Volvo V90

Af­ter four months and 6000 miles, we now know if this big exec’s idio­syn­cratic ap­proach makes sense in daily mo­tor­ing

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - MATT SAUN­DERS

The es­tate’s time is up. Did it im­press?

The tim­ing could hardly be worse. Now that the nights have drawn in, the roads are car­peted with leaves, and fea­tures such as a timed park­ing heater and a steer­ing wheel that warms your palms are start­ing to seem gen­uinely use­ful, Volvo has taken our rather lovely, supremely re­lax­ing, four-wheel-drive V90 away. Four months and 6000 miles sud­denly seem piti­fully short to fully di­gest the tran­quil char­ac­ter and nu­mer­ous strengths of the big Swede.

In that time, the V90 has fa­cil­i­tated a cou­ple of fam­ily hol­i­days and been pressed into the prac­ti­cal week­end ser­vice that vo­lu­mi­nous es­tate cars typ­i­cally pro­vide. From fur­ni­ture col­lec­tion agent to re­cy­cling cen­tre shut­tle-run­ner, it has played many roles – and you might imag­ine that it’ll be for its more prac­ti­cal facets that I will re­mem­ber the car. Ac­tu­ally, it won’t be. The great­est strength of the V90 is how re­lax­ing it is to drive and use, how pleas­ant and agree­able it is to travel in, and how con­sum­mately it trans­formed a dreary trudge of a daily com­mute into some­thing so laid back that it was al­most med­i­ta­tive.

Back in July when we took the V90 on, I had con­cerns. Would a four­cylin­der diesel engine cut the mus­tard in a £45,000 es­tate? Would the V90 have the kind of han­dling char­ac­ter to hold my at­ten­tion? How silly those wor­ries seem now.

Be­cause, sure, the V90’s D5 Pow­er­pulse diesel engine isn’t as smooth, as pow­er­ful or as will­ing to rev as a BMW straight six or an Audi V6 diesel. But it does have a very healthy slug of low-range torque be­low 2500rpm and you barely need to rev it be­yond that point, so this large, fairly heavy car rarely feels its size when ac­cel­er­at­ing. Would I have wanted the car to be any quicker? Not on your nelly. I’d have liked a slightly qui­eter engine at times – but only around town re­ally, be­cause the V90’s cabin is very nicely sealed and mo­tor­way re­fine­ment is very good.

Hav­ing a four-cylin­der diesel in the V90 also meant I could get bet­ter than 45mpg when I wanted to. I did so on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, us­ing the V90’s Eco driv­ing mode and coast­ing as far as pos­si­ble, mak­ing the most of its mass and do­ing my best to read the road into the dis­tance.

The V90’s cabin started off as a su­perbly com­fort­able, pleas­ant and invit­ing place in which to travel – and de­spite the best ef­forts of my kids and my own grubby hands, its ‘blond’ leathers and open-grain wood ve­neers stayed that way. I thought I’d dis­like its por­trait-ori­ented touch­screen Sen­sus Con­nect in­fo­tain­ment set-up but in­stead quickly warmed to it for its us­abil­ity and some of its buried fea­tures. I par­tic­u­larly liked how easy it was to tweak any route pro­grammed into

Few cars can be eas­ier, more pleas­ant or more calm­ing to use than this one

the nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem to your own lik­ing, and an app by which you can record voice­mail-style au­dio files and au­to­mat­i­cally email them to your­self. Cars are one of the few refuges to­day where you have time to think. When some­thing oc­curs to you, be­ing able to record it and send it to your­self is a real ad­van­tage.

Volvo has a fine rep­u­ta­tion for the com­fort of its seats and the V90 shows why. Ad­justable for cush­ion length, beau­ti­fully smooth in their leather fin­ish and soft yet sup­port­ive in all the right ar­eas, the V90’s seats are be­yond re­proach. From there out­wards, the com­fort fo­cus runs through­out the car. On 20in rims, it rides with com­mend­able sup­ple­ness and de­cent iso­la­tion, get­ting slightly brit­tle only when you’re trav­el­ling more quickly than you know it’s re­ally tuned for. Even the car’s ma­jor cen­tre con­sole switchgear is de­signed in such a way as to be com­fort­able to use. The starter but­ton, stereo vol­ume knob and drive mode con­troller are all slightly over­sized and all have a dis­tinc­tive chromed tex­tured fin­ish that makes them su­perbly easy to recog­nise by touch, so you needn’t take your eyes off the road to find them.

While we’re on the topic of com­fort and ease of use, a note on the ef­fec­tive­ness of the V90’s Pi­lot As­sist semi-au­ton­o­mous driv­ing fea­ture. Volvo is at the van­guard of the de­vel­op­ment of driver­less car tech­nol­ogy and it shows. I made reg­u­lar use of Pi­lot As­sist and found it par­tic­u­larly use­ful in rush­hour traf­fic, when it au­to­mat­i­cally main­tains your lane po­si­tion and dis­tance from the car in front very well and al­lows you to be more aware of what’s go­ing on in the lanes around you. You learn to trust it – and it didn’t wob­ble or drop out on me once in four months – it makes the worst traf­fic con­di­tions much eas­ier to bear. Safer to be in, too, I reckon.

So 6000 miles done, where have we ended up? Well, I cer­tainly wouldn’t crit­i­cise this car for its slightly meek sort of han­dling dy­namism or for its engine. I’d ar­gue, in fact, that both con­trib­ute to the V90’s dis­tinc­tive­ness in to­day’s ex­ec­u­tive mar­ket and give it a clearer place to oc­cupy now than ever. Few cars can be eas­ier, more pleas­ant or more calm­ing to use than this one – at a time when life on Britain’s roads would lead few to ques­tion the value of those sort of at­tributes.

I’ve only one note of com­plaint: please bring back the old V70’s 40/20/40 split fold­ing seat backs, Volvo. That’s it. Other­wise, carry on. Don’t change a thing.

Saun­ders found it a supremely re­lax­ing and easy car to drive

This is a big, heavy car but its low-rev torque dis­guises it

V90’s white leather up­hol­stery stood up to fam­ily use well

Com­modi­ous, eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble boot did ev­ery­thing asked of it

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