Volvo V90 R-Design 2017 review

Does Volvo's new executive V90 estate make sense in sporty R-Design spec?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The V90 is still an excellent executive estate car. It’s quick, practical and superbly built. This R-Design version is a winner in terms of looks, but it’s pricey. The stiffer suspension takes away from the Volvo’s talent as a really comfortable family car, without adding enough engagement to the driving experience to be worth the extra. Go for a cheaper Momentum and you’ll get more for your money.

Sporty R-Design spec wasn’t available when Volvo launched the S90 and V90 last year. But now bosses are offering the executive car range in the racy trim, giving a Swedish alternative to BMW’s M Sport and Mercedes’ popular AMG Line models. The V90 tested here certainly looks the part, but unlike German rivals, it’s not based on halo models like the M5 or AMG E 63, since there’s no performance version of the Volvo.

Still, the idea is the same: you get a sportier-looking exterior, in this case thanks to a black grille, a new front bumper and some flash alloys. There’s also an upgraded interior, with sports seats, a new steering wheel and special ambient lighting.

Mechanical changes comprise stiffer suspension, a lower ride height and retuned steering. They’re supposed to make the V90 better to drive, but while the steering feels more natural, the set-up isn’t very rewarding.

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The standard estate impresses by being really comfortable without sacrificing too much driver enjoyment. And although the R-Design offers marginally less body roll in corners, ride quality is compromised too much; it’s not uncomfortable, but we’d like the option to delete the firmer set-up.

While there’s a T8 twin-engine plug-in hybrid on the way later this year, buyers are initially limited to the economical D4 diesel and more potent D5. The D4 we drove feels fast enough, with 187bhp and 400Nm of torque, and the eight-speed auto box is a good match, shifting smoothly at all speeds.

It definitely makes more sense than the all-wheel-drive D5, especially considering the efficiency gains. For a car of this size, the D4’s 62.8mpg and 119g/km CO2 claims are pretty impressive; Volvo says the more powerful V90 does 57.6mpg and 129g/km.

The 560-litre boot (1,526 litres with the rear seats down) isn’t as big as a Mercedes E-Class Estate’s, but it’s hardly small. There’s plenty of space in the back as well, with lots of legroom, although it’s a bit dark thanks to the black headlining.

It’s also a pity the cabin design doesn’t back up the dynamic exterior styling. While everything has a high-quality feel, the tweaks are more of an alternative to than an upgrade over the high-spec Inscription. And we’d still go for the better-value Momentum version.

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