A few years back, a friend with an eye for handsome cars unloaded on Volvo.
“Volvo builds ugly cars,” Bill said. He wasn’t malicious, but he was emphatic. He didn’t need to say, “And it always will”; his tone said it.
For several years, flat body panels and blocky proportions constituted Volvo design. Wags said its cars looked like the boxes they came in.
Bill made his declaration just as Volvo carmaker was taking its first, awkward steps toward a more modern design strategy.
Understated and elegant
Its efforts have born fruit. Current Volvos retain the functionality of their predecessors but are more gracefully packaged. They are understated and elegant in that too-cool-for-words Swedish way.
The V90 XC T6 ($54,900) is based on Volvo’s midsize V90 wagon ($51,800). Like a Scandinavian version of Subaru’s Outback, it rides on a lifted suspension, with standard all-wheel drive.
The T6 isn’t meant for off-roading, though. Only a hint of lower-body cladding nods toward off-road travel. Neither does it include any off-road features or functions.
On the outside, unbroken lines and unadorned body panels lend a sense of length, though the V90 is not a large car. The hood and front fenders flow organically into a fascia housing a modest grille, gentle curves and subdued intake scoops.
Hygge for the highway
The T6 cabin is a refined and elegant retreat. Materials are top-shelf. Tech features are well integrated and fit-and-finish is exemplary.
Substantial slices of open-pore wood are set off by matte-finish metal trim. Metal knobs and exposed speaker covers are finely textured.
Our tester included supple, soft and fragrant Nappa leather upholstery and door-panel trim. Two-tone leather wraps the steering wheel.
It’s hygge for the open road. If it could, Volvo would put a wood stove in here.
It’s marred, however slightly by wind and road noise that seeps into the cabin at highway speeds.
Large, swipe-able touchscreen
One manages the Sensus Connect infotainment system via a 9-inch tablet-style swipe-able touchscreen. The layout can be confusing at first blush and it responds slowly at start-up, but ultimately it’s comprehensive and intuitive.
Standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, integrated navigation and Wi-Fi.
Music lovers will want to pony up the $4,000 Volvo wants for the splendid Bowers & Wilkins sound system.
All V90 XCs are equipped with LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof and a hands-free liftgate. Wheels are 5-spoke diamond-cut 19-inch alloys.
All five seating positions coddle, cushion and support. Even the largest drivers should easily find a comfortable driving position. Backseat passengers enjoy abundant legroom and headroom.
The large, flat-floored cargo area rivals those of most crossovers.
Volvo prioritizes safety and the V90 gets as standard virtually every available safety and driver-assist feature on the market.
The T6 is powered by the company’s multi-purpose 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Here, it is turbocharged <ital>and</ital> supercharged to crank out 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that makes sure and gentle shifts.
The four powers the V90 from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, quick for a midsize wagon.
The wagon is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds.
The T6 handles curves confidently and with and little body lean. Steering is nicely weighted and effort builds progressively in turns. The system conveys scant information from the road surface but has a solid on-center groove that helps the T6 track true.
Our tester’s ride quality was as expected from a luxury wagon. Its fine ride comes at a price, though. Unless it’s equipped with the available adaptive air suspension ($1,200), noticeable harshness attends the V90’s ride.
Finally, as I see it, there’s no debating the loveliness of the V90, both visually and experientially.
Bill sees it differently. His feelings toward latter-day Volvo design “may have softened,” he admits. In his heart of heart, though, he prefers the lines of his ’68 Olds Toronado.
And that’s what makes the world go ‘round.
Comments or questions? Contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Spokane’s sole Volvo dealership closed in 2016. AutoNation Jaguar/Land Rover handles Volvo service and warranty claims.
2021 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Vehicle base price: $54,900
Trim level base price: $54,900
As tested: $67,400 (includes destination and handling)
Options included: heated wiper blades; ventilated Nappa leather upholstery; power adjustable front seat side bolsters; tailored dashboard and upper door panels; 360-degree surround-view camera; Bowers & Wilkins premium sound; adaptive air suspension; air-filtration system; 20-inch wheels; more
Tow rating: 3,500 pounds
EPA rating: 24 combined/20 city/30 highway
Premium gasoline specified