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