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Volvo V90 D4 Inscription (2017) review

Despite the popularity of SUVs, the all-new V90 is a breath of fresh air for fans of big estates.

What's new?

Volvo has reinforced its large family car line-up with a third model after the XC90 SUV and S90 saloon: the V90 estate taking on the Mercedes-Benz E-class Estate and pending all-new replacements for the BMW 5-series Touring and Jaguar XF Sportbrake.

But unlike its rear-wheel-drive rivals, the V90 is a front-driver sharing the same mechanical running gear of the S90 in D4 form: 190hp 2.0-litre diesel-turbo and eight-speed automatic.

Only one trim for the V90 is being imported to Thai shores: Inscription, priced at 4.19 million baht -- 560,000 baht cheaper than the E220d Estate which comes with a similarly powered and sized diesel motor. Volvo says there are no plans for assembling the V90 in Asean which is why estate punters shouldn't expect its price to drop in the future -- unless they opt to import a lower specification known as Momentum in Volvo speak.

What's cool?

Designed as a successor to the outgoing V70, the V90 is now a proper competitor for those aforementioned rivals in terms of size. Adding up to its extra-long appearance are fender-filling 19-inch rims and wedgy design cues, all giving it an effectively distinctive look.

The ride can get fidgety at times. RICHARD LEU

Even though the interior is basically S90 fanfare, the V90 once again stands out with a tidily designed fascia and quality-feel materials. Accommodation for occupants and their belongings are aplenty, and the rear seats fold down completely flat via the touch of buttons located on the boot walls. Yes, it's a highly practical car.

It may look big on the outside, but the V90 is quite an easy car to handle in tight road space and on curvy roads outside the city. Good driving vision is complemented by an all-round view of the car portrayed on that tablet-style central screen, which also intuitively operates other functions.

Familiar as diesel may be, it works well in virtually all kinds of driving conditions by being punchy and frugal at the same time. Actually, all of the V90 rivals have equally capable four-pot diesel power, meaning that the race here is highly competitive. And last but not least, the V90 is well-specified for the money in this class. It gets loads of class-beating passive and active safety and lavish features like large sunroof and premium audio system.

What's not?

While the V90 steers generally nicely and responsively, the ride can feel fidgety and inconsistent over secondary road surfaces. And under load, the suspension could prove to be a little too soft at times. No wonder that the E220d, with its air suspension, is some 500k dearer than the V90 in price.

Furthermore, despite being a relatively new development, the twin-turbo diesel feels quite coarse when you engage into D and wait for the lights to turn green.

Buy or bye?

Volvo's decision to satisfy a niche in Thailand is quite welcome because estates still hold good weight over SUVs. Against the XC90, the V90 is still highly practical (aside from the fact that Volvo's large SUV can take seven people) and far more car-like to drive.

Against its opposition, the V90 may not be as great in terms of driving dynamics but still manages to deliver what users of family movers have come to expect: driving ease and sufficient confidence at highway speeds. Trading in for some of that is the V90's high specification, meaning that you really shouldn't be craving for a lower spec because it's a 4 million baht import we're talking about here.

While not totally perfect to drive, the V90 has high levels of usability and a proper diesel engine to suit the vehicle concept. At least, it is far, far more capable and credible than the old V70 in becoming an alternative to the big estate competition.

Largely based on the S90 saloon, the V90 looks stylish against rivals. 

Seats fold down flat at the flick of a button. 

Cabin is lavishly appointed with all kinds of features. 

D4 sports a punchy 190hp diesel. 

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