DETROIT — It is hard to improve a top-notch vehicle, but Volvo managed to do just that. We’re talking about the Volvo V90. To be specific, the T6 AWD Inscription.
First, they started with the design of this estate. That is Euro-speak for station wagon. For 2021, they gave it a new fascia, they updated the grille and the Ironmark badge. They did the same thing in the rear that included burnishing the fascia and rear spoiler.
The V90 got new colors, upholsteries, interior trims, and wheel designs. It would not be bad to visit Sweden to get a better understating of minimalism which is what the interior of a Volvo is about. Clean lines, to-the-point controls and a lot of equipment and features are tucked away in the infotainment screen.
The 9-inch Sensus touch infotainment screen has always been one of our favorites. It works like an iPad. Scrolling to the left or right to find the control we need to turn on or off.
They’ve got pilot assist, run-off road mitigation, large animal detection (as in moose), connected safety and active and passive safety systems are controlled from this screen.
This control system is really easy to use. Our only beef is we’ve yet to learn what is to the right and what is to the left. There was also a 12.3” digital driver display, which we still insist on calling the instrument display. It can show navigation, media, and speed information in the gauge cluster.
The matte-finished wood was framed and supported by a single, metal spine that wrapped the dashboard. High-level ambient illumination highlights the design.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were standard on the Inscription trim line. Of course, there was a premium 1,400 watt 19-speaker sound system.
Where Volvo’s true innovation comes in is under the hood with its T5 and T6 Drive-E engines. We’re’ talking about 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines that use turbochargers and superchargers to boost horsepower while maintaining fuel efficiency gas mileage.
Our V90 was a T6. That meant it had a supercharger and a turbocharger working together to get 316 horsepower out of its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. There was 295 pound-feet of torque at 2,200 rpm. This engine can be and is tuned to produce a lot more than that on other models. But 319 horses is plenty of oomph.
Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, our V90 T6 was quick, it was fast, and it could maintain high speeds. This combination got 21 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined.
There were four drive mode settings that could be selected using a rotary knob in the center console. They controlled engine response, the automatic gearbox, steering, brakes, electronic stability control and stop/start functions.
TheV90 also had Adjustable Steering. We could choose between three levels of overall power assistance. The power steering was still progressive, but depending on the setting, the assistance was stronger or weaker right through the speed range. We pretty much left it alone.
Volvo has a front-biased all-wheel-drive system. It is standard on all V90s equipped with the T6 powertrain. A compact and lightweight coupling distributes the engine’s power between the front and rear wheels.
Under normal, dry conditions practically all the power is distributed to the front wheels. But it can instantly redistribute up to 50 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels if needed. When at a standstill, full all-wheel drive is always engaged to prepare for maximum traction during acceleration.
Volvo has always been a safety leader. And that is no different with contemporary models.
Pilot Assist Driver Assistance System is a driver’s aid that assists with steering, acceleration, and braking. It is a hands-on-the-wheel driving assistance system where the driver is responsible for monitoring road conditions and reacting if necessary. It works on highways and at speeds up to 80 mph, no longer requiring a car in front of it to follow.
BLIS with Steer Assist and rear Cross-Traffic Alert. BLIS alerts you when a vehicle enters your blind spot or approaches fast from behind. If you nonetheless drift into the path of another vehicle, BLIS can gently steer you back into your lane.
Cross-Traffic Alert is included on all vehicles equipped with BLIS and alerts you of crossing traffic from the sides when reversing out of a parking space.
Oncoming Lane Mitigation. The system helps the driver avoid a collision with an oncoming vehicle by automatically steering. If the car drifts over a lane marking, heading into the path of an oncoming vehicle and the driver takes no action, this system automatically steers the car back. The system is active at speeds between 37mph and 87 mph.
The driver gets an audible warning signal at the same time as the car starts to steer back. A message is shown in the driver display after the steering intervention has been completed. The driver can override the automatic steering at any time.
There were also 20-inch alloy wheels, heated and cooled front seats that massaged and had power extensions, a heated steering wheel, adaptive headlights and LED lights all round.
The bottom line is that even though Volvo has moved upstream with its products, you still get a lot of car for your money. The 2021 T6 AWD Inscription was $67,64 as tested.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com