Volvo V90 estate review
"The Volvo V90 is the latest – and very possibly greatest – in a long line of large executive estates that the brand has almost become synonymous with"
- Fantastic design inside and out
- Very comfortable and safe
- Great all-round quality
- High-spec models expensive
- Some rivals are better to drive
- Boot not as big as you’d expect
The Volvo V90 is a large executive estate that doesn’t skimp on luxury, passenger comfort or style. It may not be quite as practical as huge Volvo estates of old, but you’ll rarely struggle for space and the latest V90 offers a lot of style too.
The V90 still makes a very strong case for itself. Quality and attention to detail are excellent, especially inside, where you’re greeted by a minimalist yet luxurious interior that’s hugely relaxing. The V90 is impeccably designed inside and out and offers a very stylish alternative to its more ubiquitous rivals from Audi, BMW and Jaguar.
Volvo’s targeting of its executive rivals means prices are strong: the V90 estate climbs to nearly £60,000 for a top-end T6 Twin Engine model with a few options. The entry-level ‘B4’ petrol model redresses the balance somewhat – prices for this model start at around £40,000.
Unlike its German rivals, the V90 focuses squarely on providing a serene environment for its passengers; the car has been set up with comfort as a main priority. It's by no means bad to drive but it won’t be quite as fun to drive as a BMW 5 Series Touring or Jaguar XF Sportbrake on a section of twisty road.
Light steering, smooth engines, supple suspension and excellent seats all combine to make the V90 one of the most relaxing cars on sale – whether you’re driving or lounging in the back.
The V90’s interior is a major selling point. Minimalism and style are the order of the day; the dashboard is dominated by a portrait nine-inch infotainment screen that largely takes the place of most major traditional controls, including those for the radio and heater. There are a few buttons and dials beneath that to control some media functions, among other things.
Two large air vents flank the screen, while a 12.3-inch digital display is now standard in place of the traditional instrument binnacle behind the steering wheel. Everything is fairly easy to operate, with all the controls easy to understand and get used to. Our only slight reservation is that it feels almost exactly the same inside the cheaper (and smaller) Volvo V60.
Compare the new Volvo V90 to its rivals – such as the BMW 5 Series Touring, Mercedes E-Class Estate, Jaguar XF Sportbrake and Audi A6 Avant – and you’ll generally find it leaves a positive impression, especially if you value comfort over sportiness. While it doesn’t have the biggest boot in its class, its 560-litre load bay (with the rear seats up) is about on par with its rivals.
Fold the rear seats down and you get 1,526 litres, which is quite a way behind the likes of the 5 Series Touring and A6 Avant and way behind the latest E-Class Estate, all of which offer more than 1,600 litres with the rear seats down.
The V90 shares plenty of parts with the Volvo S90 saloon, but no longer shares its engine range; the S90 is now only offered with a ‘Recharge’ plug-in hybrid powertrain. Pick the estate, and you have a far broader choice. The engine line-up starts with a 194bhp B4 petrol engine, while petrol buyers can also pick 247bhp B5 and 296bhp B6 models - all of which come with fuel-saving mild-hybrid technology.
Diesel is still reasonably popular in cars of this size, and the V90 offers a pair of 2.0-litre engines: a 194bhp ‘B4 (D)’ and a 232bhp ‘B5 (D)’, with the base engine likely to prove the most efficient for high-mileage drivers. There’s also a Recharge plug-in hybrid model (less powerful than the one in the S90), which marries a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, offering up to 35 miles of pure-electric driving and the potential for super-low running costs.
The most powerful engines feature four-wheel drive, with the lower-powered models getting front-wheel drive. If you’re looking at the rugged Volvo V90 Cross Country (reviewed separately), four-wheel drive is standard because it’s aimed at people who drive on rougher terrain. All V90s get the same eight-speed automatic gearbox as the Volvo XC90 SUV.
There are three levels of trim available for the V90 – Momentum, Inscription and R-Design – and standard equipment is just as comprehensive as you’ll find on the S90 saloon. Leather upholstery, heated front seats, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and sat nav are all standard. Voice control, internet access, a powered bootlid and access to internet apps are also included on all models, as is Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving system. This will automatically keep the car a set distance from the car in front and within its lane at speeds up to 80mph.
R-Design brings more aggressive, sporting looks to the big estate car without increasing performance – in a similar vein to BMW M Sport and Mercedes AMG Line models. You’ll find a special design of alloy wheels, a restyled front bumper and a black grille that adds presence, while inside there are sports seats and ambient lighting. The suspension is lower and stiffer, which does sharpen the handling a little, but also diminishes the V90’s excellent ride quality. Inscription, meanwhile, is focused on luxury, with extra features and upgraded leather upholstery.
A glowing five-star rating – awarded after 2017 crash tests by independent safety experts Euro NCAP, is testament to how seriously Volvo takes safety. The company has actually stated that it aims for no-one to be killed or seriously injured in or by any of its new cars. This is a bold promise, but looking at the company’s track record and the amount of safety kit its cars come with, it’s hard not to believe it. It’s based on the same underpinnings as the five-star-rated Volvo XC90 SUV and gets the same comprehensive standard safety equipment.
Reliability isn't quite so assured, although Volvo did manage a decent 10th-place (out of 30) finish in our 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. The Volvo XC60, which also shares parts with the S90, came an impressive 30th out of the top 75 cars on sale, while the smaller Volvo XC40 was rated even higher, finishing in 14th place.
Although we prefer the honest nature of the Momentum to the more expensive R-Design model, the V90 is still one of the most impressive large estates Volvo has made. Although it doesn’t boast the biggest boot in the class, its plush interior, technological sophistication and sheer cruising pleasure mean it deserves to ride high on your upmarket estate shortlist.