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Volvo V90 D4 Momentum

Click to view picture gallery“Just look at the new Volvo V90 —
  it looks and feels so solid that
  you might suppose it
s been hewn
  out of Swedish granite by precision
  lasers. Yet at the same time,
  it has an aura of litheness and
  luxuriousness, too...”


IT'S A BIT LIKE VOLVO has taken its bulky XC90 SUV and put it on an SAS training mission so the big SUV has become all limber, yet it's lost none of its burly strength.

The hints of XC90 aren't accidental; Volvo has had a huge hit with its big 4x4, which it describes as its 'global shining star'. The new S90 saloon and V90 estate are looking to cash in on that success. And the fact that the S90/V90 platform is shared with the XC90 is a very good start.

The cabin is the V90's high-point, in my view. It's superbly designed: airy yet solid; simple and uncluttered yet luxurious; warm yet natural. The front seats are simply brilliant: extremely supportive, comfortable and highly adjustable. There's also loads of space both front and rear, even if the rear seat squabs are a little thin to be truly comfortable.

As for the dashboard,
it’s the best in the
industry.
Amazing propeller-like
vents nestle in a fascia
bedecked with tactile
materials such as
anodised metal, matt-
finish wood and soft-
touch plastics.
The central touchscreen
is brilliant, providing
clear and intuitive
graphics with superb
ease of use...”
The V90's boot is very big although not quite the biggest in its class; this is no Volvo V70 in terms of antique-swallowing ability. An electric tailgate is standard on all models, and you can even open it by waggling your foot under the bumper.

As for the dashboard, it's the best in the industry. Amazing propeller-like vents nestle in a fascia bedecked with tactile materials like anodised metal, matt-finish wood and soft-touch plastics.

The central touchscreen is also brilliant, providing clear and intuitive graphics with superb ease of use. However, a cleaning pad nestling in the glovebox hints at one small issue: having so many of the car's features activated via the touchscreen means it gets covered in fingerprints very quickly. Volvo says that as so many controls are voice-activated, though, you rarely need to physically touch the screen.

To drive, this is a car that's clearly been designed for comfort and relaxation rather than a sporty feel. It's deliberately not targeted at the Germans, with their rigid pursuit of driving dynamics. If you want to hoon around the Nürburgring, buy a BMW; if you want to arrive at your destination feeling good about life, buy a Volvo V90.

The driving experience is in no way woolly, though. The car is easy to place on the road, doesn't wallow in corners and is very predictable in its behaviour. The steering feels solid with a good weight, without being heavy.

If you do want slightly sharper dynamics, from early 2017 you can opt for the R-Design trim level which gives you monotube dampers and suspension that sits the V90 15mm closer to the ground. One unusual item in the technical spec is transverse leaf spring suspension; just about every rival has coil springs. That noted, the springs are made of composite material, too, which is very exotic.

The UK is only getting diesel engines (Continental customers can also opt for T5 and T6 petrol engines). Most buyers will choose the D4 diesel with its 188bhp engine and front-wheel drive. The more powerful (233bhp) D5 with standard four-wheel drive is a fair bit more costly to buy. Both models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission (a manual gearbox is not offered).

Both the D4 and D5 engines feel very eager — and you certainly won't feel short-changed if you opt for the lower-powered D4. And both engines have something called Power Pulse, which is a little boost of energy to help get you off the line more quickly — courtesy of a small gas canister that adds spin to the turbo from standing starts. I can't say I noticed anything dramatic myself but I guess it must be working some sort of gaseous magic under the bonnet…

The V90 is easy to place
on the road, doesn’t
wallow in corners and is
very predictable
in its behaviour.
Plus the D4 engine feels
very eager — it has
something called Power
Pulse, which is a little
boost of energy to help
get you off the line more
quickly, courtesy of a
small gas canister that
adds spin to the turbo
from standing starts...”
Officially the fuel economy figures are 62.8mpg for the D4 and 57.6mpg for the D5. However, my brief two-hour test route, including some high-speed work, scored a rather less impressive 31.8mpg.

Safety is a Big Thing, as you might imagine with Volvo. The V90 has animal detection to recognise anything bigger than a small deer and automatically brake the car. Surely that's not a huge issue in the UK, you say? Actually, there are around 42,000 accidents involving animals in the UK each year.

Volvo's latest Pilot Assist system can steer the car around corners, as well as controlling the car's speed, so it's getting close to being a self-driving car. But it isn't quite yet: you still need to keep your hands on the wheel at all times. Pilot Assist works best on motorways, keeping the car in its lane and maintaining a safe distance to the car in front — all very relaxing.

There's some cool connectivity stuff, too. Apple CarPlay is de rigueur at Volvo these days. The car will even recognise what music is playing on your phone as you enter the car, and continue playing it over the vehicle's audio system!

The UK-made B&W audio system sounds beautifully crisp — although I have to say I dislike the concert hall setting which renders the sound entirely artificial. As with the XC90, you can choose from Momentum or Inscription trims, the latter with lots of chrome — to my eyes, a tad blingy for such an understated Swedish machine.

Volvo expects the V90 to a big seller in the UK (far more so than its saloon car sibling, the S90). Future developments in the S90 and V90 range? You can definitely expect T8 Twin Hybrid versions, promising very low emissions and very ample power: 404bhp, 148.7mpg and 47g/km of CO2. There will also be a pure high-performance model from Polestar, which might just chase the Germans. ~ Chris Rees

Volvo V90 D4 Momentum | £34,555
Maximum speed: 140mph | 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds | Average: 62.8mpg
Power: 188bhp | Torque: 295lb ft | CO2: 119g/km