Don’t box me in
Jez Spinks finds the Volvo V90 is part of the continuing transformation of the famously utilitarian Swedish marque.
Lego isn’t the only Scandinavian company famous for building bricks. Swedish brand Volvo’s big sedans and wagons through the 1970s to 1990s were given such a nickname for their rigidly boxy styling.
It was a more endearing moniker than it may have sounded, also embracing the models’ reputations for practicality and safety. In 240-series form, particularly, you could also add durability.
Builders, though, would be unlikely to mistakenly trowel mortar onto Volvo’s latest big wagon. There’s a finely sculpted shape to the V90, linking it visually to the car maker’s 90-series vehicles – the S90 sedan twin and XC90 SUV that share the same platform.
Distinctive Scandinavian design is part of Volvo’s bold move to shift its brand perception out of the uppermainstream and into the full world of prestige automobiles.
The V90’s cabin immediately suggests the wagon is worthy of being compared with the likes of the Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes-benz E-class Estate. The interior is brimming with high-quality materials and richly textured surfaces, while a thoughtful approach to the seating environment is also evident from the excellent ergonomics. Front and centre is a 9-inch portraitformat touchscreen, which is more responsiveresponsive thanthan somesome rivalrival displaysdisplays –– andand itsits sizesize providesprovides aa superblysuperbly expansive view of the nav map.
There’s extensive room in the rear, too, with built-in child booster seats in the outer pews providing a clever touch for families.
The boot, accessed via an auto tailgate, can’t claim class-best capacity but still comfortably holds a long holiday’s worth of luggage. This was proven in the UK where we tested the V90, which is under consideration for Australia. The Cross Country version of the wagon is already here, and the higher-riding spin-off would have been handier for some English countryside tracks.
The regular V90 does feature allwheel-drive as standard in the UK, though, while on the road it excels as a comfortable cruiser. It’s not the sportiest of drives despite featuring a ‘Dynamic’ chassis as standard, yet accurate, well-weighted steering and a supple – if occasionally bouncy – suspension ensure the wagon is enjoyable to drive, if the pace isn’t too hot.
Our Momentum D4 variant, the base model in the UK, featured a 140kw/400nm four-cylinder turbo diesel that is respectably quiet when revved and silky smooth and torquey when on the boil. Its main flaw is low-rev turbo lag that makes for less-than-ideal hesitancy on take-offs at junctions or overtakes.
Following the XC90 SUV, though, this is another big, 90-series Volvo layinglaying foundationsfoundations forfor thethe Swedeswede’ss luxury-luxury-segmentsegment ambitions.ambitions.