Interior tunnel console on the Volvo V90.

Interior tunnel console on the Volvo V90.

Launched at the 2016 Geneva motor show, the Volvo V90 is the latest in a long line of family estates from Sweden. Continuing QUBE/just-auto's review of interior design and technology trends, we take a closer look inside this Scandinavian workhorse.

The V90's rear seating has been a focus for innovation thanks to input from Adient.

As with the XC90 and XC60, the interior of the V90 feels just as classy. The powered leather front seats have that same prominent stitching. The V90's rear seating has also been a focus for innovation thanks to input from Adient.  In addition to the seat covers and upholstery for all of the Volvo V90's seats, the supplier has developed the rear seat bench which splits 60/40. Heated seats and steering wheel were the first creature comforts to experience as the delivery driver handed me the keys.

Space-wise, nobody does estates better than Volvo. The V90's boot capacity is 560 litres, increasing to 1,526 litres with the rear seats folded forward. The rear seat headrests and backrests fold electronically, thereby making rearview visibility that little bit easier. Both the V90 and S90 have a power-operated boot lid.

Controls and displays

Trim-wise, the top-drawer Inscription is on a level with rivals from Germany. We have often found that the steering wheel controls on Volvo models are particularly intuitive. The V90 is no exception. The left-hand spoke offers control of driving-function related systems such as speed limiter, adaptive cruise control and Pilot Assist. The right-hand spoke accesses all the infotainment features, including audio, phone and navigation. The twist-and-go engine start mounted on the tunnel console was a joy to use.

The instrument cluster springs to life as you enter the V90, displaying all the usual and critical driver information. Built-in light sensors control the brightness of the display that adjusts to exterior lighting conditions. The iPad style nine-inch touchscreen conveys the non-critical information. In making the distinction, Volvo calls this the 'now and whenever' approach, reflecting the importance of the information that is displayed by where it is visible. The touchscreen, flanked by a pair of vertical chrome air vents, can also be operated wearing gloves (we tried it).

Neat tricks of Sensus include a notification if your car alarm is triggered.

The sat-nav is also worthy of note. While all the usual apps are provided on Volvo's Sensus Navigation, they include useful things like Glympse (send your location to friends and family); Send to Car (send a destination to the car from a phone using Volvo On Call); and Weather. Volvo On Call was initially developed as a telematics safety system that alerts the emergency services if you are involved in an accident, or if you need roadside assistance due to a flat tyre. It now also acts as a security system that allows stolen vehicles to be tracked. Other neat tricks include a notification if your car alarm is triggered and remotely operate the parking heater.

As part of Volvo's Sensus technology, In-car delivery is a new service that allows online orders to be delivered directly to the boot of any Volvo. Using the carmaker's On Call service, In-car delivery allows single-time access for depositing items such as groceries or dry-cleaning in the boot of a parked car. It essentially turns a car into a preferred delivery address. You can also send a destination directly to the car's sat-nav so it's all ready to go when you get into the car.

Acoustically speaking

The V90 D4 Inscription has front side laminated windows, supplied by Saint-Gobain Sekurit.

Every car has a laminated windscreen, of course.  For some time, however, Europe has led with the adoption of laminated side glass for increased vehicle comfort and security. The first North American vehicle with laminated side windows was launched in 2002 with market demand catching up Europe.  Today, from just-auto's research database QUBE on glazing technologies, we are seeing a clear upward trend for laminated side glass, especially for front door applications due to the acoustical benefit that comes with that value-added product. The V90 D4 Inscription that we took out for a spin came fitted with optional front side laminated windows, supplied by Saint-Gobain Sekurit. Laminated glass provides a three-to-six decibel noise reduction over tempered glass.

Laminated side glazing has other benefits that go beyond cabin noise. The use of laminate greatly reduces penetration of UV rays into the vehicle.  Other benefits such as safety and security are also considerations for carmakers. 

Thanks to the laminated side windows, occupants can enjoy the Bowers & Wilkins sound system to a better degree. No fewer than 18 speakers are dotted around the cabin with an air-ventilated sub-woofer built into the chassis.

On the road

The V90 has a certain tank-like, classy feel to it as it bowls along.

To drive, the V90 has a certain tank-like, classy feel to it as it bowls along.  Our posh Inscription was powered by a 2-litre four-cylinder D4 diesel paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. A test route that took us mostly along some busy motorways felt smooth, quiet and refined.  But there again, for almost fifty grand (including options) we would expect nothing less. We clocked-up 355 miles in this premium family estate, returning an average 54 mpg although a little short of the carmaker's 62.8mpg claim. All things considered, however, that's quite impressive.

Given the carmaker's vision that no one will be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by 2020, the V90 bristles with driver assistance technologies fitted as standard.  Its so-called IntelliSafe Assist technologies include adaptive cruise control, distance alert and Pilot Assist, a functionality that provides gentle steering input in the event of lane drifting on motorways.

The ride felt comfortable partly thanks to the standard composite leaf spring rear suspension.  After using composite transverse leaf springs first in the XC90, Geely's Volvo Cars divulged last year that it is using them on the S90 and V90 models. They're produced by Benteler-SGL using high-speed resin transfer moulding (RTM) and Henkel's Loctite MAX 2 two-component polyurethane composite matrix resin. In the Volvos, the spring saves 4.5kg compared to steel coils, aids fuel efficiency and provides a smoother ride and improved NVH. There is also less trunk space intrusion compared with vertical coil spring suspension. Henkel claims its resin delivers short cycle times needed for high volume production of composite parts. Low viscosity liquid rapidly fills the mould and impregnates the fibre preform without disturbing its positioning. The high cure rate also "substantially" speeds production. Benteler business development chief Frank Fetscher said: "The composite leaf springs are another example of how a close cooperation between our partner Henkel and us in development of new processes and matrix resins - as well as adhesives and binders - can lead to the successful large-scale production of new composite concepts."

The net result of all this interior and acoustical development makes the V90 a calm place to sit. Although the cockpit area closely resembles the XC90, there are enough details that distinguish the two.