2021 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Handsome alternative to SUV overload
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
SUV-averse wagon loyalists will love Volvo's latest take on the classic station wagon. Thanks to a mild styling makeover for 2021, this year's offering looks better than ever. Restrained elegance is the keynote here, especially if you select the minimally adorned R-Design model. Chrome appears to be an endangered finish in Sweden, since every surface of the R-Design shuns shine in favor of black. Starting at the nose, the R-Design front grill features high gloss black mesh with matching lower openings.
The high gloss black trim carries over to the window frames, mirror caps and grill frame. Even the integrated roof rails disappear from sight thanks to their matching glossy black finish. Subdued but handsome black alloy rims, their five double-spoke pattern set off by machined alloy surfaces, adorn each corner of the wagon. These $800 optional 20 inch wheels, which replace the R-Design's standard 19 inch rims, carry substantial (255/35R20) Pirelli P7 Cinturato all-season rubber. And to top off the minimalist effect, our test wagon was painted onyx black metallic, a $695 optional shade that shows fetching flecks of blue in bright sunshine.
The Museum of Modern Art eye feast extends to the interior, where perforated R-Design sport seats look splendid in white Nappa leather set against a charcoal headliner. The front seats, both heated and vented, proved sublimely comfortable, with more spinal adjustment than a Swedish massage. The door panels, sliding center console covers, and dashboard facing are all treated to aluminum mesh inlays that exemplify the wagon's display of good taste in design. Not only does this layout look and feel good, but it also offers an exceptionally happy user interface that will not distract the driver from the task of driving. The 9 inch vertical Sensus Connect touchscreen looks like the biggest cell phone yet devised. At first it's operation seems intimidating and confusing, since the dashboard is virtually bereft of analog knobs. But you quickly master the art of controlling HVAC functions without taking your eyes off the road, and the same goes for seat adjustments, navigation commands, and infotainment options. I can remember being completely perplexed the first time I confronted a Volvo with this shiny black tablet, but after several re-acquaintances, it now seems to offer one of the best graphic user interfaces on the automotive market today.
It might seem delusional to observe that a 4,247 pound, 5 passenger station wagon that measures 16 feet long could be a prime candidate to tackle a twisting back road. In fact, thanks to its much lower center of gravity, the V90 will run circles around similar sized SUVs. To augment the advantage derived from that basic law of physics, Volvo has endowed the R-Design wagon with sporting genes that run from engine to gearbox to suspension system.
While a 2 liter 4 cylinder motor would seem to be no match for a two ton chassis, this one has been breathed upon in two distinct ways. It's not only turbocharged, but supercharged as well. That twin punch produces an output of 316hp and 295lb.-ft. of torque, and you can feel the turbo spool up first followed by the slam provided by the supercharger. Coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission, the V90 will launch from rest to 60mph in 6.5 seconds, record a standing start quarter mile time of 14.9 seconds at 95mph, and top out at a governed speed of 132mph. It will also generate .92g in steady state cornering, thanks to those Pirellis and the R-Design's Sport Chassis. The double wishbone front and link type rear suspension is quite sophisticated for a beast of burden like the V90.
The Sport Chassis adds the choice of various Drive Modes to the mix, including one for the $1,200 optional "Polestar" setting, which favors high performance. Our test V90's handling was refined by a $1,200 optional "Four-C Adaptive Air Suspension" which regulated ride height according to load. That's an especially handy feature given the wagon's enormous 26 cubic feet of interior cargo space. An optional $1,360 roof box can be added to increase total storage. After lowering the rear bench seats to create a flat floor, we had no trouble carrying a 6 foot step ladder home from the hardware store stowed inside the spacious cabin.
Volvo does not supply its new vehicles with a printed ownership manual, opting instead to substitute a digital version which can only be read slowly on the Sensus screen when the car is not in motion. This is not a satisfactory solution to your need for information because it takes forever to scroll through the pages to locate what you need when a quick scan of a physical booklet could provide the information instantly. Luckily, you can request a free printed manual from you Volvo dealer to rectify this annoying oversight. This observation sums up our only complaint about life with the V90 R-Design. This handsome Volvo makes the definitive case for selecting a lithe sports wagon over a clumsy SUV any day of the week.
2021 VOLVO V90 T6 AWD R-DESIGN
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, turbo- and supercharged
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 21MPG City/32MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $68,435
HYPES: Sleek, Spacious, MOMA Approved
GRIPES: Owner's Manual, Please
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10