The Volvo V90 D4 offers a huge amount of space along with good looks, a classy interior, a comfortable driving experience and good economy.
Volvo is traditionally associated with large estates, but over recent years there’s been a period where investment from the company in good quality products to rival the German premium manufacturers has been lacking, however all that has changed with the latest V90.
The Volvo V90 has a 4 cylinder, 2-litre turbodiesel engine, producing 190hp and 400Nm, with front-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Overall it’s a good-looking car, although the rear end seems a bit too angular and fussy compared to the more uncluttered front.
The interior closely resembles that of the new XC90 (both are based on Volvo’s new platform), which means that it’s very classy, with some very nice design details such as the high quality touchscreen, the stop/start switch and the drive mode dial, and overall it’s a refreshing change in terms of visual appearance compared to German rivals.
There’s lots of space inside, masses of rear legroom, and a huge luggage compartment – although the boot is not as box-like as Volvo estates from a few years ago.
The driving experience starts well, as the V90 offers lots of seat adjustment to allow most people to enjoy a good driving position.
Once you’re underway, it’s obvious that this Volvo’s focus is on comfort, with a good ride, and the suspension dealing effortlessly with potholes and speed bumps.
Bearing in mind that the ride is comfortable and that this is a large, relatively heavy, front-wheel drive car, the handling is also impressive, and the steering feels tight. Traditionally we’ve never been fans of large front-wheel drive cars, but the V90 gets away with this set-up better than most. Although the characteristics are still present, there’s less understeer, torque steer and wheelspin than front-wheel drive Volvos of old.
The engine is smooth, and overall progress is refined, however it’s best to say the engine offers a good performance/efficiency balance, rather than describing the engine as powerful. There are no steering wheel-mounted paddles for changing gear, but you can change manually using the gear selector. If you do change gear manually, it’s difficult to see the rev counter, which is small and hidden away just to the left of the speedometer.
There’s a slight delay in response from the car after depressing the accelerator from standstill – and this is the case in any of the drive modes.
Our main issue with the car was with the electronic handbrake, which, unlike most other cars, didn’t seem to want to auto release – you had to put your foot on the brake pedal every time and release the handbrake manually, which gets somewhat tedious after a while.
Eco drivers may also be disappointed that they can’t keep the mpg readout viewable in the instrument cluster at all times, and as with many other Volvos that we’ve driven, it seems particularly difficult to get rid of the radio’s traffic announcements.
And finally, despite all the nice design touches in the interior and on the rest of the car, when in the dark, it’s very difficult to work out which of the very small buttons on the key do what.
The official combined fuel economy for the Volvo V90 D4 is 62.8mpg, equating to 119g/km CO2. Over a week of mixed driving, consistent with our typical pattern of 80% long journeys and 20% around town, we averaged 44.7mpg. As we’ve come to expect, this is well down on the 62.8mpg official figure, but it’s not too bad for a big, heavy estate. We averaged 50.2mpg on a long motorway run at 70mph. You should also enjoy a driving range of over 500 miles.
The Volvo V90 is currently available with just the D4 diesel engine in front-wheel drive form, or with the D5 diesel engine, which comes with all-wheel drive (for an extra £7,000). A petrol plug-in hybrid is due to come along later.
The V90 D4 costs £34,555. There’s also the S90 saloon, which we don’t think looks as good, and we can’t see many people buying that body style in the UK.
There are two trim levels, entry-level Momentum and range-topping Inscription.
The Volvo V90 D4 is a very agreeable car overall. It has a pleasing exterior design, a classy interior, and there’s lots of space inside, particularly in the rear and in the boot. It’s very comfortable to drive, and reasonably economical in real-life driving, but comfort and economy take priority over performance and agile driving dynamics. It all sounds good, but perhaps not sufficient to differentiate the V90 from rivals? Well, there is one way that Volvos seem to stand apart from other cars; the V90, along with virtually all Volvos that we’ve driven in recent years, seems to have a calming influence on you. In a world where 9 out of 10 Mercedes seem to be driven by people who are doing 60mph in a 30mph limit, the V90 is just a relaxing place to be, which has to be a good thing, and is a good enough reason to like the Volvo. There are a few minor niggles but overall the Volvo V90 D4 gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.