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First drive: Volvo V90 D5 AWD. Image by Malcolm Griffiths.

First drive: Volvo V90 D5 AWD
Volvo reinvents its large estate in the form of the stylish new V90; should the Germans be worried?


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Volvo V90 D5 AWD

4 4 4 4 4

The Swedish Volvo brand is synonymous with large estate cars and they don't come much larger than the new V90. Its unique and attractive design inside and out distances it from the default German options and it's quite an efficient and spacious car. The model range isn't the widest, however. Our first drive is in the D5 AWD Inscription model, the range-topping diesel in the line-up.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription
Price: V90 from 34,555 on-the-road; 44,055 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat estate
CO2 emissions: 129g/km (Band D, 110 per year)
Combined economy: 57.6mpg
Top speed: 150mph
0-62mph: 7.2 seconds
Power: 235hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 480Nm at 1,750- to 2,250rpm

What's this?

A brand new Volvo estate, the V90, launched at the same time as the S90 saloon. They're squarely targeted at the established executives such as the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class (and their Avant, Touring and Estate body styles respectively), along with the Lexus GS and Jaguar XF of course. The saloon has a tougher job to do, but the V90 estate should do very well. Prices start at 34,555 on-the-road, though the S90 and V90 ranges are distinctly compact in comparison to their rivals'.

Although T8 Twin Engine plugin hybrid variants will be launched later in the year (407hp, 47g/km emissions), for now British buyers can choose from two diesel powertrains and two trim levels. The D4 is expected to take the lion's share of sales, with 190hp and emissions of 119g/km from its 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. It is a front-wheel drive car. All V90s use an eight-speed automatic transmission. The D5, meanwhile, comes with all-wheel drive as standard to make better use of the 235hp and 480Nm of torque produced by the turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine under the bonnet. This engine also features a clever turbo lag reducing feature called PowerPulse that uses compressed air to spin the turbocharger up in lower gears.

Momentum and Inscription specifications are offered, the latter 7,000 more expensive. The former is luxurious and highly specified by any measure, including the upright nine-inch touchscreen system and interior style first seen in the Volvo XC90. Other standard items include 17-inch alloy wheels (18-inch on the D5), LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, power tailgate, heated and leather upholstered seats, Pilot Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control (semi-autonomous tech) and Sensus Navigation with free map updates for life.

The interior is modelled on that of the XC90, and while the outer two rear seats have loads of legroom, the centre position is compromised by the transmission tunnel. This is the norm in this sector, sadly. Those seat backs and headrests fold electrically flat to open up the 560-litre boot to 1,526 litres. That seats-in-use figure is virtually the same as in the Audi and BMW alternatives, but Mercedes-Benz still takes honours in outright luggage capacity.

How does it drive?

Disclaimer time: all the test cars at the launch of the Volvo V90 rode on optional air suspension with adjustable damping and 20-inch alloy wheels, so we don't yet know how a more modestly equipped version will feel. Nonetheless, it's a promising outlook for the big Swede. Despite the large alloys, the suspension had no problem controlling wheel and body movements, helping the V90 remain flat while cornering hard and yet smoothing out the ride so bumps in the road and surface imperfections were acknowledged, but not allowed disturb the peace of the cabin unduly.

And that cabin is a serene place in which to travel. It's spacious, airy and gorgeous to look at and use. The V90 is also even more refined than the Volvo XC90, with much less wind roar and road noise. The engine is very quiet too. In spite of the attention grabbing power and torque figures, this car never feels particularly fast. That's partly to do with the smooth power delivery, but also probably because it weighs over 2,000kg in this trim. The operation of the PowerPulse system was not noticeable as we had nothing to compare it with.

Some of that bulk will be the all-wheel drive system. In warm and dry conditions we didn't really test its usefulness. During more spirited cornering the high mechanical grip eventually gave way to modest understeer, but mostly the V90 AWD adopts a neutral attitude through the corners, seemingly regardless of how smoothly or aggressively you drive it. Those that enjoy the interactivity of, for example, a 5 Series Touring chassis, may find the V90 a little inert, but for most buyers, this stability and safeness are good things.


The Volvo V90's distinctive appearance and gorgeous interior design will surely seduce many buyers away from the default German executive estate options, but thankfully this car's abilities go deeper than that. While it stops short of being engaging to drive, the V90 is highly capable on the road, showing promising comfort, stability and refinement. We need a UK drive without optional air suspension to give the final verdict on the chassis, but we're confident that the V90 will be a huge success.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain

Shane O' Donoghue - 7 Jun 2016

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2016 Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription. Image by Malcolm Griffiths.2016 Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription. Image by Malcolm Griffiths.2016 Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription. Image by Malcolm Griffiths.2016 Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription. Image by Malcolm Griffiths.2016 Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription. Image by Malcolm Griffiths.

2016 Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription. Image by Malcolm Griffiths.2016 Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription. Image by Malcolm Griffiths.2016 Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription. Image by Malcolm Griffiths.2016 Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription. Image by Malcolm Griffiths.2016 Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription. Image by Malcolm Griffiths.


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