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The Volvo V90 T5 is one of the most beautiful cars on our roads right now. Design may be subjective and beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but not when it comes to this Volvo. Every where we drove, every we stopped, people would come up to talk about it, take photos of it, to simply awe at it. There is no doubt, Volvo is the new big deal in Malaysia.

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BMW may have their new 5-Series which is impressive and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is brilliant as well, but this Volvo is in previously uncharted territory. So why is it so shockingly good? Well probably because we never expected this from Volvo. While BMW, Mercedes and even Audi for that matter are always expected to create superb designs with space age technologies, Volvo is expected to stay true to its safe, conservative designs with cutting edge safety systems. So when Volvo introduced something as devilishly brilliant as the new V90 T5, the world stopped to take notice. No seriously, the hall of the “insert hotel name” where this new Volvo was launched a couple of months ago, was filled with audible awe when the covers were dropped off the cars.

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So that is that then, we have established that the Volvo is the current Elsa Hosk of the car world, but there is more to the V90 T5 than meets the eye, it has substance too.

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Step inside and you are greeted by some of the best seats in the motoring world. Soft and plush and extremely comfortable, the seats of the T5 are more comfortable than the nappa-leathered seats of the T6. The seats of the T6 are designed to hold you in place when battling corners while the seats of the T5 will care and caress you and ensure every part of your back and bottom is smothered in comfort. The differences between the two seats are night and day in comparison.

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The overall interior theme is basically the same as the T6 except that the T5 leans more towards the luxury and comfort segment while the T6 is the sportier car between the two. You can tell them apart by the wood grain inserts in the door panels and the dashboard, while the T6 has carbon-fibre inserts instead. The T5 we drove came with the beige leather interior and also had a built-in child booster seat which pops out of the rear bench seat (shown below). This feature is unique to the T5 only.

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The lighter interior theme lends an air of spaciousness which is further complemented by the panoramic roof that stretches from the front all the way to the back. There is an abundance of space inside the V90 T5, and even the boot is huge, massive in fact. It gets even bigger with the rear seats folded, and if you need anything bigger than this then a commercial van is what you want.

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From the captain’s seat, everything is similar to the T6 – the overall dashboard design, the steering wheel, placement of switches and buttons, you get the point – everything is the same. Even the vertically mounted touchscreen system that Volvo calls the SensusConnect is the same. And it is still as complicated to use if you are new to it. As mentioned in our review of the V90 T6 which you can read here, the infotainment system isn’t very easy to use at first. The learning curve is steep. But operating is similar to operating a smart phone or a tablet. Swipe left and right to browse menus, pinch in and out to zoom, swipe down for menu and all that jazz.

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But I am writing this after having driven the entire range of new Volvos, and though my mind was boggled by the complexity of the system when I first drove these cars, but now, I cannot imagine using a rotating knob or any other touchscreen system. What Volvo has done is make the infotainment system as similar as possible to operating our own smart phones, which makes it simple and intuitive to use, even while driving. It becomes second nature, but still requires you to take your eyes off the road for a while.

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Talking about driving, the T5 is also powered by the same turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine as in the T6, but creates a lot less power. In the T5, the engine produces 254hp and 350Nm of torque, that is about 60hp and 70Nm down from the T6. But that does not make it a slouch, it will accelerate to 100km/h in just seven seconds flat, and tops out at about 230km/h. However the T5 is more inclined towards efficiency and luxurious, comfortable driving that all out performance; it needs just 6.8-litres for every 100 kilometers travelled.

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Like a quiet Sunday evening in your favorite chair, with a hot cup of coffee, while outside a monsoon storm unleashes its fury, the interior of the V90 T5 remains serene in all conditions, whether at high speed on the highway or crawling in traffic. This relaxing atmosphere is topped off by the radar enabled cruise control that adjusts the cars speed according to the car in front, and the semi-autonomous Pilot Assist system that helps you steer the car, driving the T5 is as pleasant as can be.

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The Volvo V90 T5 is a great alternative to the usual models from BMW, Mercedes and Audi. It is almost too good to be true because decades of knowing Volvo has etched a general conception about the brand. But it has changed, Volvo is suddenly young again and has all the right moves to impress, but only time will tell how all that technology holds up to everyday use. The touchscreen system collects fingerprints and the piano black inserts around the dashboard highlights dust particles like there is no tomorrow, so long term maintenance of such features can be a hassle. But regular maintenance and being meticulous about cleanliness should help with all that dust and electronic gizmos.

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So if you like to stand away from the usual suspects, and you are a geek for cutting edge technology, the V90 T5 and its over 30 safety features could just be the car for you. Priced at RM388,888 and with a five-year warranty back it up, the V90 T5 seems to be very appealing right now. Just watch out for all those stare downs and photo taking.

[Keshy Dhillon]

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