By on July 26, 2017

2018 Volvo V90

Volvo, once solely known for making sensible and safe Swedish bricks constructed primarily of bridge girders, has lately been building some fantastic-looking machinery. Witness the fabulous crimson longroof pictured above.

When Ford sold Volvo Cars to the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group in 2009, I feared the company would be pillaged and plundered for its intellectual properties, with the skeleton of its former self hung out to dry behind the woodshed. As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Volvo is better than ever.

When the V90 showed up at the Geneva Auto Show in 2016, it took approximately 0.002 seconds for the internet to start buzzing about Volvo wagons again. For 2018, the V90 starts at $49,950 and, joy of joys, the snazzy R-Design is the least expensive model of the large Volvo wagons. Excellent.

A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder resides under that long bonnet, delivering 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Those measures are 66 and 37 units shy, respectively, of the more powerful T6. Being a T5, the power is shuttled through the front wheels only.

From the Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights framing each side of the unique R-Design grille to a natty R-Design set of shiny twin exhaust finishers poking out of the rear valence, the V90 Wagon is an absolute looker. Choosing the R-Design trim instead of the more expensive Inscription model also allows buyers to select bolder colors, such as the $0 Passion Red shown here. 19-inch five-spoke matte-black alloy wheels with an aggressive pattern look sharp and disc brakes the size of dinner plates hide behind the spokes.

Nicely crafted flappy paddles live behind a leather-wrapped steering wheel, greeting the driver as the pilot settles into the leather (trimmed in the R-Design with suede-ish Nubuck) sport seat. An enormous infotainment screen (the best this side of Tesla’s unit, in this author’s opinion) dominates the center stack. Volvo doesn’t ding their customers for navigation and it goes without saying that Volvo’s legendary reputation for safety is baked into the V90. From lane-keeping aids to emergency braking assistance, the list of security and safe-driving features as long as a Viking’s fighting spear.

A $0 panoramic moonroof with a power shade lets in the sunshine, pairing with the standard equipment metal mesh inlays to brighten up an otherwise handsome but funereal interior. Please don’t waste $800 on replacing those inlays with carbon fiber ones.

The major gripe I have with the least expensive V90 is the lack of heated seats. De Hus av Volvo will install them for $750 – annoying, given that they are included on a $20,250 Hyundai Elantra. At least a heated steering wheel is included for that $750. For an extra $875, V90 buyers can get heated wiper nozzles, heated rear seats, and a heated windshield. I would spring for those stand-alone options. Can you tell I’m from frigid Canada?

Seeing as 2018 V90 buyers will have to custom order their machine, it only makes sense to consider the European Delivery experience. In it, Volvo provides two airline tickets and hotel accommodations to pick up your V90 and tour the company’s factory in Sweden, before the car shipped back to your dealership.

So, given the lack of heated amenities, the V90 T5 R-Design is tremendously desirable but not a true Ace of Base… at least not in my current place of residence. If I chose to live in a locale when ice and snow and misery doesn’t fall from the sky on an alarmingly regular basis, however, I think it certainly makes the grade.

Besides, my all-time favorite hot rod Volvo wagon doesn’t come from Sweden. It was built by Ross Converse.

[Image: Volvo Cars]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones that have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown priced in American dollars, without destination fee. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

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27 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2018 Volvo V90 T5 R-Design...”

  • avatar

    It’s a good looking car, but that 2.0L has to be churning furiously to get it moving.

  • avatar

    $50,000? Base?

    The only thing base about this car is sharing its power train with a $19,000 Kia.

  • avatar

    Volvos are ridiculously overpriced. This is especially true now with the current power train options. I wouldn’t mind if they actually had the chops to justify the price but the ride quality on modern Volvos is terrible. A fully loaded 3.6L Outback is a way better deal and will last much longer and have much better resale value.

    • 0 avatar


      For the advanced safety engineering that goes into these, it’s money well spent. Remember, the XC90 aced the small offset test that was introduced several years after the car premiered.

      My experience with modern Volvos has included less service issues than I had with the Outback we used to own.

      • 0 avatar

        The Outback aced the same test. An anecdote is also not data. The *90 series from Volvo has had terrible quality issues.

        • 0 avatar

          Aced? It didn’t “ace” it the first two years tested.

          Having to replace both front axles and cylinder head gaskets on an Outback that is 5 years old is not a ringing endorsement of Subaru quality.

          Between that experience, the CVT, and stagnant engine technology, Subaru has removed themselves from consideration.

    • 0 avatar

      Completely agree. They are priced in the luxury car market but lack certain luxury car features. After the Gheely purchase there were changes made to their cars which show plainly when comparing the old XC90 to the new XC90:
      More road noise
      Lighter steering feel
      More engine noise
      Less comfortable ride quality
      No straight six smoothness

      While I appreciate their dedication to safety research, engineering, and exhaustive internal testing… The other factors listed above have fallen under Gheely.

  • avatar

    This will be a true test of whether there is really a wagon market in North America. If this nice looking wagon from the wagon experts at Volvo can’t get soccer moms out of their crossovers and university professors out of their Prius, then nothing can.

    • 0 avatar

      Isn’t this like $20k more than a Prius? And I don’t know the crossover market, but I’m pretty sure you can get 3 rows from a number of companies for $50k.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s well-equipped Acura MDX V6 money.

        • 0 avatar

          Well heck for $50K I can get a nice Tahoe/Yukon or a VERY nice 4×4 crew cab pickup truck. (If we’re going to play the false equivalency game.)

          • 0 avatar

            Yep, no equivalents for the customer here. Like someone said long ago on TTAC, a Volvo wagon is *the* singular answer for their wagon customer. They aren’t looking for the E-Class, as it’s too expensive. The Subaru isn’t premium enough. The CUV isn’t appealing.

          • 0 avatar

            It’s a test of if there is a $50,000 4-cyl station wagon market in the US.

        • 0 avatar

          “It’s well-equipped Acura MDX V6 money.”

          Yeah, but you get the added features of not having a VCM-equipped V6 that tears itself to pieces, fighting a junk transmission for who will get to the junkyard first.

  • avatar

    Why is the base model named “T5” and “R-Design”? To me, both these names shout “sporty high-end model”. Sort of like the base Opel Kadett being the “LS” in the 80s: ridiculous.

  • avatar

    So how much to step up to a no-options V90 T6?

    Moar power!

  • avatar

    This car is definitely on my short list.

  • avatar

    I haven’t seen the wagon yet, but there’s a new S90 parked near my work, and it’s a handsome car that looks much more expensive than it is. One thing I like about Volvos, if you want an option, you can usually order it individually if you don’t want to pay more for a package full of stuff you don’t want.

  • avatar

    V90 is really nice looking – haven’t seen one in the wild, just at the NY auto show. Better looking than the CC version. And all the 90 series cars come with Volvo’s driver assist included. Not bad at all. The main problem is that they’re only sold as custom orders, so probably less negotiating room. On site delivery probably the best bet.
    They want to compete with the E-series, and to the extent that they do, this is a bargain. Especially considering the E requires Premium 3 to get driver assist goodies.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    I just saw a V90 a couple hours ago and it will give the 159 Alfa a run for the most beautiful wagon ever!

  • avatar

    I love the V90 (non CC) but the fact that it has to be special ordered is going to even more drastically reduce the CPO market on these. Much higher chance some (aka me) end up with a Regal TourX instead.

  • avatar

    I think you’ll see a very slow stream of these custom-order FWD models, and many more AWD CC versions.

  • avatar

    no ventilated seats?

    No sale.

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