While SUVs now tend to grab sales and headlines we cannot overlook estates, writes Robin Roberts.
Volvo has built a sound reputation on its estate cars and the V-series has won many awards from business and family judges.
In fact some estates have morphed or developed into what’re often termed crossovers, sitting in size and style between a boxy estate and taller SUV.
Some believe the crossover estate is going to replace the SUV or MPV and one major US manufacturer is said to be looking at pushing out a new crossover estate towards the end of 2021 as it hedges bets against a fall in the SUV sector it has plunged millions of dollars into.
The crossover estate is certainly a better bet for many families wanting capacity and comfort in a manageable package for a mostly urban lifestyle. Volvo estates date from the mid-1960s and have been a staple of the brand ever since, so today’s models come with over fifty years experience and when the current petrol cars give way to electric power, don’t be surprised if the estate continues.
There is the mid-sized V60 we tested in Recharge form a few weeks ago so we were keen to try the larger V90 series this time.
There are four trim levels in the V90 series with a choice petrol or diesel engines, normal and hybrid assisted, running to 17 models in total.
The standard V90 B6 AWD R-Design on-road price begins at £50,040 and our test model was fitted with a range of optional extras available from a very long list of personalisation possibilities which added £6,125 and included a Tech pack for Bowers and Wilkins premium sound, the Lounge pack including advanced climate control, parking assistance and full length sunroof,; Drive Assist, Climate and Powered passenger seat features.
The V90 immediately impresses with its kerb-appeal and opening the doors reveals a truly smart and sophisticated interior.
Delve a bit deeper and the tactile feel of the interior reinforces the impression the V90 R-Design is a refined executive car. It oozes a quiet confidence in its capabilities, beginning with that ability to impress before turning the starter button on the transmission console.
Fired up and with the auto-lever deftly given two pulls, the Volvo V90 rolls away on a light throttle. It’s a well developed and insulated 2.0 litre four cylinder engine with good pulling power and produces little noise as it covers the ground. You can select four different driving modes from economical to sporting and the differences are easily discerned.
The ride firms up as you exploit the available modes and the responses instantly change, transforming the car from plodder to performance machine.
You have the advantage if you have bought this one of a permanent all-wheel-drive transmission and it’s to be recommended on our wintry roads for the intrinsic stability it bestows on a bitter winter night of patchy ice and snow. The AWD system does not add inches or centimetres to the ground clearance so its not a serious off-roader but it will work well in poor grip conditions and is a good system if you tow a trailer, box or boat. The steering gives reasonable feedback and the turning circle is tight and vibration-free while brakes are immensely strong with modest pressure exerted.
Secondary controls mostly come to hand around the column and its paddle stalks, or they are on the wheelspokes and central console in the touchscreen.
I am not a fan of putting so many frequently used switches behind the infoscreen as you tend to spend too long seeking them and then adjusting settings. They were also a bit slow to react on our test car.
The driver’s main gauges for road and engine speed included temperature and fuel and were directly infront of the wheel with a small central display showing a selection of contents from seat-belts engaged to systems and radio/ trip etc.. Gauges were not marked in detail but were clear.
With the optional advanced climate control the interior quickly warmed or cooled and was comprehensive and quiet in operation, backed up by four powered windows and a full-length option sunroof which allowed light to poor inside even on the darkest days.
Access was excellent into the front and back seats and the powered tailgate, again slow to respond, opened from knee-height to well over six-feet to reveal a wide, flat and fairly long loadbed with a useful flip up. The capacity could be gradually increased and side access was good.
The Volvo V90 ride has to balance the demands of a family hold-all estate with that of a city commuter and it’s accomplished with ease and style. There’re lots of oddments spaces throughout and excellent vision with big wipers, powerful washers, very bright automatic headlights on the test car and long wide beams with excellent cut-off when it senses traffic ahead.
Grip is good despite the size. You can push on with confidence and know you’ll not be let down.
You’ll notice tyre noises rise with speed and particularly over bad roads but the V90 does a good job insulating them from the rest of the cab and the seats are to be praised for their cushions and squabs, powered on our test car for convenience.
Vision is good all round with fairly slim pillars, low waistline and big windows, backed up by a highly sensitive set of alarms to warn of parking obstructions, overtaking cars and approaching radar slows the car without the driver’s intervention.
Above all you feel cocooned in the Volvo V90, safe and secure and with the knowledge you can cover ground quickly and quietly if necessary.
It will not set new economy standards or performance targets, but overall it’s sophistication does impress like few other cars in this sector of expensive estates.
|FAST FACTS||Volvo V90 B6 AWD R-Design|
|Price: £56,165 inc options||Mechanical: 300hp 4cyl 2.0 turbo-petrol, 8sp, 4WD|
|Max Speed: 112mph||0-62mph: 6.2sec|
|Combined MPG: 35||Insurance Group: 41|
|C02 emissions: 179g/km, £870FY, £475x5SR||Bik rating: 37%|
|Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles||Size: L4.94m, W1.88m, H1.48m|
|Bootspace: 560 to 1526 litres||Kerbweight: 1863kg|
For: Strong kerb appeal, stylish, sophisticated, refined, roomy, practical, comfortable, economical, good performance
Against: Expensive, some road noise, fiddly touch controls can be distracting to use.