2018 Volvo V90 Inscription T6 Review - The Swedish Wagon of Your Dreams?
2017 Volvo V90 Inscription T6
Volvo wants you to reconsider your hauling needs.
Sure, crossovers are a hot commodity these days, coveted for their available cargo space and all-weather capability, but Volvo — despite selling a pair of lofty crossovers itself — believes you should ditch the SUV in favor of a car. And that car is the Volvo V90.
What we have here is an attractively styled, stretched five-door Scandinavian hatchback that carries Volvo’s renowned wagon legacy confidently into the future. It’s a car that places emphasis on driving dynamics and safety first, but won’t let you down if you have a family, a few pets, and some gear to haul around over the weekend.
The 2018 Volvo V90 was brought to this world to elbow the crossover in the throat.
Don’t Stop Believing
Volvo isn’t giving up on the midsize wagon. While its German rivals — BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi — retain a toehold in the miniscule North American wagon market, it’s a tenuous grasp from a trio of automakers focused almost solely on European customers. All new from the ground up, the V90 is one of the last survivors of the luxury wagon breed.
It is, without question, a truly magnificent machine to behold. Based on the S90 luxury sedan, the V90 takes Volvo’s “Relaxed Confidence” design language to new lengths, thanks to an elongated greenhouse, wide stance, sloping roof, and Volvo’s iconic vertical taillights, which extend all the way up the car’s D-pillars.
Up front, now familiar Thor’s Hammer LED headlights flank a corporate Volvo maw like the one found on the XC90 SUV and upcoming XC60. The end result is an elegant automobile that stands out as a distinctive Volvo product. Most importantly, it finally looks and feels like a truly premium machine — a trait found lacking in Volvo cars for some time.
Step inside the Volvo V90 and you’re greeted to an equally luxurious cabin presented in the form of Swedish minimalist design. Fanatical attention to detail, high-quality materials, real wood inserts and vertical air vents — which Volvo calls Air Blades — decorate the airy cabin.
The center console is adorned with diamond-cut controls, with a Tesla-inspired 9.0-inch touchscreen dominating the center stack. The infotainment system looks the part with its clean interface, but newbies might find the learning curve a little steep.
Drivers access pretty much all of the car’s functionalities through it, from heated seats to the car’s start/stop function. Give your brain a bit of time to absorb how its combination of sliding screens and interactive menus operate, and you should do well. This is the system slated for all future models.
As per Volvo tradition, the front seats are immensely stylish and expertly bolstered thrones that immerse you in the distinguished scent of fresh Scandinavian cow hide, complete with small affixed Swedish flags for the purposes of nationalistic pride. To say the V90 is comfortable would be an understatement.
If the Vikings had access to today’s technology, their conveyance of choice would be a Volvo V90.
Bring Her to the Spa!
The V90 rides on Volvo’s shared Scalable Product Architecture platform, abbreviated as SPA. All 90-series models — the XC90, S90 sedan, and V90 Cross Country — are essentially mechanical twins. The beauty of this platform is its double-wishbone front suspension layout, which not only endows the V90 improved road-holding abilities, but is a great setup to reduce understeer in nose-heavy cars like this wagon.
During my time in the V90, Volvo extended a convenient invite to Montréal’s ICAR racing facility to sample a V90 R-Design equipped with the Polestar Optimization package. Driving both cars back to back better defined the model’s range — consumers can either opt for a full-on performance-oriented wagon with the R-Design, or go the more serene, luxury route with the Inscription model seen here.
Regardless of model, you’ll be rewarded with engaging driving dynamics that make the vehicle feel much smaller and nimbler than its 115-inch wheelbase and 4,400 lb curb weight would suggest. It’s an easily tossable Volvo, turns in quickly and offers plenty of grip in the bends, but there’s a large elephant in the room — and that’s the way all Volvos drive. They’re incredibly stiff. Even with the adaptive suspension set to its softest setting, the V90 thumps and knocks over the slightest road imperfections, sending unpleasant jolts through your spine. More than once, I found myself wondering whether a tire had suddenly relieved itself of air.
For a premium vehicle, a fair bit of road and tire noise emanates throughout the cabin. Is this the fault of the V90’s low profile tires, or a lack of sound deadening? Hard to tell, but all new Volvos I’ve driven, from the XC90 to the V90 Cross Country, were plagued with this auditory fault. In this price bracket, that’s unacceptable.
