What's the used Volvo V90 estate like?
To anyone familiar with modern Volvos it should have come as no surprise when the covers were taken off this sharp-looking Volvo V90 in 2016. After all, the time of the utilitarian estate had long since given way to the era of the lifestyle estate: modern Volvos are designed to appeal to celebrity vloggers, not antique floggers.
Based on the luxurious and upmarket Volvo S90 saloon, the V90 takes all that we expect from the Swedish firm – the premium feel, the high-tech efficiency and the unquestionable reputation for safety – and adds in abundant style. For more weekend fun, there’s also a raised-up and more rugged four-wheel-drive Cross Country version for mild off-road use.
To say it's stylish doesn't really do it justice – for a large estate it's extremely handsome. If anything, it gets even better the more of it you explore; it makes those previous utilitarian estates seem distinctly old-fashioned. One thing it hasn't dismissed, though, is Volvo's reputation for safety, which continues in this car with a whole host of innovative, high-tech kit.
Under the bonnet, engine choices are a pair of 2.0-litre diesels (D4 and D5), and a couple of 2.0-litre petrols (T4 and T5), along with a powerful petrol-electric plug-in hybrid (T8). The V90’s 232bhp D5 diesel engine uses a clever compressed air system to help the turbocharger kick in more promptly, although it still isn't quite the equal of the equivalent Mercedes E220d. The lower-powered 187bhp D4 isn’t as quick, but it has enough shove to cope with the V90's bulk and is more economical. Both engines can be a little gruff when cold, and the eight-speed automatic gearbox is a little too hesitant.
The 385bhp T8 is a petrol-electric hybrid that’s extremely quick to accelerate and shuffles between power sources easily. There's also a 187bhp T4 and a 247bhp T5 for petrol engine lovers, the T5 being the better of the two because the T4 is a little down on low-rev torque, and will need to be thrashed more in the real world to make similar progress to the more powerful T5.
For 2020, Volvo added mild hybrid technology to the V90's engines. The system combines a 48V battery with an integrated starter/generator and energy recovery system, capturing kinetic energy during braking or coasting and using it to boost overall efficiency. Theses engines started with a 'B' to distinguish them from the regular 'D' and 'T' engines.
The base 197bhp petrol unit goes by the name B4P, while the entry-level 197bhp diesel is called the B4D. The most powerful engine with this mild-hybrid tech is the 300bhp B6P – that’s before you get to the 340bhp T6 Recharge, which is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). All come with 2.0-litre engines, whether petrol or diesel.
Entry-level Momentum starts off the trims. You get LED headlights, heated leather seats, sat-nav, Bluetooth and a DAB radio. On top of that, there’s a powered bootlid, keyless start and rear parking sensors. Stepping up to Inscription brings extra interior lighting, nappa leather seats and a larger, 12.3in digital instrument cluster, as well as bigger alloy wheels and electric front seats. R-Design adds different suspension that makes the ride harsher, so we’d avoid its otherwise tempting package.
The V90, in all its guises, is a peaceful cruiser, although not to the extent that it can match the whisper-quiet BMW 520d Touring. Engine noise in the diesels is the biggest nuisance; at idle, there's a mild rumble that seems out of sorts with a premium wagon, but this fades to a reasonable background thrum on the move. The T4 petrol engine is a touch coarse, but the T5 and T6 are hushed unless you're really thrashing them. The T8 is virtually silent when running on electricity, while the car’s petrol engine is much more refined than the diesels.
It’s comfortable, too, on all manner of roads. Ride comfort is crucial in family estates, and this is another area in which the V90 impresses, especially if the original owner ticked the box for the optional adaptive dampers that includes air suspension at the rear. It helps the V90 glide along motorways with a relaxing buoyancy and rides over most surfaces at town speeds in a composed fashion. Its motorway refinement is excellent, although it’s fair to say it can’t quite match its sporty rivals when it comes to handling finesse.
As mentioned, it’s certainly distinctive and eye-catching from the outside, and things are even better when you step inside: it’s spacious, stylish and impressively plush to compete against those premium models from the German brands, including the very capable BMW 5 Series Touring, Audi A6 Avant and Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate.
The V90's Sensus infotainment system features a 9.0in portrait touchscreen, through which you control many of the car's functions. At times it’s unresponsive and hard to find what you want within the vast array of menus and functions, and trying to press the some of the smaller icons while driving is pretty tricky.
Volvo’s seats are famous for their supportiveness and the V90’s are no different, while wide-ranging electrical adjustment, including for lumbar support, make it easy to get settled. The sports seats in R-Design trim are particularly good, keeping you secure between their enhanced side bolsters during hard cornering.
The Volvo V90 is superb at accommodating four adults. Those in the front get loads of head and leg room, and it’s the same in the rear, with class-leading knee room back there. It's more of a squeeze width wise for three larger adults sat in the rear, but three children can sit side-by-side perfectly happily.
Although the V90's 560-litre boot all but matches that of a BMW 5 Series Touring in volume, the reality is it struggles to fit eight carry-on suitcases that fit easily in its rival. It’s smaller still next to the A6 Avant's boot and thoroughly thrashed by the carrying capacity of the E-Class Estate.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Volvo V90 estate?
The V90 will have been used on motorways as well as on school runs, so check the bodywork for stone chips and parking scuffs, as well as for any damage to the alloy wheels.
Also, there are some lighter interior trim colours in some versions, so make sure there are no stains to the seats and carpet in both the footwells and boot.
What are the most common problems with a used Volvo V90 estate?
Potential engine fire
Volvo is presently in the process of recalling around 70,000 cars in the UK fitted with a 2.0-litre diesel engine, over potential engine fires. There isn't a fix at the moment, so owners are being told to pay attention to any unusual smells coming into the interior, if the engine warning light illuminates, or if the engine hesitates under acceleration. Read our news story on this for further information or contact Volvo directly on 01628 854 210.
