Volvo has rightfully earned its reputation as a builder of safe, comfortable, reliable cars that also flirt with real performance. The flagship S90 furthers that reputation, and it's easy enough to add the punch if desired. The S90 builds upon the luxury found in the outgoing, long-in-the-tooth S80, but it draws many styling cues from the Concept Coupe Volvo demoed in 2013. As such, with the exception of its subtle, familiar Volvo "shoulder" line, it departs from recent Volvo styling with its slightly concave grille, which sits between LED headlights. The heavily raked windshield and back glass frame a low roofline. Overall, it is an elegant, flowing look that suits the car's dimensions.
Two trims are offered -- S90 Momentum and S90 Inscription -- and each is available in either T5 front-wheel drive or T6 all-wheel drive configuration. The differences are greater than simply which wheels are powered, however. T5 models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four, which produces 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. T6 models benefit from a 2.0L four that is "twin-charged," with both a supercharger and turbocharger. The combination is good for 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet, and it means that turbo lag is almost non-existent, with the supercharger spooling from low in the rev range and the turbo taking over higher up. All S90s utilize an 8-speed automatic transmission, and all are equipped with ECO+ automatic stop/start functionality. Adjustable drive modes include Comfort, Eco, Dynamic, Off Road and Individual, and allow drivers to customize responsiveness of the S90's engine, transmission and optional air suspension. No matter the powerplant and drive configuration, Momentum models offer 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome-tipped dual exhaust, leather upholstery and trim, aluminum sills, power adjustable front seating with 4-way lumbar support, 2-zone electronic climate control, a power sunroof, adaptive cruise control, park assist, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and HD radio. Inscription models differ with 19-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights and "Thor's Hammer" running lights, and headlight washers. Upgrades inside include soft Napa leather with heated and cooled front seats, walnut inlays, a leather-clad dash, 4-zone climate control with a cooled glovebox and a 12.3-inch digital display.
Popular packages on the S90 include the Vision Package, with auto-dimming mirrors, blind spot information with cross-traffic alert, and visual park assist with "fisheye" view in the front. A Climate Package brings heat to the front and rear seats, steering wheel, windshield washer nozzles, and windshield. The Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound System adds upgraded audio with a 12-channel amplifier, 1,400-watt output, and 19 speakers. Standalone options include a graphical head-up display with driver information, as well as air suspension, which automatically adjusts the rear height to account for load. The system also adapts on the fly to changing road conditions.
The wagon version of the S90, known as the V90, comes in R-Design and Inscription trim levels and the S90's lineup of 2.0L engines as well as a choice of front-wheel and all-wheel drive. While not offering 3rd-row seating, a quite capacious 20 cubic foot cargo space is offered. Put the rear seats down and an impressive 69 cubic feet is available. An all-wheel-drive-only Cross Country version of the V90 lifts the body and adds extra suspension travel for off-road capability. This allows for some different driving character on-road as well. Volvo intended the V90 Cross Country as a nice mid-point between the everyday practicality of the V90 wagon and the big SUV of the XC90. The V90 Cross Country adds all the soft off-road capability and practicality of the Audi allroad or the Subaru Outback but with mountains more style and comfort.
Safety has not been overlooked in the newest Volvo. In addition to anti-lock braking and stability and traction controls, a bevy of air bags fill the cabin. Advanced standard safety features include front collision mitigation with emergency braking, lane keeping assist, pedestrian/cyclist/animal detection, and OnCall telematics, which can remotely unlock or start the car and notify first responders in an emergency. Additionally, Pilot Assist pairs semi-autonomous self-steering, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control to allow the S90 to drive itself with minimal driver input in certain scenarios.
For most, the idea of driving a station wagon evokes thoughts of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and the horrors of pre-smartphone family vacations. It's quite the hard sell, given America's absolute obsession with crossovers. It's like trying to teach a dog to meow.
Despite this, wagons are still kicking around. On the affordable side, you have the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen and, um, that's about it at the moment. But, if you're looking to spend north of $50,000 on a station wagon, the possibilities expand to Brobdingnagian proportions -- you can choose from three: The, and this Volvo V90.
Provided you can put down the crossover Kool-Aid for a moment, you'll find that the V90 impresses with its great looks, solid driving dynamics and ample complement of the latest tech for both driver and passengers. At the absolute minimum, this wagon will help you stand out from the cookie-cutter crossover contingent.
The Good The V90 has the best looks in its segment, it's well sorted on the road and it's loaded with tech meant to make your life easier.
The Bad The transmission occasionally exhibits rough shifts, the engine note is uninspired and tires will go a long way in shaping your ride experience, even with optional air suspension.
The Bottom Line The expensive station wagon segment isn't very big, but the V90 is worth a long look.
It's hauled our gear, amused (and frustrated) our staff and proven to be thriftier than expected. Our long-term Swede has been anything but dull.
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