Volvo is on a roll, says David Miles.
In September Volvo launched their premium brand graceful and sophisticated S90 large saloon and the V90 estate models. S90 saloons are priced from £32,555 and rise to £42,055. The more popular V90 estates start from £34,555 and rise to £44,055.
Volvo UK do not talk about sales numbers but the brand has seen an increase so far this year of new car sales by 7.8% with a total of 38,888 registrations.
However Volvo UK does say that out of the two body styles the V90 estate will be the choice of 75% of customers. Both body styles currently are available with Momentum, R-design and Inscription specification levels with each taking around one third of sales. Competitors include the Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate.
The S90/V90 are the latest models after the new XC90 SUV to be built on Volvo’s scalable product architecture where the only fixed point is the distance from fascia to mid-point front axle and all other measurements are varied to suit the particular car.
Currently the range has Volvo’s highly rated fuel efficient Drive-E all-aluminium 2.0-litre, four-cylinder D4 190 or D5 235hp turbodiesel engines mated as standard with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 190hp engine has front wheel drive and the Power-Pulse 235hp unit with compressed air induction feeding the turbocharger and comes with AWD. In quarter one next year AWD D4/D5 Cross Country estate models join the range and mid-year will see the addition of a petrol-electric T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid estate which does 28-miles from a charge join the line-up.
Also available from Volvo’s tuning division – Polestar – is a Performance Optimisation package costing £835. This marginally increases power/torque outputs but gives sharper engine and gearshift responses.
|Whereas previous top of the range Volvo saloons and estates have adopted a boxy design for maximum interior practical passenger and load carrying abilities, the new S90/V90 models are far more elegant with sleek styling lines outside and a classy interior with clean premium Scandinavian design incorporating leather upholstery and light colour wood trim. All models have Volvo’s Sensus operating system of driving aids as well as the latest in connectivity functions.|| My canny Scots colleagues – the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers – has just voted the Volvo V90 not only their Estate Car of the Year but their overall Scottish Car of the Year as well.
To win the SCOTY award the V90 beat off the likes of the Audi R8 V10, Ford Mustang, Ford Focus RS, Jaguar F-Pace, Audi A4 and the Jaguar XF.
Sensus includes semi-autonomous drive technology as standard to make operating easier and safer. This takes care of the steering, accelerator and automatic braking at up to 80mph to keep the car within the required lane and at a set speed and no longer requires a lead vehicle to follow. Sensus also includes large animal detection warning and run-off road mitigation. It is also the umbrella for intuitive infotainment including a nine-inch vertical touch screen, a voice control system and integration of Apple CarPlay which is an extra cost option.
Standard equipment is comprehensive and the Sensus system includes City Safe warning and braking, active beam LED headlights, two-zone climate control, power operated tailgate, powered split and fold rear seats and headrests.
There are 17-inch alloy wheels, eight-inch crystal driver info screen, leather upholstery, heated front seats, electric windows and folding door mirrors.
And so the specification increases as we move up the range. I tested the V90 D4 190 with the top level Inscription specification priced at £37,555 and the additional spec includes such items as soft leather upholstery, powered front seats with memory function, a 12.3-inch crystal info screen, keyless entry and drive function, interior theatre lighting, 18-inch alloy wheels, high-gloss front grille with chrome inserts, chrome lower side mouldings and chrome lower front bumper sections.
But the nitty-gritty of an estate, even an elegant one, is mainly about space. The overall length is almost five-metres with a width of 1,895mm but it’s got a lower roofline than previous big Volvo estates at 1,475. Whilst the load area is wide and long having a boot capacity of 560-litres going up to a maximum 1,526-litres, the height is reduced because of the lower roofline which some potential owners might find off-putting, especially if a tall dog is part of the family.
In the passenger compartment there is ample space especially rear seat leg room. Even with six-footers in the front seats there is still lots of leg room for rear seat passengers. Potentially you could carry three adults in the rear but the design of the seats is more suitable for two adults.
Overall the interior is really classy and comfortable, you feel cosseted in a safe environment and even long journeys were not tiring. The ride was comfortable and the suspension compliant, certainly not as unforgiving as the Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series. And there is the choice of driving modes, Comfort, Dynamic and Eco.
Comfort I used most of the time, Dynamic hardly at all – it’s not that sort of an estate and Eco I selected for motorway cruising. As for the driving functions they were all laid out in a logical manner. I have complained before with other brands about too many controls for important functions being contained within a touchscreen system. The tablet style portrait touchscreen is to some extent the same for Volvo’s Sensus system but there are short-cut buttons for such things as the temperature controls which made life easier and a little safer than scrolling through sub-menus to find the right operating mode.
As for driving dynamics? The German competitors feel more tied-down when it comes to handling. The Volvo V90 wafts along which was not unpleasant and a darn-side more comfortable. There was some body roll during cornering but again it didn’t detract from the driving pleasure. Despite its size the V90 felt reasonably agile and the steering precise.
I know Volvo place great importance on driving support and safety functions but I found the Pilot Assist semi autonomous steering intrusive at times, especially on motorways. The steering sensors use the painted lines to keep you on the straight and narrow. I found the V90 too eager not to change lanes as the steering firms up too much for my liking to keep the car straight ahead and the warning vibration kicks in when you are leaving the motorway lane it thinks you need to be in.
Autonomous driving is coming and Volvo says their cars will be fully autonomous by 2021 with trials starting in London next year as part of their Drive Me global preparation programme so best we get used to it.
As for the D4 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine I have nothing but praise for Volvo’s Drive-E technology. It is refined and the response is really good with 400Nm of torque developed from 1,750rpm.
The Volvo V90 is an interesting alternative to the premium German brands in the executive estate car market and certainly a more comfortable one to travel in.
Volvo V90 D4 Inscription estate £37,555 (£46,030 as tested).
Engine/transmission: Drive-E D4 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel 190hp, 400Nm of torque from 1,750, 8-speed automatic, front wheel drive.
Performance: 140mph, 0-62mph 8.5-seconds, Combined Cycle 62.8mpg (46.1mpg on test),
CO2 119g/km, VED road tax £0/£30, BIK company car tax rate 23%.
Insurance group: 28E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles.
Dimensions/capacities: L 4,936mm, W 1,895mm, H 1,475mm, boot/load space 560 to 1,526-litres, 5-doors/5-seats.
For: Premium brand kerb appeal, classy and beautifully styled interior, high safety spec, comfortable ride, plentiful rear seat legroom, fuel and tax efficient for such a large estate.
Against: Boot height not as large as we expect from a big Volvo estate, semi autonomous steering can be intrusive on motorways, not a very generous mileage limit for the warranty, expensive array of extra cost options.
© David Miles