Bought from the Ford Motor Company in 2010, Volvo has since thrived under the ownership of China’s Geely Automobile Holdings, releasing a number of new models incorporating Scandinavian design flare and new technology. In Volvo’s hierarchy the 90-range is at the top. It first went into production in 2015 with the XC90 SUV and the S90 saloon. The V90 estate is the third body type and replaces the smaller V70.
My introduction to the range came over a year ago with the XC90. I was impressed with Volvo’s long list of safety features, the modern tech with the swipe action of the touch screen, as well as the new design language of both the exterior and interior. With significant investment from the Chinese multinational automotive group, Volvo has once again found its mojo and this latest V90 carries on the tradition.
(Relevant: Volvo Proves It's In Tune With The Times)
My ride today is the imported V90 D4 with the top Inscription specification. It is a handsome car with clean angular lines and sloping front and rear windscreens that create a great-looking profile—although they also eat into boot capacity when compared with competitors such as the BMW 520d Touring, the Mercedes Benz E220d estate, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake and the Audi A6 Avante. The new Volvo design language that started with the XC90 carries on here with “Thor’s hammer” LED headlights, up-right rear LED lights and Volvo’s re-designed iconic iron mark logo. The V90 sits on the same SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform, sharing a base structure with the XC90 and S90 saloon.
The spacious cabin with its Scandinavian interior and panoramic sunroof boasts comfortable and ergonomically correct seats upholstered in soft tan nappa leather, handcrafted open-pore wood panels and surfaces in shiny blacks and chrome. The minimalist feel is made more pronounced by the dominant central up-right nine-inch touch screen systems panel, which replaces traditional buttons. Flanked by new vertical air conditioning vents, the screen—which can also be accessed via steering wheel buttons and voice control—is the in-car control centre for vehicle functions. It manages cabin climate, satellite navigation, telephone and entertainment systems and works in collaboration with the driver’s digital display cluster and a useful head-up display at the bottom of the windscreen that shows the car’s speed and the road’s speed limit. In the back, the button-controlled rear seats fold flat with a 60:40 split to increase boot space from 560 to 1,526 litres and there’s a useful hands-free automatic tailgate as well.
On ignition the diesel clatter of the engine is immediately obvious but thankfully this seems to quieten down as the car moves off. In fact, apart from the chatter of the engine at idle, the V90 is a quiet car with no wind or road noise at speed. Visibility is good out front, although the A-pillars are thick and the side mirrors are fairly large. The rear threequarter view is more restricted but the in-car camera and radar alerts do an excellent job whenever you’re reversing. Although large at nearly five metres in length, in-town driving suits the car admirably thanks to a supple suspension and a feel-good steering system that is neither too light nor as overly sensitive as some electric steering set ups can be.
The car’s entry-level two-litre fourcylinder turbo diesel engine pushes out 190 horsepower and 400 Newton metres of torque on paper, equating to a zero to 100 km/hour dash of 8.5 seconds and plenty of power for overtaking. Two turbo chargers work together under acceleration. A small turbo kicks in at lower revs and is joined by a larger unit once the engine is running above 3,000 rpm. There is a slight hesitation before boost builds if you insist on being a boy racer at the traffic lights but otherwise the car is steady and composed at speed.
Drivability in the V90 is a breeze with a choice of driving modes—eco, comfort or dynamic—selected using the roller on the central console just below the engine start/ stop switch. Gear changes are smooth and efficient and the brakes are powerful and progressive, but make sure you signal prior to changing lanes otherwise the electronic lane keeping assist system tugs at the steering wheel. Although the under steer and torque steer normally associated with front-wheel drive cars has been reduced by replacing the front McPherson struts with double wishbone transverse links, there is some under steer noticeable on curves at speed as the front-wheel drive system seems to fight you.
The V90’s ride is beautifully set up for Thailand’s undulating secondary roads and the car comes equipped with 255/40 R19 Continental ContiSport Contact 5 tyres. In the wet it is imperious; steady with good road holding, it cuts through the pouring rain with confidence. However there can be some harshness in town driving on less-thanperfect roads due to the low sidewalls of those tyres.
As far as safety features go, the car is full of electronic gizmos that safeguard passengers actively and passively. As I was coming down off a long bridge, perhaps too enthusiastically and causing a heavy compression of the suspension, the safety belts automatically tightened up around the front passengers. It was the pre-crash protection at work! Of course the car was completely under control, false alarm perhaps, but it is good to know the feature is there for you. Another lovely detail I discovered after the rain is the built-in windscreen spray nozzles that are incorporated into the wipers. Not only are they discrete, they also do an excellent job on the screen cleaning without fouling everywhere else.
Perhaps it has something to do with my age but during the three days I spent with the V90, with its relaxed manners, safety features and many toys, the car grew on me immensely. I may not have tried out some of the features such as voice command and self-parking, but I did hook up my iPhone to Apple CarPlay to stream my music in a Gothenburg Concert Hall experience. Boosted through a powerful 1,400-watts 19-speaker premium sound system, Aaron Neville, Neil Young and Barclay James Harvest never sounded so good. For those who want the space but dislike the high driving position of a SUV and prefer not to go for the usual German and Japanese offerings, the Volvo V90 estate presents an excellent alternative.
(See also: Audi Demonstrates Its Artificial Intelligence)