Wednesday 24 April 2024

REVIEW – Volvo V90 R-Design

Volvo V90 D5 PowerPulse AWD R-Design
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money


Volvo has always been known for making large estate cars, but the old generation cars weren’t always fan favourites. The V90, however, represents the new generation: packed full of technology and powered by a new breed of efficient engines that don’t compromise on performance. This is as sleek and executive as the best of them, whilst still offering the exceptional level of safety expected of the Volvo brand.

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Exterior Styling

Volvo recently topped a survey for the manufacturer with the best-looking vehicles in its current line-up. Looking at the V90 R-Design, it’s easy to understand why.

Known for its big estate cars over the years, the V90 represents a new generation. It’s sleek and executive-looking, with an air of quality and refinement about it.

Our V90 had its running shoes on, in the form of R-Design trim. This gives the car a sporty edge, while maintaining the primary feel of quality.

At the front there’s a large, textured grille sitting either side of the ‘Thor’s Hammer’ signature daytime running lights; creating a unique and recognisable ‘face’.

The R-Design was fitted with standard 18-inch 5 spoke alloys finished in two-tone black and silver. They are perhaps a little on the small side, purely because of how large the V90 is. 20-inch wheels are an optional extra, but fill the arches better.

The grille surround, window surround, roof rails and wing mirrors are finished in a matte silver, which is far more executive-looking than chrome.

Our test car was finished in Onyx Black, but with the privacy glass at the back this gave the V90 a hearse-like feel. Stick to the Osmium Grey or Bursting Blue and you can truly appreciate the body lines.

A steep-raked tailgate softens the box-like shape of a traditional estate car. Vertical LED tail-lights stretch from the bumper to the roof, and create a marvelous silhouette at dusk. Twin exhaust pipes and a roof spoiler complete the R-Design styling package.

Interior Finish

The newest-generation Volvos are right up there at the top of the class for interior design and quality. The V90 is no exception.

Step into the car and admire the contemporary, high-class cabin. Carefully-chosen materials boost ambience, and there are no scratchy plastics in sight.

The cabin is also incredibly well-built. There are no squeaks or rattles and, thanks to impressive sound insulation, occupants can talk at but a whisper.

The R-Design features wonderful Contour Sports seats, finished in leather and Nubuck upholstery. The seats perfectly balance comfort – this is a premium car after all – and sportiness; with large bolsters to hold you in place.

The steering wheel and gear knob are finished in a soft, perforated leather. In the interests of co-ordination, the key fob is also covered in the same perforated leather, which is a very high-class touch.

To the centre, you’re immediately drawn to the 9-inch touchscreen multimedia unit. With its portrait orientation, it has a tablet feel to it.

The instrument cluster is a 12.3-inch full TFT display, with several customisation options. You can have a map or media information in between the dials and can choose from several design themes for the dials themselves.

A panoramic roof featured on our test car as part of the £2,000 Xenium pack. Natural light inside the cabin therefore wasn’t a problem, even with a black headlining. And being able to open the roof on a sunny afternoon was a bonus.


Gone are the 5-cylinder engines we grew to love over Volvo’s resurgence in recent years. All engines in the current line-up are either 3 or 4 cylinder, whilst maintaining the performance capabilities of their predecessors.

Our test car featured the D5 PowerPulse diesel engine. Delivering 235PS and 480Nm, this 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder unit eclipses the old 2.4-litre 5-cylinder unit’s 215PS and 440Nm.

PowerPulse allows the car to push more air into the turbocharger, essentially reducing turbo lag. It must work well because the V90 felt lively, with plenty of get-up-and-go in response to a prod of the right foot.

With an 8-speed automatic gearbox acceleration is effortless: this large estate car will go from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 145mph. Whilst we were a little unsure of the 8-speed box in the petrol XC60, it feels a lot smoother when mated to this diesel engine.

The D5 engine boasts all-wheel drive. In recent years the demand for all-wheel drive is on the rise, not just in SUVs, so this ensures Volvo remain competitive. Different drive modes alter the throttle and gearbox characteristics, allowing the V90 to adapt to your driving needs.

Whilst the 5-cylinder warble may have gone, the new engines are delightfully quiet, and you can tell the difference in the cabin. In fact, on the motorway, wind noise from the wing mirrors is about all you can hear.

When the weather is poor, the V90 will shrug its shoulders and carry on. Even on incredibly wet days, power delivery is smooth and there is no drama or wheel spin. That ensures the V90 always feels executive. It’s sporty, but in a more grown up way.


The V90 is a hefty car, both in terms of sheer size and weight (1,783kg to be precise). If you expected heavy, difficult handling then you would be justified. But you’d also be wrong.

A sports chassis is standard on the V90 R-Design, with a lower ride height than the standard car. That helps reduce lean in the corners, and in turn reduces discomfort for passengers.

Nicely weighted, the steering and is the right level of responsive. It’s not so sharp that the V90 has an aggressive turn-in – which can be unsettling in a big car – but it’s also direct enough that you can point the nose to an apex with ease.

And, with its all-wheel drive setup, there’s no drama through the corners. The system finds the grip, whatever the conditions, resulting in this hefty car being able to take corners at some hefty speeds.

Part of this may be down to our test car’s optional Active Four-C Chassis, which costs £1,500. That may sound a lot but, trust me, it’s worth it. Featuring four-corner adaptive damping and rear air suspension it transforms how the V90 handles.

It means that when you select Dynamic mode you get a dynamic suspension, with firmer damping. And when you select Comfort mode for a long motorway slog, you get a soft, forgiving ride.

