Ask a somebody to draw you a Volvo estate and you’re likely to end up with a rough outline of a Volvo 240 – a vehicle that famously put function before form. First released in 1974, it set the tone for Volvo design for many years. That’s all firmly in the past now, though, as the stylish V90 estate demonstrates.
Based on the same platform as the Swedish firm’s XC90 SUV and S90 saloon, the Volvo V90 is the latest in a line-up of all-new Volvo’s that have been designed to take on the stylish and dynamically capable German competition. It features an innovative steel and aluminium structure and shares the same economical engines as the S90, namely a 2.0-litre four-cylinder D4 diesel with 188bhp – the engine we’re testing here – and a more powerful 2.0-litre D5 with 237bhp.
Volvo has also taken the bold decision to offer buyers only two trim levels: entry-level Momentum and range-topping Inscription. Momentum cars come packed with standard luxuries, such as leather, LED headlights, a fully connective Sensus navigation touchscreen and all manner of advanced driver aids. It’s a move that Volvo hopes will tempt buyers away from rivals, such as the BMW 5 Series Touring and Audi A6 Avant.
What's the 2016 Volvo V90 D4 like to drive?
The D4's diesel engine fires with a small shake, settling into a gruff idle. However, it’s not so vociferous at speed, being one of the quieter engines in the class at cruising speed.
Depress the accelerator pedal and there’s a slight hesitation as the turbo winds up, a characteristic that is non-existent in the more powerful D5 with its excellent PowerPulse compressor - a system that uses compressed air to help the turbocharger kick in more eagerly. However, once into the meat of the rev-range the D4’s 188bhp engine pulls hard all the way to its redline.
Dynamically, the V90 is less performance-orientated than the well-polished BMW 520d. The standard composite leaf spring rear suspension - as opposed to the optional £950 adaptive air set-up – gives the big Volvo an impressively comfortable ride, but it never feels particularly eager to change direction. That said, the V90 is impressively adept at soaking up the various bumps and ruts of British B-roads, even if its floaty body movements don’t exactly feel confidence inspiring.
Ultimately, the V90 is best enjoyed when driven at a relaxed pace; leave it in its Comfort driving mode and you'll enjoy its well-judged steering and decent grip. At motorway speeds the V90 feels stable and composed and Pilot Assist, which is, in effect, a semi-autonomous driving system, helps to make long stints behind the wheel a little bit more relaxing.
What's the 2016 Volvo V90 D4 like inside?
Volvo drafted in Bentley's previous head of interiors to work on the V90, and it shows. The materials used throughout the dash are of a high quality, the 9.0in portrait touchscreen is beautifully integrated into the dashboard and the driving position is near enough perfect.
Up front, there's plenty of space for two tall adults, and in the back the V90 is truly vast. Even with the front seats adjusted for one of our six-foot tall road testers, there was still a vast amount of leg room available.
Unsurprisingly, the V90's load space has suffered due to the wagon's rakish roofline, with its 560-litre bay with the seats up matching that of a BMW 5 Series Touring but falling short of the Audi A6 Avant’s. However, with the rear seatbacks folded down, the load capacity grows to a much more acceptable 1526 litres.
Should I buy one?
You should certainly consider one. It’s a beautifully designed package with innovative technology and impressive levels of practicality.
Granted, it doesn’t drive quite as well as a 5 Series Touring, and a A6 Avant has a marginally bigger, more practical boot, but that doesn’t stop the V90 from being a seriously accomplished all-rounder.
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2016 Volvo V90 D4
Engine size 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel
Price from £34,555
Torque 295lb ft
Top speed 140 mph
Fuel economy (official combined) 62.8mpg
CO2/BIK band 119g/km/23%