There is no doubt that Volvo has made a fantastic comeback from what seemed like a certain demise. Many a under and post graduate classes are going to be analysing Volvo’s rebound story for years to come, and perhaps also compare it to the sad fortune that befell the other Swedish company, Saab. And so on that note, lets address the elephant in the room here – Volvo may be owned by the Chinese, but it still is very much the same company which we have all come to know as the ultimate purveyor of safe cars which are also powerful and beautiful to drive. The company has not forgotten its roots, Chinese investment money does not make Volvo a Chinese company, it is still very much Swedish, and all that investment has given it a chance to become even more Volvo than Volvo was previously.
Geely has invested billions into resurrecting this iconic brand and the results are fantastic to say the least. The Volvo V90 T6 you see here is so good that you really don’t need a car review to tell you to go and buy it. In fact this is one of those cars that completely blindsides popular wisdom, this is one of the few times you can get away by judging a car from the way it looks. Just a glance and you know it is something special, and it’s true, it really is something special. But there is no one special thing about it, everything about it is special, from the exterior design to the way the seats cup your buttock and even the way you navigate through the vertically mounted infotainment system. It could also finally have the answer to that one thorn which has always been in Volvo’s side, resale value.
With it looking so grand already, many will be wanting one, but at RM458,888, it isn’t exactly cheap, but if the powertrain and other parts of the car hold up to the test of time as they are supposed to, then there is a good chance that the used car prices on this V90 T6 will hold quite well. The new XC90 is a good reference point, prices of used models have been holding up, so it wouldn’t be too far fetched to say the V90 T6 will hold well too, though it is still very early days.
But never mind used car prices, lets assume you already have the money and are tired of the usual suspects from BMW, Mercedes and Audi. Another choice would be Lexus, but that is also too normal these days, every other person and their mistress has a Lexus. But this V90 T6 however, is too cool of a car to be a mistress special. In fact, I will even go so far as to say that Volvo has managed to build a car for the younger generation – the young execs, the successful tech entrepreneurs, the rich young kids who inherited deep pockets, they all suddenly want a Volvo. I also know of a young 21 year old motoring journalist who drives a Volvo. That is saying a lot of a brand which not too long ago was considered archaic and only meant for old boring people, and doctors.
So what has Volvo done? Simple. It has created an irresistible want factor and it all starts from the design.
For starters the blue colour stands out in a sea of the usual red, white, green and black. Volvo calls it ‘bursting blue’ and it is one of those colours that grabs you and demands that you stare at it for a while. The combination of a suave overall design and a colour you don’t see very often makes this V90 T6 extremely desirable. A good design is almost always matched by good performance, for what is a beautiful car without power?
I must admit to being slightly disappointed at first after learning that this stunning machine is powered by a puny 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. “What’s up with small engines these days, they are infesting every kind of cool car,” I remember wondering when Volvo first introduced the car at the global launch. In my personal opinion, the V90 T6 looks better than the all-time industry standard for wagon cars – the Audi RS6 Avant Quattro. And so it should have the performance to match it as well, through a blown V8 perhaps? But no, no tarmac folding power figures here, just a regular turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.
But that disappointment quickly dissipates as soon as you start driving the car. Though the car weighs over two tons, the tiny engine makes mince of the heft of the car. Step on the throttle and you will be surprised with the sudden surge in power that pushes you back into the nappa upholstered sports seats. It has 320hp and 400Nm of torque, which is impressive and puts this T6 firmly into sports car territory. Does it deserve to be in that segment and hailed as such? Yes as I found out.
I spent quite a lot of time driving this car, even spending 18 hours on the road with it on one occasion. Which is more than enough time to get to know the car quite intimately. It gave me enough time to know that though it has mighty power figures, it can be rather docile to drive. The radar based cruise control allows the car to accelerate up to a speed pre-determined by you, and should another car suddenly get in the way, it will brake and wait for the car to get out of the way and then get back up to speed again. I also know that the Pilot Assist system works wonders and alleviates the stress of driving long distance as it helps steer the car as long as the corners don’t get too tight and the road lines are clearly marked. But most importantly, I also know this V90 T6 can get into a street fight with supposedly fast cars and come away a winner. I will not get into details but the V90 T6 very naughtily got into a brawl with a heavily modified Civic Type R, considered to be among the best handling front-wheel-drive machines of our generation, and it won, receiving the customary thumbs up from the young driver and passenger.
