If you’re reading this, it may already be too late. When we recently took delivery of this handsome, metallic brown 2021 Volvo V90 wagon in its sumptuous top T6 Inscription trim level, we had some vain hope that if we found the right words to channel its blend of utility and civility, a greater American audience might wake up to the joys of the station wagon. But as we put fingers to keyboard for this review, news broke that Volvo has decided to discontinue the V90 (and certain trims of the smaller V60) in the United States for the 2022 model year. May perpetual light shine upon it.
Sad as we are to see the V90 go, this news isn’t exactly surprising. While Volvo dealers will continue to stock the lifted, all-wheel-drive-only Cross Country version, non-lifted V90s have always been special order only, which continues through the 2021 model year. Volvo sold fewer than 1000 90-series sedans and wagons through the first half of this year, and though the company doesn’t break out sales data for individual variants, we’d bet almost all of them were not V90s. Which is a shame because the regular V90 has much to recommend it. The Cross Country may feature most of the same stuff, and it sits taller—which automatically makes it more appealing to American shoppers, many of whom tend to prefer SUVs to everything except pickup trucks—but we think there’s something appealing about this V90’s lower stance, sleeker proportions, and its lack of chrome exterior trim.
The V90’s luxurious Inscription trim can be had as either a T5 version with front-wheel drive and a 250-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder or, as with T6 our test car, all-wheel drive and a 316-hp super- and turbocharged four. Both powertrains mate to an unobtrusive eight-speed automatic. But the real magic of the Inscription model is inside, where it swaddles occupants in Nappa leather and surrounds them with elegant, expensive-looking trim. Volvo touts its Swedish design and, although we haven’t spent enough time in Scandinavia to know exactly what that means, it’s true that all Volvos carry a certain understated elegance that you generally won’t find in the harder-angled interiors of most German luxury cars. While the standard T5 model starts at $52,895—roughly $3K less than the starter Cross Country, which comes only with the T6 drivetrain—the V90 T6 Inscription kicks off at $58,895. With a $3200 Bowers & Wilkins audio upgrade, a $1200 air-spring suspension with adaptive dampers, a $500 massage function for the front seats, and a few other extras, our test car came to $67,790.
The V90 delivers a rich if somewhat bland driving experience. Our test car’s 6.0-second zero-to-60-mph time is adequately quick but hardly thrilling, and its 4.4-second run from 50 to 70 mph is similarly unnoteworthy. You won’t need to worry about having enough grunt to merge onto the highway, but after a few days of driving a V90 you’ll probably grow out of shooting past traffic in the left lane. Instead, you’ll likely be cruising along in the right lane while the car works out the knots in your spine. The V90’s double-boosted four-banger can drone a bit at times, but with a 68-decibel sound reading at 70 mph, you’ll barely notice the engine’s thrum over the sound of your chosen NPR station.
Rolling on 19-inch wheels wrapped with all-season tires, our example’s 0.87 g of skidpad grip also is wholly sufficient, although nothing about this Volvo goads us to wildly attack corners. This long-roof Volvo was not designed to compete with the fire-breathing and far more expensive Audi RS6 Avant and Mercedes-AMG E63 S wagon, and we’re okay with that. Although some Volvos can exhibit a sharp, flinty ride, our test car’s air springs helped lend it a comfortable comportment that never felt uncouth.
That the V90 exhibits the refined manners of a luxury car while providing 26 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seats (54 cubes with them folded flat) is why we think wagons are the ideal vehicle for discerning drivers wanting greater utility without an unnecessarily elevated seating position inside a large, blocky, less efficient shape. But based on ever more dire sales reports, we don’t have a lot of company in that view. We will miss the V90’s beauty and refinement, but it’s clear even to us that the V90 Cross Country serves almost the same purpose in the marketplace. Let the news of the V90’s impending passage serve, then, as a hopeful plea to any fence-sitting wagon buyers. Step forward and take up the banners, so that no more wagons shall perish from this earth.
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