Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
  • Six engine options
  • Three petrols, two diesels, one plug-in
  • Plug-in best all-rounder, but also most expensive

Regardless of which V90 you pick, the powerplant is a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre, turbocharged engine. There are three petrols, a pair of diesels, and plug-in hybrid - meaning the Volvo V90's performance is as ample as you need it to be. Below we've highlighted the performance figures for all of them

B4 mild hybrid petrol - 197hp, 0-60mph 7.6 seconds

B4 mild hybrid diesel - 197hp, 0-60mph 8.2 seconds

B5 mild hybrid petrol - 250hp, 0-60mph 6.6 seconds

B5 mild hybrid diesel AWD - 235hp, 0-60mph 6.6 seconds

B6 mild hybrid petrol AWD - 300hp, 0-60mph 5.9 seconds

T6 plug-in hybrid AWD - 340hp, 0-60mph 5.6 seconds

The B4, B5, and B6 engines are all mild hybrids. This means the car uses a starter generator that captures wasted energy when the car is slowing down. This wasted energy can be used to propel the car, adding performance and improving economy. For ease of use it's brilliantly simple - you don't need to do anything and you won't really notice the Volvo's systems working.

While the T6 is a plug-in hybrid, which means there's a 2.0-litre petrol engine plus a battery. Together they make a healthy 340hp, making it the fastest V90 on sale. But you'll have to remember to plug it in to fully utilise that power.

Efficient diesel engines

First up is the more frugal of the two, the front-wheel drive B4. So far it’s proving a popular choice. It's no slouch, but it is pretty loud, especially at low speeds. For more money Volvo will sell you a B5 with all-wheel drive. This is usefully one second quicker to 60mph, while offering very similar MPG.

Neither feel slow or are unfrugal. We'd recommend the cheaper, slower engine if you're not too fussed by a car's 0-60mph time. If however, you do like to accelerate past other cars with ease on a motorway, and you'd prefer the surefootedness of AWD, the B5 is the one for you.

Helping cut down on the slight delay sometimes felt on turbocharged units, the engines compress 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 three petrols to choose from – the B4, B5, and B6. All 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 the four-cylinder engine is mostly good, with low overall noise levels and a decent, if muted, engine note. The petrols can sound gruff first thing on a cold morning.

The B5 isn't as quick as its 250hp maximum power output might suggest. The B4 isn't that far behind in terms of pace, and more importantly, it really doesn't feel that down on power on the road.

While the B6 certainly does feel potent - as you'd expect from 300hp. Realistically it's hot-hatch fast. This is the model to go for if you like the idea of a performance V90, but don't want a plug-in hybrid.

Plug-in proves fast can be frugal

The T6 Recharge is capable of running 35.4 miles on a full charge of battery only. This is realistically only around 25-30 miles on typical journeys. But it's more of a performance car that can be pressed into eco running where necessary than an out and out frugal fighter. It feels properly quick.

Discontinued 400hp T8

Bad news if you value supercar-baiting performance. The T8 was discontinued in 2020. But if you're looking for one on the used market, we can heartily recommend one. Considering it 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.

Handling

  • Comfort is the watchword with this large estate
  • But it’s more successful with adaptive suspension
  • All-wheel drive is standard on B5 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 the Dynamic driving mode but there’s no getting around the V90’s size and weight – this is no agile hatchback. The all-wheel drive system fitted to more powerful cars finds masses of traction but gives way to the nose washing wide if you dial in a little too much speed. To be honest, you'll really need to be giving it some to notice a difference between the front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models in normal driving circumstances.

Volvo V90 cornering, rear