A problem was found with the vehicle connectivity module (VCM) that sends location information to the emergency services after a collision. It applies to cars constructed between 23 September 2016 and 30 October 2018. Any Volvo dealer should be able to perform a software update to fix the issue.
Airbags might not deploy correctly in an accident
There have been a couple of recalls for airbags that might not deploy correctly during a collision. This first is due to airbags that don't meet the required specification and were fitted to models produced between 24 March 2016 and 30 October 2018. The second is for the retaining bolt on the curtain airbag; it could break and reduce the level of protection the airbag can provide. This recall affects certain V90s built between 21 November 2016 and 1 March 2017.
Vehicles may have the Supplementary Restraint System (SRS) control unit incorrectly tightened to the car body
How the manufacturer will repair:
Inspect and tighten the SRS control unit.
Number of affected vehicles: 704
The Automatic Emergency Brake System a function of the IntelliSafe system may not always engage increasing the risk of a collision
How the manufacturer will repair:
Affected vehicles must have new software downloaded
Number of affected vehicles: 56385
You must contact your local Volvo dealer to check that all these works have been carried out.
Is a used Volvo V90 estate reliable?
This generation of V90 (actually the identical S90 saloon on which the V90's based) placed fifth in the luxury car class out of 10 cars in our most recent reliability survey. Volvo as a brand finished in a respectable 17th out of 32 manufacturers in the same survey.
If you would like to see the full reliability list, head to the What Car? Reliability Survey pages for more information.
What used Volvo V90 estate will I get for my budget?
Around a modest £15,000 is the entry point for the V90, this buying you a 2016 car with an average to high mileage for the year, with a full history, most probably privately. Up your budget to between £16,000 and £20,000 and you should find plenty of 2017 and 2018 cars with an average mileage for the year and full history from an independent dealer. Up the dosh to between £20,000 and £23,000 and you'll have plenty of good 2019 full-history cars, all from Volvo dealers, with low mileages and with your choice of engines and trims. For 2020 examples or newer, expect to pay upwards of £23,000, with 2021 and 2022 cars from £28,000 and 2023 from £35,000.
Check the value of a used Volvo V90 with What Car? Valuations
How much does it cost to run a Volvo V90 estate?
In theory, the most economical V90 is the 2.0-litre T8 petrol-electric hybrid model. This has a combined fuel consumption figure of 141.2mpg under the older NEDC tests, with a correspondingly impressive 46g/km CO2 emissions figure. However, this will be achievable only in very limited circumstances, with its real-world figure being considerably more ordinary. If it fits into your lifestyle, though, it’s worth a look.
The 2.0 D4 diesel engine helps the V90 to achieve a combined average of 62.8mpg under the NEDC tests and 50.4mpg under the newer and more realistic WLTP tests, and 119g/km, while the more powerful 2.0 D5 has figures of 57.6mpg under the NEDC tests, and 43.5mpg under the newer and more realistic WLTP tests, and 129g/km.
The V90’s newer line-up of mild-hybrid powertrains are even more economical, with engines such as the petrol B4P claiming a WLTP figure of 40.9mpg and 158g/km of CO2, while the diesel B4D claims a WLTP figure of 49.5mp and 149g/km of CO2. The T6 Recharge is the greenest, however, with a claimed WLTP figure of 134mpg and 47g/km of CO2.
Most cars registered before 1 April 2017 will have road tax bills significantly lower than for those registered after that date, especially for examples that cost more than £40,000 when new. This is because they will attract an extra VED charge that will need to be paid until the car is over six years old. To find out more about the current road tax costs, click here for further information.
Current charges, for cars registered after 1 April 2017, are £180 per year for petrol and diesel vehicles, while hybrid owners will be charged £170 per year – pure electric vehicles continue to be exempt from VED. First-year car tax rates, which depend on CO2 emissions, will be higher. The latest line-up of V90 engines fall into various first-year tax brands, ranging from £220 to £895. The supplementary luxury tax is currently £390 per year.
Volvo doesn't have specific fixed-price servicing costs, but main dealer servicing is competitive with other premium brand manufacturers.
Which used Volvo V90 estate should I buy?
The V90 is a big car, and if you’re planning on using it as an estate then you may need the extra performance of the D5 diesel engine. Don’t discount the D4 if you can’t stretch to a D5, though – for most situations we think it'll be fine.
The T8 petrol-electric hybrid is rare and expensive, and the T5 isn’t that common either. You will find many more T4 petrols around, but they’re still more costly than a diesel equivalent, so only makes sense if you don’t cover many miles.
Entry-level Momentum trim makes most sense to us because you get all the equipment you'll need without having to spend too much. Inscription is a little more luxurious and R-Design is sportier, but unless these two trim levels can be found for a similar amount to a Momentum car, they're not worth paying extra for.
Our favourite Volvo V90: 2.0 D4 Momentum
What alternatives should I consider to a used Volvo V90 estate?
The V90 runs head to head with one of our favourite cars, the BMW 5 Series Touring. Here is a model plush and sophisticated enough to take on just about any car it chooses. It’s spacious, brilliantly appointed inside and great to drive, with a range of quiet and efficient engines. Our only criticism is that you have to add optional adaptive dampers to make it handle and ride as well as we know it can.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate has a range of strong, smooth engines, too, as well as a supple ride and a generous amount of standard equipment. It’s not quite as good to drive as the BMW, but it’s a strong contender with a vast boot, so it's a good used proposition.
The Audi A6 Avant offers an excellent ride and handling balance and comes with plenty of standard equipment. It’s also extremely refined and comes with a high-quality interior and a large boot.