Having the adaptability of the Active Four-C Chassis further enhances the V90’s premium feel. The standard sports chassis is not ideal for all driving, especially longer motorway journeys. It’s one option that is really worth the money.


Volvo has invested significantly in engine technologies over recent years. The D5 PowerPulse is one of the crown jewels of this investment.

There is no doubting its performance capabilities. Nor can you doubt its frugality. Featuring start/stop technology, adaptable drive modes, an 8-speed gearbox and some Volvo wizardry, the V90 is rather efficient.

Despite its weight and all-wheel drive, the V90 D5 cites 57.6mpg on the combined cycle. Some quick mathematics will tell you that the V90’s 60-litre fuel tank has a theoretical range of around 760 miles.

Economy drive mode is a really useful tool in improving fuel consumption. The throttle and brake pedal become less responsive, allowing a smoother drive. The air conditioning system goes into eco mode, reducing its draw on engine power. The gearbox shifts up earlier, to keep revs at a minimum.

CO2 emissions of 129g/km results in first year VED of £165. Subsequent years’ VED is £140. A five-year surcharge of £310 in years 2-6 applies because the V90 (well, most versions of it) costs more than £40,000.


At 4,936mm and 1,895mm, the Volvo V90 is a similar size to the BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate. Some supermarket car parks will be a squeeze, and parallel parking in the village is always going to be interesting.

There are no complaints on cabin space. Rear legroom is generous, certainly enough for two adults to sit in comfort. Despite its low-down appearance, there’s also plenty of headroom.

Our test car featured the family pack for £450. This includes integrated 2-Stage booster seats for the outer rear seats, a luggage net and power child locks. Integrated rear sun blinds further enhance the V90’s family appeal.

The V60’s boot holds up to 560 litres with the rear seats up. That’s the same as the 5 Series Touring, and 80 litres less than the Mercedes E-Class Estate. With the seats folded down the V90’s 1,526-litre capacity is dwarfed by the 1,670 litres and 1,820 litres of the 5 Series and E-Class respectively.

However, the boot space is clever with conveniently placed handles to drop the rear seats. There’s also a liftable flap with elastic strap at the back of the boot, perfect for when you have just a few shopping bags but don’t want them rolling around.

If you have opted for the Active Four-C chassis there’s also a button to raise and lower the rear suspension to make loading and unloading as easy as possible.

Visibility is good, especially with the 360-degree camera as featured in the Xenium pack. You can easily monitor all angles from the top-down view, or pick individual cameras to pay closer attention to a particular aspect.


Additional options can be a costly affair. German rivals have the most comprehensive options lists. The likes of Kia and Hyundai offer none, except for paint.

Volvo sits somewhere in the middle, with decent standard spec but a fair few options and packs should you wish for an enhanced specification.

On the multimedia front you get the 9-inch touchscreen unit including Sensus Connect and Sensus Navigation. This can be enhanced by Smartphone Integration (£300) which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A CD player is £100, while an upgraded sound system to either Harmon Kardon or Bowers and Wilkins will set you back £825 and £3,000 respectively.

Volvo is at the forefront of vehicle safety, so the standard offering on its latest models is impressive. City Safety is the front collision warning and autonomous emergency braking system. It features pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection.

Pilot assist and adaptive cruise control will semi-autonomously drive the car on a motorway with lane markings. It won’t switch lane for you, but it will steer to keep you within the lines. It also adjusts the speed to maintain a safe distance to the car in front. On a long motorway drive this is a godsend: the V90 is so relaxing to drive.

Two-zone climate control, power operated tailgate, 12.3-inch active TFT instrument cluster, and heated front seats are all standard.

The R-Design specification is mostly cosmetic: Sports body styling, 18-inch alloy wheels, Contour Sports Seats and a black headlining. But you also get the sports chassis.

The Active Four-C Chassis is a must-have at £1,500. The Xenium Pack is good value at £1,800. It includes a 360-degree camera, panoramic roof and Park Assist Pilot (parallel and perpendicular parking). You also have to add blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert for £500.

Value For Money

The Volvo V90 range starts at £37,620. A D5 R-Design will set you back £46,570. Whilst that is no small sum of money, it is still cheaper than rivals when you consider the specification on offer.

You do need to be mindful of the options list. The standard stereo is absolutely fine. Sure, the Bowers and Wilkins unit is even better, but at £3,000 is it really required? Likewise the auxiliary heater, which pre-warms the cabin at a time of your choosing, sounds nice. But you don’t really need it, and at £1,270 it’s a significant addition.

The efficient engines ensure a V90 won’t cost you the earth to run. What remains to be seen is the level of depreciation. How much a V90 will be worth 3 or 5 years down the line is currently unknown territory, but I would expect German rivals will likely retain more value.

That is partly due to how Volvos are perceived in the marketplace. There is no doubt the brand has surged over the last few years, but there are still ‘doubters’ out there who are unaware of just what they are missing out on.

All things considered, a Volvo V90 offers a lot of car for the money. You could live with the standard spec and not feel hard done by, which is more than can be said for German rivals. Volvo once used the slogan “defectors wilkommen” and that is more relevant now than ever before.

Facts and Figures

Engine 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Max power 235PS at 4,000rpm
Max torque 480Nm at 1,750rpm
Drivetrain 8-speed Geartronic automatic gearbox, all-wheel drive
0-62mph 7.2 seconds
Top speed 145mph
Fuel tank size 60 litres
Fuel consumption 57.6mpg, combined cycle
CO2 emissions 129g/km
Kerb weight 1,783kg
Towing capacity 2,200kg braked / 750kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 560 litres
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £46,570
Price as tested £53,845
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Associate Editor, Social Content Manager

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