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First Drive: 2018 Volvo V90 R-Design

An engaging package of style, performance and luxury.

by on Oct.13, 2017

The Volvo V90 may be the leader of the pack when it comes to the resurgent station wagon segment.

Don’t look now but the station wagon is quietly making something of a comeback.

It might not be a huge comeback and a fair number of manufacturers are loath to even mention the words “station wagon” in their various sales pitches. However, with the appearance of the V90, Volvo is definitely embracing the station wagon.

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Moreover, the V90 is hardly a retro-vehicle eager to get in touch with some kind Mad Men-era chic. Instead it’s a fully updated vehicle with a luxurious interior and an exterior that completely re-invents the appearance with fresh lines, curves and angles kept well within envelope traditionally occupied by station wagon with its low but elongated profile. 

Volvo has augmented the well-crafted interior and exterior design of the V90 with ample power, solid driving dynamics and a full suite of safety features, which have long been the Swedish carmaker’s strong suit as well as the up-to-date technology that 21st century motorists desire and increasingly demand.

(Volvo wants to change how Americans buy new vehicles. For the story, Click Here.)

In keeping with the Volvo’s preference for small engines, the V90 I was lucky enough to drive in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains outside of Denver was powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder motor. But the 2.0-liter engine in the V90 is supercharged and turbocharged and produces 320 horsepower. The 8-speed transmission shifts so smoothly and so quickly it seems as if it anticipates the variations in the road. The powertrain is complete with all-wheel-drive, adding another dimension to V90′s overall driving characteristics.

The new Volvo V90 R-Design offers luxurious comfort and outstanding performance wrapped up in exquisite package.

The hilly terrain we traveled during our test in the rolling countryside that runs up against the Rocky Mountains showed underscored the car’s ride and handling. The V90 did very well when the lay of the land forced it to climb, and it ran smoothly through the twists and turns on the way down hills and canyons.

The steering was nice and precise and even though it was electric powered and tuned to offer feedback. The brakes were quite powerful on the 20-inch tires, included in the R-Design package we drove, and the overall ride quality was very good even over broken pavement we encountered during the drive thanks to the car’s air suspension system.

One of the most impressive features of the V90, however, is its well-appointed interior.

Volvo has worked hard to set itself apart from its competitors such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz and has largely succeeded with its interiors, which are luxurious and comfortable but also warm and inviting and nowhere near as austere as those of its German rivals. The materials, such as open-pore wood accents and Napa leather, create an environment capable of soothing nerves even in terrible traffic.

The layout of controls is simple but also succeeds in including the 9-inch Sensus Connect Touchscreen in the center stack area where it looks perfectly natural and is quite easy to see and use as needed. The smaller screen in the center of the instrument cluster with information about the car is also easy read.

The 10-position driver’s seat and the passenger seat were both very comfortable and the leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel, the most important touch point of all in my estimation, felt good throughout the test run.

(Click Here for more about the resurgence of the station wagon.)

The new V90 puts a world of technology at the fingertips of the driver in a way that is easily used.

A Panoramic moon roof also gives the driver and the passenger the ability to control the light and overall ambience of cabin of the V90.

The exterior of the V90 with its sleek, contemporary profile, tailored rear end, sculpted corners and clean lines that run the length of the car at the belt line and the door sill set it apart from old-school station wagons.

But the V90 also comes with advanced driver-assistance features, including blind spot information system as well as Volvo’s City Safety System with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection, which can come in handy in open country or in crowded urban streets.

The list of driver assistance features also include road run-off protection, cross-traffic alerts, lane-keeping assistance and road sign information as well as connectivity features such as Bluetooth for hands free mobile phone use as well as a 330-watt high performance audio, HD Radio and USB ports.

The V90 is also equipped with new tech such as Apple Car Play and Android Auto standard and it is also equipped with a full-complement of safety features such as airbags designed to protect drivers and passenger in front- or side-impact collisions.

With all the luxury and technology features the V90 is an expensive vehicle. The base price for the model I drove was $55,950 and the version I drove with head-up display and carbon fiber accents in the cabin was priced at $68,280, including the $995 destination charge. Volvo also is requiring buyers to special order the vehicle through an on-line portal.

(Volvo downsizes with debut of new XC40. To see more, Click Here.)

But it also a most successful re-interpretation of old concept that many observers believed had faded away The V90 is versatile vehicle that looks great and offers a great alternative to the staid SUVs.

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