Volvo back to best

with V90 and S90

Volvo S90, 2016, front
Volvo S90, 2016, side
Volvo S90, 2016, rear
Volvo S90, 2016, interior
Volvo S90, 2016, touchscreen
Volvo S90, 2016, rear seats
Volvo S90, 2016, console
Volvo V90, 2016, front, action
Volvo V90, 2016, side, static
Volvo V90, 2016, rear, action
Volvo V90, 2016, interior
Volvo V90, 2016, rear seats
Volvo V90, 2016, Bowers and Wilkins hifi
Volvo V90, 2016, boot
Volvo V90, 2016, large animal detection

FABULOUS design is fast becoming Volvo's new hallmark as the Swedish car maker is proving with its latest wave of big cars.

The company is back to doing what it does best and is about to launch an all-new king-sized estate and a large saloon.

The new V90 estate and S90 saloon will be arriving in September and mark Volvo's determination to score in the luxury league.

Following on from the substantially-proportioned XC90 SUV the new models sit on the same ‘Scalable Architecture Platform' and for Britain will be powered by a pair of fuel-efficient and powerful 2.0-litre diesel engines as well as a plug-in hybrid petrol/electric powertrain with a theoretical fuel rating of 148.7mpg.

Prices start from £32,555 for the saloon and £34,555 for the estate and both carry plenty of kit including a full array of safety systems and smart technology that enables them to drive themselves when the conditions are right.

Prices for the T8 hybrids are still to be announced and at the moment Volvo says it has no plans to offer a pure petrol alternative in the UK.

Volvo's big estates are legend, going back more than 50 years and include the likes of the 240, 750 and 940 ranges of the 1970s, 80s and 90s and more recently the V70 - all of which have satisfied generations of drivers who want a gargantuan load lugger that's built to be as safe as houses.

The emphasis on safety remains paramount and the V90 and S90 come with even more life saving devices than those which saw the XC90 recognised last year as the safest car on the road.

What's new is large animal detection - a forward scanning system to prevent collisions with deer and the like - run off road protection where the car will steer back on track if it senses it is straying too close to the edge and semi-autonomous driving equipment that can operate at speeds up to 80mph.

That's on top of automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring - and all are standard features.

The catchphrase Volvo has coined for the newcomers is Relaxed Confidence and the Swedes say they not trying to out-do the German brands which dominate the luxury car scene but to offer something completely different and typically Scandinavian - which means sophisticated and cleverly practical.

Both new Volvos are great long distance tourers, sublime to drive and very comfortable with redesigned seats offering plenty of support front and back.

Both new cars are also head turners, especially the V90 estate with it rakish lines and sloping tailgate creating a powerful presence.

Strangely, the S90 saloon is the longer of the two - by an inch-and-a-half - and both offer a great amount of space in the rear.

Luggage space is 500 litres on the saloon and a minimum of 560 litres on the estate, stretching to an extensive 1,526 litres.

That is not as big as some of the earlier Volvo estates - or even the current V70 - and neither is it up with the likes of the Mercedes E-Class estate but it is still large and Volvo has made the cars very user-friendly.

The V90 comes with additional under-floor storage with the boot tray supported by an hydraulic arm so it doesn't have to be held open. There's also a handy pop-up panel to which can be attached shopping bags.

It is a proper estate but on the posh side with the high grade Inscription model we tried coming with leather upholstery, wooden trim inserts, a panoramic sunroof and a dashboard that is a variation on the theme of that in the XC90 - nicely minimalist, ultra modern, highly crafted and centred on a nine-inch touchscreen complete with swipe-through functions.

Sat nav and full connectivity are standard and so is a digital sound system with the option of upgrading to a Bowers and Wilkins supplied hi-fi.

The D5 V90 Inscription costs from £44,055 and is four-wheel-drive making it sure-footed and fine to handle with a weighted feel from the steering at all speeds.

There is a lot of electronics between the driver and the road but it doesn't impact on the overall dynamics and it remains a car which feels it is being driven rather than it taking control - although that is something that it can do.

Engage Pilot Assist - the semi-autonomous drive mode - and the cars can steer themselves, adjust their speed and keep a safe distance from other vehicles.

It is equivalent to a super cruise control and appropriate only on motorways or dual carriageways - not on twisty lanes.

Current legislation means the driver has to touch the steering wheel every 30 seconds or so to demonstrate a human is in control, so this is not hands-free driving, although that is on the way.

At all speeds the new Volvos are nicely quiet inside and although not overtly sporty, the D5 does posses a kick using a compressor to pulse the turbo into action at low revs.

The result is 235bhp, plenty of torque from 1,750 revs and a 0 to 60 time of 7.2 seconds. Top speed is 150mph.

The D4 engine is not quite as powerful at 190bhp which is reflected by an 8.5 second 0 to 60 acceleration time and a maximum of 140mph. However, emissions are better at 119g/km opposed to 129g/km which equates to official fuel returns of 62.8mpg for the D4 engine and 57.6 for the D5 V90.

Both the V90 and the S90 make use of an eight-speed automatic transmission and the slightly lighter saloon is marginally quicker and, on paper, more economical with a rating o 64.2mpg with the D4 engine and 58.9mpg for the more powerful D5.

On our drives in D5 powered cars both the estate and saloon returned identical average fuel readouts of 39.2mpg over similar drives of more than 100 miles.

The S90 is the best large saloon Volvo has yet to conceive - streets ahead of the previous S80 in every department - and now a credible alternative to the bigger models from Audi, Mercedes and BMW.

That is likely to bring many a new customer to the brand and while the V90 will have similar appeal it will also be tapping in to a loyal Volvo estate fanbase - they will not be disappointed.

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