Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
  • Well-made cabin employs high-quality materials
  • Central touchscreen replaces much of the switchgear
  • Very similar layout to the XC90 SUV’s interior

Climb aboard the Volvo V90 and you’ll appreciate that the cabin is full of lovely materials, from soft leather to cross-cut wood inserts with the grain lined-up diagonally. It’s strikingly bare as well – most of the controls and buttons have been migrated to the central screen so the cabin looks simple but elegant and really attractive. If you’ve been in an XC90 you might get a sense of déjà vu, so similar are their cabins.

It’s very easy to get comfortable thanks to a squashy yet supportive driver’s seat that offers plenty of adjustment. The digital dashboard is bright and clear and just as uncluttered as the rest of the cockpit.

Comfort

  • Ride is improved with the optional air suspension
  • Volvo’s seats continue to be the industry benchmark
  • Lots of space for passengers, especially in the rear

Given our findings in the Handling section you’d imagine that comfort would be an area where the Volvo V90 excels, and you would be right – with one caveat. The adaptive air suspension setup is very comfortable indeed, gliding over tarmac imperfections with little hassle and isolating larger bumps to a corner of the car rather than it reverberating around the cabin.

Stick with the standard steel springs and while it’s not uncomfortable, you’re aware of ruts in the road being telegraphed to your posterior. Noise-wise there’s very little intrusion from the D4 and D5 engines, which go about their business with incredible discretion. The seats are nothing short of being supremely comfortable, as you’d expect from Volvo, and unsurprisingly considering the length of the V90, you get acres of space when sitting in the back.

Pilot Assist: standard on all V90s

It's interesting that the V90 range as a whole gets its amazing Pilot Assist system as standard (a fact worth crowing about, as most rivals keep their versions on the options list), and in doing so, gives its drivers a real taste of what autonomous hands-free driving could be like in the future.

Keith Adams, Parkers Editor, ran a V90 for 8,000 miles and picked up a lot of experience of the system. Here are his thoughts:

Pilot Assist: how well does it work?

First thing to know is that it's described by Volvo as 'a comfort function that can provide you with steering assistance and help you to maintain the distance to the vehicle in front of you.' In reality, you use it in exactly the same way you would a cruise control system – when you're happy with your speed, set the car running, and take your feet off the pedals. 

There are two modes – Adaptive Cruise Control and Pilot Assist. The former will maintain distance between you and the car in front, and offers lane-keeping assist, which will gently nudge you back into the correct place if you stray,

Pilot Assist takes that concept a step further by being more active with the steering. It will maintain your car's position in the lane, and should allow you to relax your steering inputs, as it guides you along your lane. You'll know the car has picked up a lane that it can keep you in, because there's a green tell-tale (below) in the dash that informs you as much.

What's Pilot Assist like in use?

Like all these driver aids, some people love them, others hate them. A straw poll of  the Parkers team is that most of us like Pilot Assist, with one or two interesting exceptions. As the V90's most regular user, I'm wedded to Pilot Assist, as it's been a fantastic aid on long journeys, measurably staving off tiredness.

But I would accept that you need to be in the right mindset. You need to be alert of the road ahead, but retain loose control of the wheel, and let the car do its own thing, with you guiding it gently, if you're not happy with its lane positioning. Those who like to maintain control of the car by keeping a tighter grip on the wheel may end up fighting the system – as I say, it's a mindset thing.

Pilot Assist attempts to keep your car in the middle of the lane, and will constantly try to maintain this position. Some drivers report that it can get too close to other vehicles on the left or right on motorway lanes, but I've yet to encounter this. Again, this might be down to every driver having their own view of where their car needs to sit in the lane.

Most importantly, because it's part of the adaptve cruise control system, there's wonderful 'sneeze factor' that comes with it. A tiny lapse in concentration, while a car ahead jams on its brakes, and the Volvo will pull the car up efficiently. I imagine that has been a lifesaver for a few drivers.

To keep things smooth, always try to let the car to find its own position – and in the case of narrow lanes or road works, you might just want to switch it off, and knock back to the standard Adaptive Cruise Control.

Conclusion: is Pilot Assist a taste of autonomy?

Yes and no. Once you're tuned in, and are at one with the system, it genuinely makes motorway driving a whole lot more restful. It's at its best on modern tarmac with good paint and light traffic, though. Meet that criteria, and you really can let the car take the strain, while you concentrate on the traffic ahead.

I'd never take my hands off the wheel, but sometimes I find myself holding it so gently that the system will nag me to get my hands back on the rim. That generally happens after 20 seconds or so of zero driver input. It's always worth noting that other than the green tell tale on the dash, there's no warning if Pilot Assist has lost acquisition of the lane ahead.

It's wonderful in traffic jams, though. And it's here that I'd say it's at its best, trickling along in traffic, taking over that most boring of driving chores. It's interesting that this safety feature is standard on the V90. I suspect that take-up from customers might be slow if it were a cost option, so kudos to Volvo for kitting out the V90 with this system…

For those who get it, this is most definitely a worthwhile addition to the V90.