Want a premium busi­ness es­tate, but don’t want to be pre­dictable and buy an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-benz? Dar­ren Cassey finds out if the Volvo V90 is the an­swer

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - BY DAR­REN CASSEY

WHAT IS IT? The V90 is Volvo’s al­ter­na­tive to the likes of the BMW 5 Series Tour­ing and Audi A6 Avant. It’s a premium, busi­ness es­tate that tries to add a touch of char­ac­ter to a typ­i­cally quite dull seg­ment.

It achieves this by of­fer­ing a classy-look­ing ex­te­rior backed up by a high-qual­ity in­te­rior that’s very Scan- di­na­vian in its min­i­mal­ist ap­pear­ance.

There’s sub­stance be­hind the styling though, with a range of eco­nom­i­cal en­gines and ex­cel­lent safety tech­nol­ogy.

WHAT’S NEW? This is the first V90 to wear Volvo’s new fam­ily face, with the now-fa­mil­iar Thor’s Ham­mer head­lights trans­form­ing the front end.

It also comes with Volvo’s ex­ten­sive suite of safety tech­nolo­gies known as In­tel­lisafe. The City Safety Tech­nol­ogy pack­age is stan­dard on all of Volvo’s cars, but can now de­tect large an­i­mals in the road and helps with brak­ing or swerv­ing to avoid them.

WHAT’S UN­DER THE BON­NET? There are var­i­ous petrol and diesel en­gine op­tions, each of­fer­ing vary­ing power out­puts and econ­omy sta­tis­tics from a 2.0-litre en­gine. There’s also a petrol plug-in hybrid ver­sion called the T8 Twin En­gine.

Our test car was a front-wheel-drive model fit­ted with the D4 diesel en­gine.

It has 188bhp with an of­fi­cial fuel econ­omy of 62.8mpg on the com­bined cy­cle – though low 50s was more achiev­able in our time with the car.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? While the V90 as an over­all pack­age is a mighty ap­peal­ing prospect, the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is def­i­nitely the weak link. Over long dis­tances it’s a com­fort­able cruiser, but when driv­ing around town it’s largely let down by the gear­box and power de­liv­ery as it all comes in big surges mak­ing smooth progress dif­fi­cult.

Mean­while, the steer­ing is too light and takes some get­ting used to – even af­ter a week with the V90 we found it rather twitchy on the mo­tor­way.

On the plus side, though, is Pi­lot As­sist, which is one of the bet­ter adap­tive cruise con­trol sys­tems on the mar­ket. It’s par­tic­u­larly use­ful in slow-mov­ing traf­fic as you can take both feet off the ped­als and keep up with the cars in front.

HOW DOES IT LOOK? The V90 has a sim­ple el­e­gance to its de­sign. Volvo is well-known for build­ing boxy es­tate mod­els through­out its his­tory, but the lat­est ver­sion adds a more mod­ern, stylish take to the prac­ti­cal- ity th­ese Swedish load lug­gers have be­come known for.

Out front, those Thor’s Ham­mer head­lights give the V90 a dis­tinc­tive face, while the chunky bumpers give it a hint of rugged­ness that shows it isn’t ready to shake its rep­u­ta­tion for build­ing cars for all oc­ca­sions de­spite the brand’s move up­mar­ket. WHAT’S IT LIKE IN­SIDE? If you buy a premium sa­loon or es­tate from the likes of BMW, Audi or Mercedes-benz, you know what you’re get­ting. Soft­touch plas­tics and di­als to nav­i­gate of­fer a sim­ple if rather un­ex­cit­ing taste of premium mo­tor­ing.

The Volvo on the other hand feels just as ex­pen­sive as its ri­vals, but adds a touch of Scan­di­na­vian style to the mix. Volvo in­te­ri­ors work best with lighter colours, while the el­e­gant but­tons and di­als give a sense of well-thought-out er­gonomics.

Boot space is some­what im­pinged on by the slop­ing roofline, but it’s not of­ten you’ll be curs­ing the lack of a few ex­tra litres as there’s nearly 2,000 avail­able with the rear seats down.

WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE? Our car had the lux­ury-fo­cused In­scrip­tion trim, which feels like

“The V90 has a sim­ple el­e­gance to its de­sign. Volvo is well-known for build­ing boxy es­tate mod­els through­out its his­tory, but the lat­est ver­sion adds a more mod­ern, stylish take to the prac­ti­cal­ity th­ese Swedish load lug­gers have be­come known for.”

the best fit for a V90. The seats are up­hol­stered in soft Nappa leather and are great com­pan­ions on long drives, while 18-inch al­loy wheels on the out­side fill the arches nicely.

Other In­scrip­tion fea­tures in­clude adap­tive cruise con­trol, three-spoke leather steer­ing wheel and LED head­lights. The In­scrip­tion is avail­able from £43,115 but our car came in at £46,690 thanks to ex­tras in­clud­ing im­proved safety kit at £600, a win­ter pack for £525 and smart­phone in­te­gra­tion for £300.

VER­DICT The Volvo V90 is priced in line with the big Ger­man three, but that means that it re­ally has to de­liver as a vi­able es­tate in its own right and not just a quirky al­ter­na­tive to the es­tab­lished play­ers in this seg­ment.

For­tu­nately, it de­liv­ers for the most part. Where it re­ally falls be­hind is the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, which isn’t quite as re­fined as its ri­vals. How­ever, for those who want some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent, the Volvo is a classy, prac­ti­cal op­tion.

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