What is it?
The return of the big Volvo estate (and saloon). The Volvo V90 (and its booted, four-door S90 sibling, more on which another time) is back, as part of Volvo’s resurgence. Last year the XC90 SUV was launched, becoming the newest car Volvo makes. In three years' time, it’ll be the oldest.
All large Volvos – from the S60 upwards – from now on will share an architecture that the XC90 introduced; the new V90, then, is the second car to be built on this Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform. It’s a mostly steel monocoque with aluminium in places - Volvo sees no point in wedding itself to a particular material when a mix of metals, in the right places, is stronger, just as light and cheaper.
Like the XC90, the V90’s front suspension is by double wishbones and the rear suspension is an integral link, with either a composite leaf spring or, as a £950 option (and fitted to our test car), rear air springs. Adaptive dampers are standard.
If modularity is key to the V90’s body and chassis, it’s even more crucial to the drivetrain. Volvo has adopted a new engine regime - nothing more than 2.0 litres or four cylinders. In the UK we get a D4 and a D5, both 2.0 diesels, which share the same block as each other and the T8 twin-engine petrol-electric plug-in hybrid that’ll arrive later. Our test car was a D5, which means it makes 232bhp and returns 57.7mpg combined with 129g/km of CO2. It also has four-wheel drive as standard.
There was a time when Volvo perceived itself as being not quite in the same prestige league as the big three German manufacturers, but that time is now passed. Today Volvo sees the V90 as a very direct competitor to the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6, even though it doesn’t offer a six-cylinder diesel. Does that matter? We’ll see.
But what that means is that Volvo is not afraid to charge more than £40,000 for a D5 V90. The D4 (187bhp) starts at £34,500, but a top-spec D5 (like, unsurprisingly, the one they said we could test) is £44,000 before options. Call it more than £50k by the time you’ve got 20in alloys, electrically adjustable, massaging leather seats, a long sunroof and a kick-arse sound system. Fifty grand on a 2.0-litre diesel estate, remember.
Other details of note before we get into the V90, then? It’s a 4.93m-long car offering five seats and a competitive boot of 560 litres, which could have been bigger but, well, look at the raked rear window. Style is in, boxyness is out.