Saying goodbye to the Volvo V90 – 01 November 2017
The timing could hardly be worse.
Now that the nights have drawn in, the roads are carpeted with leaves, and features such as a timed parking heater and a steering wheel that warms your palms are starting to seem genuinely useful, Volvo has taken our rather lovely, supremely relaxing, four-wheel-drive V90 away.
Four months and 6000 miles suddenly seem pitifully short to fully digest the tranquil character and numerous strengths of the big Swede.
Back in July when we took the V90 on, I had concerns. Would a four-cylinder diesel engine cut the mustard in a £45,000 estate? Would the V90 have the kind of handling character to hold my attention? How silly those worries seem now.
Having a four-cylinder diesel in the V90 also meant I could get better than 45mpg when I wanted to. I did so on several occasions, using the V90’s Eco driving mode and coasting as far as possible, making the most of its mass and doing my best to read the road into the distance.
The V90’s cabin started off as a superbly comfortable, pleasant and inviting place in which to travel – and despite the best efforts of my kids and my own grubby hands, its ‘blond’ leathers and open-grain wood veneers stayed that way.
I thought I’d dislike its portrait-oriented touchscreen Sensus Connect infotainment set-up but instead quickly warmed to it for its usability and some of its buried features.
I particularly liked how easy it was to tweak any route programmed into the navigation system to your own liking, and an app by which you can record voicemail-style audio files and automatically email them to yourself. Cars are one of the few refuges today where you have time to think.
When something occurs to you, being able to record it and send it to yourself is a real advantage.
Adjustable for cushion length, beautifully smooth in their leather finish and soft yet supportive in all the right areas, the V90’s seats are beyond reproach.
From there outwards, the comfort focus runs throughout the car. On 20in rims, it rides with commendable suppleness and decent isolation, getting slightly brittle only when you’re travelling more quickly than you know it’s really tuned for.
Even the car’s major centre console switchgear is designed in such a way as to be comfortable to use. The starter button, stereo volume knob and drive mode controller are all slightly oversized and all have a distinctive chromed textured finish that makes them superbly easy to recognise by touch, so you needn’t take your eyes off the road to find them.
Volvo is at the vanguard of the development of driverless car technology and it shows. I made regular use of Pilot Assist and found it particularly useful in rush-hour traffic, when it automatically maintains your lane position and distance from the car in front very well and allows you to be more aware of what’s going on in the lanes around you.
You learn to trust it – and it didn’t wobble or drop out on me once in four months – it makes the worst traffic conditions much easier to bear. Safer to be in, too, I reckon.
So 6000 miles done, where have we ended up? Well, I certainly wouldn’t criticise this car for its slightly meek sort of handling dynamism or for its engine.
Only when I unloaded it at the other end did I realise quite how much clobber had gone in.
Still, there wasn’t quite enough room for everything in the 560-litre boot. As the pictures show, the kids sat out the 160-mile journey with a couple of items of their parents’ holiday entertainment cradled snugly under the armrest between them.
I was also decidedly uncomfortable about having to stack a few things at window level in order to get them in – at which point I instantly regretted failing to order the V90 with some kind of load-bay partition. There’s one on the options list and, plainly, it would have been £300 well spent.
It’s a philosophy that has created a great car, but not exactly the car that some may have expected to find.
One optional extra I didn’t regret having on the way to South Wales was the Volvo’s adaptively damped Four-C suspension with its self-levelling air-spring rear axle. It made the car ride and handle almost as if the 200kg of kids and stuff weighing down on its rear wheels wasn’t there at all. Heavily loaded, the V90’s torquey four-pot diesel engine still felt pretty assured, too, leaving plenty of grunt for easy motorway overtaking; although the automatic gearbox’s tendency to hesitate before easing the car into motion was somehow all the more evident.
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The holiday was one of the first occasions I’ve had to put a long, multi-legged route into the car’s navigation system – and it really impressed me. The screen’s mapping definition and detail aren’t outstanding, granted, but its usability really is.
Regular destinations pop up instantly for reselection when you fire it up, and once your journey is programmed and the system is hooked up to the data connection on your phone, its performance gets even better.
Moving the map around and zooming the scale are very easy using swipe and pinch inputs. That makes adapting a set route particularly easy – and I reckon that’s the mark of a really mature system, because who follows the sat-nav blindly without first checking it isn’t about to send you on a truly disastrous route?
You want to buy into the process; approve what’s about to happen to you. And the V90’s system is designed for that. There’s a drop-down graphic to summarise your route inset on the map, via which you can instantly zoom to any given point. If you want to set a waypoint, you just find the point you want on the map and press and hold with your fingertip.
And you get to filter the traffic disruptions you want to avoid from the ones you’re better off suffering in very simply on a list, rather than having it plot a new heading with every traffic update.
I suspect I’ll be writing about the Sensus Connect infotainment again before we’re much older, because every time I delve deeper into its capabilities, I’m more taken with what it can do.
