Bigger, bolder but

still a Swedish

Volvo

Volvo V90, side action
Volvo V90, front action
Volvo V90, front action (2)
Volvo V90, rear action
Volvo V90, boot (2)
Volvo V90, rear seats
Volvo V90, boot (1)
Volvo V90, front seats
Volvo V90, dashboard
Volvo V90, wheel detail
Volvo V90, full front upright

GOODNESS, hasn't Volvo changed in the six years since the Chinese took control, most obviously seen in a very un-Swedish outward display of confidence in their cars.

Once upon a time, even right into the age when Ford made the big decisions, you would have heard how safe and sensible were the cars designed in Gothenburg.

A little dull, perhaps, but so, so appealing to the inner accountant and responsible granddad in potential buyers.

They are still safe today - safer than ever, in fact, with the big XC90 SUV emerging as the safest car ever to be crashed on purpose in the respected EuroNCAP tests.

The next new Volvo along is the V90 estate and S90 saloon, driven here and both built on the same underpinnings that made the XC90 such a star performer in the safety tests.

They're sensible too, with enough room in the rear for trio of adults and luggage space that varies from generous (500 litres in the S90) to luxury van-like (560 litres) in the V90, even before you pop the split rear seats flat.

But no Volvo before has even been introduced with a graph showing it roaring away from the lights ahead of its competitors, some of them with bigger and more brutish engines doing the work.

That point was made to both showcase the surprising power from the Volvo's 2.0-litre diesel engines (the firm has pledged never to go larger) and the clever technology on one of them that gives a boost away from the line.

That's called PowerPulse and pumps a high pressure puff of air into the turbocharger at low revs to smooth the delay you otherwise find between ordering full power and it arriving that is a downside of turbo'ed motors.

Most S/V90 models won't actually have the instant turbo effect, making do with a less powerful version of the same diesel engine (D4 versus D5) that is going to be much the most popular power unit across the new range - up to 70 per cent of sales, with the D5 taking 20 per cent and the part-electric plug-in hybrid T8 Twin Engine a niche 10 per cent when it arrives next year.

You will have noticed a lack of petrol engines until the Twin Engine arrives; we Brits overwhelming choose diesel for our company cars, and that's where nearly every S/V90 will be heading. With the estate (it is a big Volvo, after all) taking up to 75 per cent of sales; so no surprise there, then.

Prices start at 32,555 for an S90 saloon in D4 (190hp) Momentum trim, moving up to £41,555 for an S90 D5 Momentum with all-wheel drive and a 235hp engine.

Head for a posher Inscription version and you add £3,000 and £2,500 respectively to the bottom line. Fancy an estate - most will - and there's an easily remembered £2,000 price hike across the board.

However much you spend on the newcomer it results in a car that looks notably handsome, with uncluttered lines giving off very Swedish vibes.

Same goes for the interior, with matt wood flashes in some versions adding to the Scandi furniture effect, even if some of the plastics on the dash felt a bit ungiving.

The dash is dominated by a big central screen that controls everything from navigation to sound and heating - the iPad generation will acclimatise quickly, older occupants may mourn the passing of switches and knobs.

Volvo (wisely?) says it is 'not going after the Germans' and majors on easy going comfort, although a more stiffly sprung and lowered R-Design option will be along at the turn of the year, from £41,555, and adding sporty touches like black grille and alloys and huggier seats and large driver information display.

Buy the least expensive of the newcomers and you won't feel shortchanged. Standard kit includes all the obvious bits - sat nav, climate control, big alloy wheels, heated front seats, power boot of tailgate and leather trim.

But this is a new Volvo, remember, so they all come with radar that detects a small animal (up to elk size... this is a Swedish design, after all) and puts the brakes on.

The car will also help you steer and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front up to 80mph, although this driver turned the system off after sensing the car was heading too close to lorries in the left hand lane. The S/V90 is a wide car - more than two metres across unfolded mirrors - and can feel it.

It also feels comfortable, with typically well shaped seats and a ride that stays the right side of too-firm, if feeling modestly bouncy at times.

You can order in a so-called dynamic mode at the twist and push of a knurled wheel between the front seats, but this simply makes the steering heavier, even if the auto gearbox does then change more enthusiastically.

Drive it in comfort mode and you will still find plenty of performance, even in D4 guise (140mph and 8.5 seconds to 62mph) but the big surprise will come when you check the fuel consumption.

A pleasant surprise too; with an impressive 52mpg showing on the clear dashboard after a thorough run taking in motorway and posh Berkshire towns on the car's launch. That might be considered as practical as can be and not far away from the claimed 62.8mpg. How very Volvo.

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