Incredibly, a Volvo estate that's smooth, chic and desirable
At a glance
  • Handling
  • Comfort
  • Performance
  • Design
  • Interior
  • Practicality
  • Costs
Beautifully appointed inside and out
Loaded with tech
Safer than houses
Therapeutic effect of massage seats is questionable
Bit too posh as a family wagon?
Volvo "oldie" image dies hard
  • Price: £41,555 (2.0 D5 PowerPulse AWD Momentum Auto)
  • Engine: 1,969cc, 4 cylinders, twin-turbo diesel
  • Power: 232bhp @ 4,000rpm
  • Torque: 345 lb ft @ 1,750rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph: 7.3sec
  • Top Speed: 145mph
  • Fuel: 57.6mpg
  • co2: 129g/km
  • Road tax band: D (free for first year, £110 thereafter)
  • Dimensions: 4,936mm x 1,895mm x 1,475mm
  • Release Date: On sale now

First Drive review: 2016 Volvo V90 estate

Wildlife will like the V90's safety features as much as Giles Smith

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HOW DO you know you’re getting old? Going upstairs and then not remembering why you did? Or going upstairs in the fully conscious knowledge that you went up there to fetch your golf shoes?

But what about developing a lust for a Volvo estate — is that another pointer? One doesn’t merely mean becoming interested in such a car in the sense of acknowledging it as the pragmatic Scandinavian solution to a number of practical problems that life has set you regarding the transport of offspring and pets. Rather, feeling its allure — hearing its siren call as an object of desire.

Reader, we must be getting old. There we were in Spain the other day, in the cabin of the new Volvo V90, swathed in daylight and surrounded by light leathers, brushed aluminium detailing and panels in bleached wood that could have been peeled from the lockers of a five-star spa. The appeal was undeniable.

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And that was even before we pulled away and felt the lagless surge of the four-cylinder D5 engine, the unforced certainty of the steering and the stately stability of the chassis. These things combine to yield a driving experience that Volvo refers to as “relaxed confidence”, a label we fully endorsed and warmed to, even while wishing that it didn’t contain quite such a strong echo of the term “relaxed-fit jeans”.

It’s a comfy place to be, though. Aerated seats will gently fan your stressed buttocks with warm or cold air, depending on your needs, while a robotic massager works you over from your shoulders to your lumbar region. OK, the therapeutic effect of this pummelling-by-upholstery certainly couldn’t be categorised as Swedish — indeed, it isn’t much more satisfying in the long run than having a child drum its feet on your seatback. But it’s nice to feel that somebody cares.

Better still, the new V90 can access Spotify, the virtually boundless online music library, meaning that, irrespective of its throttle response, the car is capable of seamlessly delivering that China Crisis track from 1985 at exactly the required moment.

And then, of course, there’s the safety aspect, which is in accordance with the company’s mission: no one to be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by 2020. You drive in the knowledge that your safety is paramount.

It’s not just you who is safe, either. The V90’s radars have been cunningly trained to spot and summon an independent response to incoming pedestrians and also (for the first time) “large animals”, which we take to mean elk, deer and, where applicable, elephants, all of which would have reason to join the driver in feeling grateful that they chose to step in front of a Volvo rather than a less sympathetic make of car.

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Traditionally you would think of a Volvo estate as supremely capable but a bit of a battleship. Somewhere around the turn of the century, your correspondent owned a V70 — the car that the V90 replaces. The V70 did long and unstinting service in child and pet transportation, and it was, in the absence of a full-on nuclear war, apparently indestructible. But it was also deeply unflattering, tricky to manoeuvre and heavy.

There’s no comparison. The V90 is smooth, agile, even chic. It is, for perhaps the first time in Volvo’s history, an estate car that aspires not merely to manage and prolong your life, but also to enhance it. And that’s not merely age talking.

Or maybe it is. What was I saying?