- The V90 is an excellent alternative to an SUV.
- It comes with a high price tag, but for the most part, it’s worth it.
- A test drive could make a wagon-lover out of even the most committed wagon-hater.
Americans hate station wagons. Well, most Americans. The one who don’t hate them love station wagons and have traditionally loved Volvo station wagons very, very much.
For those consumers who don’t want a large SUV – and don’t worry, Volvo has plenty of those – the Swedish automaker, now owned by China’s Geely, has the V90.
We spent a week in what was once prime station-wagon country – the New Jersey suburbs – but is now SUV central. Volvo loaned us a well-equipped, $US64,640 (optioned up from $US55,000) V90 Cross Country T6 with all-wheel-drive.
Did it live up to its lofty wagony reputation? Read on.
The V90 might be the best-looking wagon Volvo has ever made. Sure, fans of the classic 240 wagons of yesteryear can disagree. But this vehicle is sharp.
It’s also pretty big. There’s ample room for five people in there. The colour of our tester was “Osmium Grey Metallic.”
For the record, the Cross Country trim raises the ride height a few inches, providing slightly better offroad and foul-weather ground clearance.
The more I look at this generation of Volvo front ends, the more In think they’re among the coolest on the car business.
There’s that famous Volvo badge. It’s an ancient symbol for iron. Volvo’s “Swedish steel” was one of the things that gave the brand a standout reputation for safety.
The distinctive “Thor’s hammer” headlights. They’re bright and effective LED units.
Perhaps more distinctive are the tall tail lights. These have been a staple of Volvo’s for a decade and actually present an unmistakable Volvo view when you’re trailing one of the Swedish machines.
Unlike SUVs, a wagon rear end can be a fairly low key. The lift-gate hatch on the V90 is in proportion to the rest of the car, lending an excellent overall sense of balance to the car.
This is cool: a trailer hitch that pivots out from the beneath the V90s rear.
The V90’s towing capacity isn’t titanic — just 3,500 lbs. — but that’s enough to haul a small trailer. The car itself tips the scales at about 4,200 lbs.
Can we talk about the capacious cargo capacity? As with Volvo wagons of the past, you have crazy space back there.
Drop the rear seats and it’s almost like a pickup truck.
Flip them back up and your passengers have A LOT of legroom.
The seats themselves are brilliant — and feature a teeny bit of Swedish branding. The comfort of these saddles is Volvo to the core. The carmaker’s seats are like rolling sofas.
A vast sunroof lets in the light, although I saw mostly overcast while I had the V90 to test out.
Under the hood, things get interesting. This is a relatively small, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. By rights, this mill shouldn’t make 316 horsepower with 265 pound-feet of torque. But thanks to supercharging and turbocharging, it punches well above its specs.
Let’s slip inside.
Pretty standard stuff for a modern car: digital instrument cluster, and a bevy of controls on the steering wheel to manage various displays and vehicle functions. The quality of materials, as well as the fit and finish, is superb.
The V90 is equipped with a welter of safety (Volvo!) and driver-assist features. The wagon will avoid low-speed collisions, dodge pedestrians and large animals, surrounds driver and passengers with airbags, and features a semi-self-driving system called “Pilot Assist.”
We’ve sampled Pilot Assist in several Volvos. It’s OK, combing adaptive cruise control with modest levels of autosteering. It’s less compelling on balance than fancier offering from Tesla, Cadillac, and Mercedes-Benz.
This is weird. Volvo has placed a start-stop knob between the front seats, like … an old Saab. I owned both Volvos and Saabs, so I appreciate the gesture toward Swedish quirkiness.
Yeah! A good old-fashioned P-R-N-D shifter. The V90’s transmission is a reasonably good eight-speed auto that helps the hefty wagon notch 22 mpg city/30 highway/25 combined. The 0-60 mph time is a tasty six seconds, with a 130 mph top speed,
Volvo’s Sensus infotainment systems is made up of a large, 9-inch touchscreen that’s tablet-like. This is the only setup in the luxury space that challenges Tesla’s massive central touchscreen
Senus is so good that is was our runner-up for Business Insider’s 2017 Infotainment System of the Year.
Sensus takes some getting used to, but once you’re up to speed, it’s dandy.
It doesn’t go quite as far as Tesla in consolidating nearly all vehicle function in a single, large, central touchscreen. But the screen is the closest thing any other automaker has to a tablet in the dashboard, right down to a “home” button that can return the user to the base interface.
It handles Apple CarPlay and Android Auto well, and for the most part, the screen is responsive.
As with all large touchscreen-style systems, there is a distraction factor – or, more accurately, a problem of having to engage the system and the screen to, for example, raise or lower the heat, while older system provide physical knobs and switches.
Still, big screens are likely to define in-vehicle interfaces in the future, with consumers demanding them. And apart from Tesla, Volvo with Sensus is the automaker that taken the plunge – and taken on both the business opportunity and risk.
The Bowers & Wilkins audio system is sublime: in the V90, it’s powered by 330 watts, with tunes piped through ten speakers …
… Including this little tweeter in the middle of the dashboard.
Best key fob in the business! Seriously, the leather-wrapped fob looks and feels wonderful. So let’s fire up this might Nordic sled and see what it can do!
So what’s the verdict?
The V90 Cross Country T6 AWD is a notable bump up in size from the V60. Smaller wagons are great, but if you have reservations about the genre, making the leap to a bigger wagon is bliss. You immediately wonder why everybody is so hot to buy SUVs.
Some reviewers have carped about the V90s offbeat motor: the combination of turbocharging and supercharging is meant to provide good power at lower and higher speeds, with both technologies compensating for the other’s weaknesses, and the entire configuration providing a big improvement on what the 2.0-litre mill could manage on its own.
I thought it was fine. I wouldn’t all it exhilarating, but the flow of power to the AWD system is smooth and the chunky V90 doesn’t feel wimpy. I didn’t get to explore the AWD’s capabilities in bad weather, but it should be adequate and the overall weight of the V90 means a stable, planted ride.
This is a mellow car to drive, for the most part. Volvo has edged it away from sporty, saving that sensibility for its Polestar performance wagons. The V90 I sampled is optimised for suburban family duty, hauling kids and pets and gear. The appealing cargo capacity means that big shops and home-improvement runs are also in the picture. Add a pop-up camper using the tow hitch and you can hit the great outdoors with a family of four.
Volvo wagons are supposed to split the different between dull mass-market hauler and the snazzier stuff sold by the Germans. If anything, with a pretty suave interior, the Geely-era Volvo is aiming to luxe matter up to a degree heretofore unseen at the Swedish brand. We’ve experienced this lovely Sino-Scandinavian undertaking on numerous vehicles, and it’s working. No other cars in various segments feel quite like Volvos, especially inside. I looked forward every day to driving the V90.
I owned a Volvo V40 wagon a number of years back, so I’m kind of a sweetspot customer for wagoneering. I definitely don’t hate these cars, but I can also see that with two or three kids over the age of ten, you’re going to have to get the larger V90 wagon if you decide against an SUV.
I’m going to call the V90 my favourite current Volvo. If I were in need of a luxury wagon, it would be my first stop. Even if you don’t think a wagon is your speed, the V90 is well worth a look. If only to see how the other 5% – the wagonistas – lives.