it lacks that final 10% of restfulness you get with the Mercedes-Benz.

Volvo V90 T8 Inscription handling

You can't escape the fact it's a two-tonne car. But it handles tidily enough, and is never cause for concern. In slippery conditions, the added security of the battery-assisted four-wheel drive system keeps it all on the straight and narrow. With adaptive damping and air suspension at the rear, it's safe and predictable on B-roads as long as the corners aren't too sharp.

As things get more demanding, you'll not escape the body roll, which isn't excessive and reasonably controlled. But it's impossible not to conclude that the V90 is most at home on sweeping A-roads and motorways, where it remains delightfully unflustered.