Motoring: New Volvo V90 looks so Swede
Sophisticated estate takes on Germans at own game
Volvo has a reputation for being ahead of the curve in significant car trends. It was the first to put safety at the absolute top of the priority list back in the 80s, and has kept it there ever since.
In recent times, it has led the development of hybrid and anti-pollution technology and was one of the first to announce that new models launched from 2019 will be fully electric or hybrid-electric.
Despite these innovations, the Swedish manufacturer has been able to stay focused on making excellent cars, particularly at the upper end of the market.
Its 90 range is a perfect example: the V90 estate, S90 saloon and XC90 4x4 combined make up a formidable range in premium territory usually dominated by the Germans.
Indeed, earlier this year, the Volvo V90 was voted Best Estate in the UK Car of the Year Awards, and a couple of months earlier it took the same honours in TopGear Magazine's Best Cars in the World awards.
It won praise for its mixture of style, practicality and desirability, along with its Sensus touchscreen control system and Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive technology.
The latter can take care of the steering, acceleration and braking up to 80 mph and is standard on every V90.
As you'd expect, the car is Volvo's most technologically advanced and sophisticated estate yet.
It better be, of course - it's battling for market share against the likes of the BMW 5 Series Touring, Mercedes E-Class estate and Audi A6 Avant.
The V90, along with its S90 saloon sibling, is the latest model to be built on Volvo's new SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform.
Like the XC90, they feature the new face of Volvo, including the T-shaped LED headlights dubbed "Thor's Hammer".
The engine line-up is made up of two twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels and a plug-in petrol hybrid which utilises a 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit as well as electric power.
There are four trim levels, Momentum, sporty-looking R-Design, Inscription, and a rather nice Cross Country model with 65mm extra ground clearance to help you out in the wild.
The front-wheel-drive 190 hp D4 diesel engine comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and officially offers combined fuel consumption of 62.8 mpg, which is very good for a large premium estate.
The 235 hp D5 uses an innovative technology called PowerPulse to boost responsiveness and overcome turbo-lag. This uses compressed air, stored in an engine bay tank, to spool up the turbo at low revs.
The D5 PowerPulse comes with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
Models are very well equipped; even entry-level Momentum cars come with leather upholstery, LED headlights with active high beam, two-zone climate control with 'CleanZone' air-filtration system, keyless engine starting and heated front seats.
The company's Sensus infotainment system is also standard - giving you a 9" touch screen, sat nav with lifetime annual map updates, access to the internet on the go, and a powered tailgate.
Pilot Assist will automatically keep you at a set speed or distance from the vehicle in front, braking and accelerating with the flow of traffic, and giving gentle steering inputs to keep the car within lane markings at motorway speeds up to 80 mph.
Unlike previous versions of the system, it no longer needs to follow another car. Pilot Assist Fully autonomous driving cannot be too far away. As if to underline this point, the latest version of Volvo City Safety is also fitted.
This includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and "world-first" large-animal detection technology designed to avoid or limit the severity of collisions with large animals.
Prices start at £36,435 for the entry-level Momentum estate, rising to £40,905 for standard Cross Country trim.