Scandinavian Wagon. Volvo V90 quick first drive!

When Volvo Malaysia launched the new-generation XC90 over a year ago, it was the only Volvo product featuring their latest generation platform and design language, while the rest of the ageing range soldiers on. Thankfully Volvo Malaysia made it all worth the wait, by simultaneously launching both the new S90 sedan and V90 wagon/estate!

Fully imported and available locally in either T5 or T6 R-Design form, the S90 is competitively priced at RM388,888 and RM453,888 respectively and upgrading to the V90 wagon body-style only cost an extra RM5000 on top of the S90 price-tag. With Volvo offering the only wagon in this price segment in Malaysia, one would definitely stand out in a V90 on our roads.

We cannot talk about Volvo’s latest offerings without talking about its design, and Volvo’s latest design language is undoubtedly their best one yet, if not the best in the business. While the Germans tend to play safe and take the evolutionary path for every generation’s design, Volvo’s latest revolutionary design language not only looks stunning, but versatile enough to be applied to an SUV (XC90 & XC60), sedan/wagon (S90 & V90), and even on a sporty coupe (Concept Coupe).

While it was definitely not love at first sight when I first saw the S90 and V90’s rear design at the Geneva show last year, seeing them outdoors on-the-road under natural light changed my mind. And getting to speak with Volvo designer Jonathan Disley when he was in Malaysia recently for a design talk made me further appreciate Volvo’s latest design language. Click here to read my full interview with Jonathan!

During the launch, we were given the opportunity to have a first taste on how the S90 & V90 drives. I had the chance to drive the T5 version of the V90 wagon so my first driving impressions will be based on that variant. As for the technical details, the T5 and T6 variant both utilises the same 2.0 litre turbocharged engine but in different state of tune. The T5 gets a decent 254hp and 350Nm of torque while the T6 produces a substantial 320hp and 400Nm of torque.

The German should be worried of the new Swede in town.

First impression when you sit inside the V90 is the simplistic but stunning Scandinavian interior, dominated by the huge centre infotainment screen. The standard seats are also very comfortable, but if you prefer a sportier feel, the T6 R-Design’s sport seats will be more suitable which hugs you better for spirited driving. My particular car also came with dark grey/black interior which looks fine but you could also spec it in tan or cream leather for a more airy and luxurious feel.

Our test drive route involves the busy KL streets as well as some short highway sprints to stretch the cars’ legs, albeit very briefly. There was also a short but heavy rain right before we began our drive which made for slippery roads and slow traffic. The conditions may sound like a negative for any test drives, but it was uniquely perfect for the cars to show off Volvo’s advance IntelliSafe safety suit such as the City Safety autonomous emergency braking that operates at speeds between 4 to 70km/h.

Note the centre display detecting the close proximity of the toll booth on the right.

Whenever a vehicle or motorbike gets within the car’s proximity sensors, it will display the direction and proximity where the object is coming from on the infotainment screen followed by a soft audible tone depending on the distance. Imagine your standard reversing sensors, but all around the car. This could definitely get tiresome over time, but I was told by the Volvo representative that the sensors’ threshold can be adjusted to not be so sensitive. Either way, this system is very helpful especially in warning drivers about incoming vehicles or objects hiding in blind-spots.

The ride and handling on low speeds around the imperfect roads of KL is comfortable and well-controlled on the standard 18-inch rims. The R-Design’s larger 19-inch rims might stiffen things up a bit though, but a fellow friend of mine who also joined the drive mentioned that the ride remains good despite the larger rims.

The test drive route also includes a toll booth which gave us a chance to experience the engine’s performance when giving the full beans from a standstill. There was the expected couple seconds of lag before the turbocharged power finally kicked in, but when it does, even in the lesser T5 guise, the power was more than sufficient for a family wagon. Even when fully loaded with passengers and cargo, you won’t have to be worried about the lack of power in the T5 models, even less so in the 320hp T6 variant.

High speed stability was excellent too as expected, but it was too brief of a high speed drive to get a proper feel of its overall balance. Steering was decent during high speed which weighs up according to the speed. It does not have much feel which is expected of most modern cars, but it was direct and accurate. Either way, there’s really nothing much to complain about the performance and how it drives.

I also had the chance to ride at the rear as a passenger. I am around 170cm (5.57 feet) and with another similarly tall adult sat in front of me, I still had plenty of leg room and headroom, so space is another thing one won’t have to worry about especially so in the V90 wagon. The V90 may not have the largest boot space compared to its German wagon rivals, but that is irrelevant as the Volvo is the only brand to offer a wagon in Malaysia. Get the V90 and you are sure to have the most carrying space on our roads.

So there you go, it may be a very brief drive but it has left a great first impression on me. The stunning interior, smooth drive, and superb practicality all paired with Volvo’s class-leading safety makes the S90 and V90 arguably the best choice in its segment in Malaysia. If you are looking at the S90, the extra five grand to upgrade to a wagon body-style should be a no brainer just on the extra practicality alone, and the wagon body gives you extra cool points when parked next to a sea of vanilla sedans.

Nevertheless, I still understand the appeal of the perhaps more elegant-looking S90, and if so, then you should also check out the new (G30) BMW 5 Series before signing the dotted line.