Welcoming the Volvo V90 to our fleet – 09 August 2017
Apparently, it makes me quite unlike most buyers of modern luxury and premium-branded cars, but I’m not the kind of driver who likes to configure his driving experience too much.
Drive modes are all well and good while the novelty of your latest motor is still present and gleaming, but before too long, I reckon you just pick the one you like best and stick with it.
Beyond that, my preference would always be simply to know that my new car is configured – for steering weight and ride tuning and pedal response and everything else that’s deemed fair game for ‘configuring’ these days – exactly as the experts who developed it think it works best.
“There aren’t many car brands who would even attempt a colour like this in the modern market,” he told me.
“We are lucky that our customers don’t expect us to conform in quite the same ways as the German brands. I think the brown looks really great. It brings out the surface detail quite clearly but discreetly and the blond leather lightens the cabin and complements the walnut inlay well.”
I certainly like the end result myself. The V90 may be the best-looking estate car on the road at the moment. I love its chiselled, angular surfaces; I love the ‘Thor’s hammer’ headlights and the L-shaped rear clusters; I love its full-sized proportions; and I particularly love the fact that it’s not another modern, curvy ‘shooting brake’ or ‘sport turismo’.
Volvo’s designers were bold enough to keep the roof line long and straight, so you know exactly what you’re looking at the instant you lay eyes on the car – like it or lump it.
Suffice it to say, I like it; whatever that may suggest about my age, my character, my politics or my stage of life.
I have a two kids, a 106-mile commute & a preference for comfy, functional family cars. Do I now have the perfect long term test car? pic.twitter.com/GuE9zISjj1
The Volvo brand’s image has changed a lot over the past decade or so, but old perceptions still linger and I’ve lost count of the number of friends (most of them well under 40, I should add) who’ve raised an eyebrow when told I’d be driving a V90 for a few months – and then checked if I was wearing suspiciously comfortable footwear.
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But that’s both a blessing and a curse for Volvo, because I think people are very pleasantly surprised when they see the car. Not enough to be excited by it, perhaps, but certainly intrigued.
It intrigues me to find out just how much better this functional, pragmatic, comfortable and convenient modern Volvo can make my daily life, which could have been made for it.
I am a father of two kids young enough to both still be in fairly bulky child seats and in need of a roomy second row. Those children often come with enough paraphernalia to fill a 560-litre boot without trying too hard. And I have a 106-mile each-way commute from home to the office, most of which is on busy motorway and so stands to be made much more tolerable by the kind of semi-autonomous lane keeping and adaptive cruise control functions that our test car has as standard.
Volvo’s Drive Pilot Assist system will be getting a thorough workout over the coming months. Expect to read about it a fair bit.
I also hope the V90’s four-pot diesel engine will still seem satisfying enough for its £45k asking price – for which plenty of rivals would be available with a six-cylinder – when this exercise is over.
As I see it, the Volvo should earn its place with competent handling but moreover with distinguishing refinement, comfort, high-speed stability and ease of use. That’s what I’ll be looking for from it – and if I don’t get any of it, expect to read a fair bit about that as well.
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The big, glitzy wheels feel rather like diamond earrings on a tree surgeon.
I say that because the V90’s size and sheer Volvo-ness make it a terrific flytrap for neglected household chores. Consequently, my weekend was spent showing it off to no-one save for staff at the local tip.
Pricing:List price new £45,915; List price now £45,915; Price as tested £58,865; Dealer value now £46,000; Private value now £43,000; Trade value now £40,000; Options Xenium Pack – includes sunroof, 360-degree cameras, Park Assist Pilot (£1750), Intellisafe Surround Pack (£600), Winter Pack – includes heated steering wheel and washer nozzles, headlight cleaning system (£525), smartphone integration (£300), Sensus Connect infotainment with Bowers & Wilkins audio (£3000), Volvo OnCall (£550), CD player (£100), four-zone climate control with cooled glovebox (£550), head-up display (£1000), dark tinted windows (£400), keyless drive with hands-free tailgate (£575), Active Four-C adaptive suspension (£1500), 20in alloy wheels (£1700), metallic paint (£700)
Specs: Engine 4 cyls, 1969cc, turbocharged diesel; Power 232bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 354lb ft at 1750-2250rpm; Kerb weight 1783kg; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Boot space 560-1526 litres; Wheels 9.0Jx20in, alloy; Tyres 255/35ZR20; Top speed 145mph; 0-62mph 7.2sec; Claimed fuel economy 57.6mpg; CO2 129g/km
Costs: Mileage at start 1874; Mileage at end 7891; Fuel tank 60 litres; Test average 41.1mpg; Test best/worst 46.9mpg/35.4mpg; Real-world range 542 miles; Contract hire rate £540.14; Expenses None; Fuel costs £805.19; Running costs including fuel £805.19; Cost per mile 13 pence; Depreciation £15,865; Cost per mile including depreciation £2.77; Faults None
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