Unlike the regular V90 T5 which only channels power to the front wheels, the T6 is all-wheel-driven, however it only powers the front wheels most of the time, and only transfers power to the rear if it detects a loss of grip. But because it is over 100 kilogram’s heavier than the sedan version, the V90 feels more planted and as such, is capable of some astonishing cornering speeds. It may not be as eager or as nimble as the lighter S90 variants when it comes to changing direction quickly, but it is shocking how this massive piece of gorgeous metal is able to hustle the way it does. It doesn’t dance at the edges of grip, but it will put a smile on your face.
Contributing to its agility is four different driving modes – eco, comfort, dynamic and individual. For a more spirited drive you need to be in dynamic mode, or individual if you have already pre-programmed how the car will behave in this mode. In dynamic, the throttle becomes more aggressive, the steering wheel gets heavier, the engine is more eager, and the overall character of the car is a lot more brutish. Even the exhaust and engine note matches the character of the dynamic mode – not too noisy, but just enough to tell you that the car is ready to get down and dirty.
So there is no doubt that the V90 T6 has the go to match the show, but inside is where it really puts the money down on its ability. Real carbon fibre stretches from the door panels and across the entire dashboard. Even the centre console and the rear passenger doors have carbon fibre inserts, and this is real dry carbon, not your usual faux pass carbon. And that dry effect really adds to the sporting nature of the interior as dry carbon (which does not reflect) is something found in the most hardcore of sports and race cars.
The nappa leather seats hold you in all the right places for when you want to tackle some tight fast corners and the big three spoke steering wheel comes with shifter pedals for when you want to take things into your own hands. Overall interior build quality is good, but the simplicity of the interior may not be to everyone’s liking. The dashboard is devoid of buttons save for about seven buttons for the entertainment system. Most of the controls have been shifted into the 12.3-inch vertically mounted touchscreen system. Everything from the air-conditioning controls to selecting the position of the rear headrests is placed deep inside the software that is available through this iPad looking screen.
But I must say that this system which Volvo calls the SensusConnect is not so easy to get used to, the learning curve is unusually steep in fact. It took me a few hours to get familiarised with it, and simple functions like adjusting the fan speed of the air-conditioning takes two to three fingers movements now rather than simply pressing a button or turning a dial. And the screen tends to collect fingerprints as eagerly as the taxman collects your dollar, which can be a real pain after a while. In fact the piano black buttons on the steering wheel and the brushed aluminium door handles too chalk up quite a fair bit of fingerprints which makes it look dirty after a while.
There is a lot to love about the interior though, like the spaciousness of the passenger space and the versatility of the booth area. There are also blowers placed underneath the front seats that gently blow cool air to the feet of the rear passengers, a much-welcomed feature in scorching Malaysia.
No review of a Volvo is complete without a mention of the safety systems, but as you can probably already imagine, the Volvo has enough safety systems onboard to put a 90s jet fighter to shame. It has a total of 34 safety systems broken up into different segments like Intellisafe, Preventive Safety, Protective Safety and Child Safety. There is a safety function to keep you safe in traffic, on the highway, around pedestrians, around cyclists; there is even a safety system in case you come across a large animal. The only thing it does not have is a function to keep you safe from an angry wife with a spatula.
The Volvo V90 T6 is truly a remarkable piece of engineering, and is a true Volvo in every sense of the word. The world should applaud Geely for giving this car maker another lease of life, and the world should also applaud Volvo for creating a splendid machine worthy of their return as a maker of some fantastic cars. Only time will tell how this car ages, but if everything goes as well as it is going now for Volvo, this is probably a much nicer car to have from the usual stable from Europe and Japan.