Tuesday 16th October 2018
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Words: Tim Barnes-Clay
Featured in the July 2018 issue

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Volvo estates have come a long way since their ‘wardrobe on wheels’ image. We all knew they were safe and comfortable; they just weren’t sexy.

That all changed some years ago, and the last V70 looked great; arguably even better than its saloon sibling, the S80. Then in 2016, the V90 and the booted S90 came along; two stunning cars with more than a hint of sporting appeal woven into the luxury, ride comfort and space that Volvos always offer.

The models have been a success in the short time they’ve been out – but the V90 is the one that most people favour. As an estate car, it’s more practical, even though the Swedish car maker has made the load area slightly smaller than the previous V70s.

For those who like versatility and don’t want the ‘conservative’ estate car image, Volvo has recently put its R-Design stamp on the V90. This means you can still drive an estate car, but one that looks hunkered down and stimulating. Yes, stimulating – who’d have thought a Volvo could have that effect?

The R-Design flavour has always given Volvos that extra something – it’s made the cars spicier to look at and hotter in the way they handle. The V90 R-Design is a genuine looker – a great piece of artwork all round. Its kerbside appeal is boosted even further, thanks to its 15mm lowered ride height, silver door mirrors, gloss black grille and stylish 18-inch alloy wheels.

The jazziness continues inside, with electrically operated leather and nubuck sports seats. There are also metal-effect inlays, a vivid LED driver’s display, sports pedals, and illuminated tread plates.

My test car, the D5 Powerpulse AWD R-Design, came hooked up to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This is connected to a 2.0-litre turbo diesel unit delivering 235PS – a well-judged output for regular motorway commuting. It’s rapid enough for most palates, reaching 62mph in 7.2 seconds, but it is prudent, too. If you see well over 50mpg from this engine, I wouldn’t be taken aback.

In D5 guise, it has all-wheel-drive and adheres to the road like chewing gum. The Volvo feels sprightlier, thanks to the weight of the pedals and the steering – and while this is no small vehicle, it feels far from overwhelming, due to how acquiescent it is.

Because of the R-Design’s lowered, firmer suspension set-up, this V90 model will corner quickly without perceptible body lean. However, the drawback is that there’s no option to alter the suspension on the fly. Mind you, air suspension can be substituted when you buy the car new, although it will cost you £1,500 for the privilege. On the regular non-R-Design V90s you are offered a more cushioned ride. But if you are determined to go for a sporty estate, and don’t mind a lower, firmer system, then the stock V90 R-Design is an excellent choice. Price: £44,865.

Tim Barnes-Clay, Motoring Journalist – tweeting @carwriteups

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