2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD Inscription – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis

Before the SUV, the Minivan, the Crossover, and SAV (how many ways can they slice this pie?) there was the station wagon.

And there has, and always will be, those faithful to a vehicle that gives you all the car-like goodness you could want with the hauling ability of an SUV.

Really, no vehicle looks cooler with a surfboard strapped to its roof.

And within the “wagons ho!” crowd, there’s a special place just for Volvos. Like this Volvo V90 wagon. It stands apart from other wags as Volvo’s always have, and yet breaks new ground in a way Volvo’s never really did before. Let’s start with the looks.

Is this the most beautiful Wagon ever made?

We think so. I mean, just look at it.

A pity that it’s going to be a rare sight, then. You won’t find one sitting at the Volvo dealer – they have to be special ordered. Part of this is due to the popularity of crossovers and tall wagons.

The V90 Cross Country, the wagon’s raised, cladded, off-road-ish more-expensive sibling earns the lion’s share of wagon sales, so if you want a V90 like ours, you’ll have to order it. On the bright side, that gives you a perfect excuse to take European delivery – a friend of ours did, and he and his family had a wonderful time.

Back on our shores, the V90 is long, sleek, wide and low. This is a big vehicle, barely half an inch less in overall length than the XC90 SUV. So, while you don’t have the higher seating position that an SUV gives you, you still have some of the maneuverability issues – especially in tight parking spaces.

We’d say it’s worth it, though, because the proportions are breathtaking, made even more so by our tester’s rich Maple Brown Metallic color and 20” 8-spoke diamond cut alloy wheels. Both color and rims are optional, but well worth it.

Is this the most beautiful wagon interior ever?

It’s certainly hard to think otherwise, especially once you get inside. Just to show that we’re not on the Volvo payroll, we’re not huge fans of the Blond Perforated Nappa Leather. Don’t get us wrong, it looks great, smells terrific, but that light color in a wagon? Maybe your kids, pets and hobbies are neater than ours, but we’d opt for the Charcoal or Maroon Brown Nappa.

Along with the Blond (actually white) seats is a Blond steering wheel – thankfully with a black exterior rim to hide smudges – and a beautiful matte Linear Walnut trim that feels oh, so, Swedish. That feeling continues throughout the interior. The seats are firm, but fantastically comfortable, and the overall look has a clean, Scandinavian design that we find very cool.

Keeping switchgear to a minimum is the massive 12-inch Digital Driver Display. Like a giant tablet in the middle of the dash, you simply tap and swipe your way around to control everything from info-tainment to climate control, to the amazing Bowers and Wilkins audio system.

We liked the adjustable sound that included sound shaping choices including the Gothenburg Concert Hall (Home of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra) which puts a nice large image of the hall on the screen for your enjoyment. Fun!

Volvo is nice enough to give you a small control panel underneath the screen, including a large, easy to use volume knob – something we still prefer over any high-tech, super-cool idea.

Maybe a little less super cool is the ignition switch – located in the center console. Twist-to-start, it’s where your hand would fall for info-tainment switches in other cars. And since it’s keyless, we had numerous times where we’d bang our hands on the dash, blindly looking for a pushbutton ignition. We guess you’d ultimately get used to it.

While the driver may be cursing in Swedish, those in back will be very happy with super-comfortable seats with stretch-out legroom. That long overall length paying handsome dividends.

It also pays off in cargo hauling – you get 53.9 cubic feet of space with the rear seat folded down. About the same as a Honda HR-V, and not bad considering the V90’s low profile. Buy long, not tall…

Does it haul more than IKEA bookcases?

You bet your Lillangen it does!

Everything else being unique on the V90, you’d hope the drive would be too, and it is. It starts with a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder pushing out an impressive 316 hp, and an equally stout 295 lb-ft of torque at a relatively low 2200 rpm. (An interesting concept – superchargers usually provide their oomph at very low rpms, while turbos need to build boost, and the power comes on a bit later. Bring the two together gives impressive power in a small, efficient package.)

Combined with an 8-speed automatic, the big V makes quick progress – but all-wheel-drive and a hefty curbweight keep it from being truly fast.

You’ll also be wringing out the performance of a relatively small engine, so it’s a bit louder than competitors with 6-cylinder engines. That said, the super-turbo-four has a unique sound as it’s revving out, and we like the little extra soundtrack. Averaging around 20 mpg seems reasonable for the way we drove.

Something that reminded us of older Volvo’s was the firm ride quality. In fact, even with the $1,200 premium rear air suspension, it occasionally borders on harsh– we’d be willing to put some of the blame on the optional 20” wheels we love so much. Well, art is suffering…. a little bit.

That said, the firm suspenders and big meats also give exceptional handling – you can toss this big wagon around like a small sport sedan, and the overall grip makes on-ramps and off-ramps your own personal K1 kart track. Make sure your surfboard is well tied down before driving!

Sensible Swede for Spendthrifts?

Er, not this one.

While the S60 sedan starts at $34,100, and the new XC40 SUV at just $35,200, the V90 is at the upper echelon of Volvo-dom. Starting at $49,950 it gets you a sporty R-Design model with cool 19” Matte black alloy wheels, digital instrument cluster and panoramic moonroof. Power is from the 250 hp turbo 4-cylinder pushed through front-wheel drive.

An Inscription model like our tester starts at $51,950, and includes Blind Spot Information and Cross Traffic Alert, along with Navigation. Stepping up from the T5 to the T6 model like ours gets you the 315 hp supercharged/turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, and pushes the price up to $57,950.

Our tester was enjoying the good life, and also added the Convenience Package, notable for including the 360-degree surround camera and other goodies ($1,800), Metallic Paint ($595), Heads up Display ($900), 20” alloy wheels (a bargain at $800), Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound ($3,200), Heated Steering Wheel ($300), Rear air suspension ($1,200), and Tailored Dash ($1,000). All totaled with destination, $69,340.


One good thing about the fact that you have to order the V90 through the dealer– you can hand pick the options you want. So, you can get exactly what you want. (We do lust after our friend’s Passion Red V90.)

Competitors? Not many, a Mercedes E-Class Wagon starts at $63,050 but we easily got over $79,000 when we loaded it up. The Jaguar XF Sport Brake starts at $71,445 and builds from there. So maybe the Volvo is a pretty good value in the high-stakes wagon game.

And in this game, we’ll take the V90, thank you. It’s gorgeous, drives great, feels safe as a house, and is just oozes a unique and lovable character. And on top of that, it has a wonderful Volvo wagon history to its name as well.

There’s no other wagon we’d rather have.

About The Author

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round -- whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, or learning to surf.