Power for the V90 wagons is, again, a carbon copy of what you’ll find in the S90 sedan. In the US, all base V90s come standard with front-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that’s good for a claimed 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
Opt for the uplevel T6, and that turbocharged engine adds a supercharger to the mix, bumping total power output to 316 horsepower, and torque to 295 lb-ft. All-wheel drive comes standard with the T6 engine, and the only transmission available for the entire V90 lineup is an eight-speed automatic.
In Canada, the sole drivetrain is the T6 engine with all-wheel-drive, which is the model sampled by yours truly.
That engine though — what a technological tour de force. It impresses with a punchy delivery of power, defying its relatively tiny displacement. Despite some noticeable turbo lag, a somewhat jerky throttle and a not-entirely-pleasant engine note, once the turbo/supercharger combo forces those respective doses of air into the engine, the T6 pulls hard all the way to redline. The automatic gearbox regulates that power in a butter-smooth, CVT-esque fashion.
Acceleration is also quite impressive. Volvo claims the V90 will sprint to 60 mph from a standstill in 5.3 seconds. That’s about the same as a similarly priced Jaguar F-Pace S SUV, and faster than a Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch.
Room for More
Granted, cargo space in the 2018 Volvo V90 is a tad less than in the aforementioned Jag, or most midsize crossovers for that matter. But it’s nevertheless a very practical vehicle.
At 54 cubic feet of total available cargo space with rear seats folded, and 20 cubes when raised, the V90’s luggage capacity slots between a typical compact hatchback and a compact crossover like a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V. Volvo could have carved out more space by choosing not to rake the V90’s roof so aggressively towards the rear, but the end result wouldn’t have appeared nearly as stylish.
Rear seat room is ample in this large Volvo estate, with plenty of knee and head clearance for generously proportioned passengers. The backseat experience can only be described as supremely comfortable.
So, how much for this Scandinavian sculpture? It’s not cheap. This tester, a Canadian-spec Inscription model outfitted with optional 20-inch diamond-cut wheels (plus all the available semi-autonomous and climate packages, as well as the sublime Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system) carries a $66,690 after-delivery price tag in the U.S., or a whopping $87,034 north of the border.
That’s a lot of dough for a wagon. As consolation, at least every inch of the Volvo V90 looks and feels like it’s worth the cost. Entry level V90 T5s kick off at a more sensible $49,950 in the US, excluding delivery. In Canada, a base all-wheel-drive T6 stickers for $59,900.
The 2018 Volvo V90 beautifully transcends Volvo’s wagon history with an elegant body packed with efficient and technologically advanced engines, engaging driving dynamics, and solid Swedish craftsmanship. Sure, its drivetrain and ride quality need to be sharpened and smoothed out, but as an overall luxury wagon package, the V90 succeeds at carving its own niche space in a competitive premium car market.
Volvo won’t repel the crossover onslaught with this vehicle, but it’s one of the few car brands with the courage to remain true to its core values. It deserves respect for doing so. If you’re a Volvo wagon fan, this is arguably the best one so far.
[Images: Myle Rockens/ Appearance]
William Clavey is an automotive journalist from Montréal, Québec, Canada. He runs claveyscorner.com
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- Fred I don't know about those big screens. Is there a way to minimize the display, so it's not so distracting? Especially at night the glow doesn't make it easy for me.
- Arthur Dailey Toronto Blue Jays' games are only available on AM radio. As I am 'on the road' quite often when the Jays play that is my only option for listening to the game. So an AM radio is something of a 'must have' for me.
- JMII My brother tracked one of these for several years... it will embarrass other sports cars. He sold it to someone who still rips it around on track days. Given my previous VW experience I wouldn't touch it but these are surprising quick and handle well for hatchback credit going to a decent AWD system. $16k seems crazy, but Rs aren't that common and this one appears to be in great condition and seems well sorted.
- Arthur Dailey I meant the grille and the profile along the passenger area. Look closely and it is reminiscent of the Journey.
- Daniel 16500 pesos
Some people here sounds like a broken recordplayer, rambling about the same thing again and again. The medium age must be atleast in the 70s. The long term reliability of the new Volvos remains to be seen. But the averages buyer don´t care. Why? Because new car buyers buy a new one after 2-5 years.
If Geely wants to make tons of money, shut down that silly Lynk & Co. idea and instead come up with something that's a mix of Sixt and Zipcar and just sling 'em out by the hour/day/month. This is the kind of car I would pay to drive on a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, what I'd pay to drive when I get bored of my regular car and need a break (even if I had a Ferrari, I'd get bored of it sooner or later), but something I would never purchase to own and keep at all with the resale value, long-term durability and maintainability questions.