Polestar is Volvo’s new plug-in electric division that will soon bring its own Polestar 1 sports coupe to market in 2019, but it was previously just known for providing performance-tuned versions of…

Latest Polestar Optimization improves rear-wheel bias in Volvo models with AWD

Polestar 1
The Polestar 1, scheduled to arrive next year, wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the latest Polestar Optimization software upgrade due to being a plug-in hybrid. (Photo: Volvo)

Polestar is Volvo’s new plug-in electric division that will soon bring its own Polestar 1 sports coupe to market in 2019, but it was previously just known for providing performance-tuned versions of the icon Swedish brand’s luxury models as well as dealer-installed Polestar Optimization software upgrades for enhancing the performance of otherwise stock models. 

While we all await the beautiful new 100-percent electric two-door model just mentioned, the performance tuning division just came out with a new version of its Polestar Optimization software upgrade to remind us just how capable it is at fine-tuning stock Volvos. 

2019 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD
Volvo models like this 2019 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD can get a performance boost if their owners opt for the dealer-installed Polestar Optimization upgrade. (Photo: Volvo)

This new upgrade to the upgrade is said to increase torque distribution to the rear wheels of Volvo vehicles equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD), resulting in better high-speed driving dynamics. 

This latest Polestar Optimization software upgrade “increases the amount and frequency of torque distributed to the rear wheels,” says Volvo in a press release, helping to enhance steering turn-in to provide greater control and more enjoyable driver engagement during cornering, while also improving traction when taking off from a standstill. 

2019 Volvo S60 Inscription
Both new 2019 Volvo crossover SUVs and the Swedish brand’s latest cars, like this 2019 S60, can benefit from the Polestar upgrade. (Photo: Volvo)

“We are always fine-tuning the driving experience of Volvo cars and this upgrade makes the all-wheel drive both smoother and more dynamic,” said Henrik Green, senior vice president of research and development at Volvo Cars. 

After having the Polestar Optimization software upgrade installed, owners simply need to select their car’s sportiest Dynamic drive setting in order to engage the new optimized AWD system. Likewise, the optimized AWD system also engages if they disengage electronic stability control. 

2019 Volvo V60 Cross Country
More rear-wheel bias would make rally crossing this 2019 V60 Cross Country through a muddy backroad a lot more fun. (Photo: Volvo)

This rear-wheel torque distribution feature gets added to a whole host of optimization functions already part of the Polestar software upgrade, with the five existing improvements being sharpened throttle response, quicker off-throttle response, faster gear changes, performance-enhanced transmission shift points with in-corner gear holding, plus stronger engine output. 

2019 Volvo XC40
The latest Polestar Optimization software upgrade is available for 2019 SPA- and CMA-based models, this new XC40 the only Volvo to use the latter chassis architecture so far in North America. (Photo: Volvo)

The updated Polestar AWD optimization is now available for all non-hybrid Volvo models with AWD that are built on SPA and CMA architectures from model year 2019 onward. 

Of note, plug-in hybrid models already incorporate Volvo’s electric rear axle drive (ERAD) system that adds a similar rear-wheel bias, so therefore don’t need the upgrade. 

Also important, Polestar optimization upgrades are manufacturer approved and therefore don’t interfere with Volvo factory warranties. 

Contact your local Volvo dealer if you’d like to find out more.

Volvo is enjoying a major upswing in popularity this year, all because of its fully renewed lineup of attractive, efficient, fun to drive, luxurious, and always safe new models.  While year-over-year…

Volvo unveils Canada’s first vehicle subscription service

CARE BY VOLVO
Volvo has just introduced its new “CARE BY VOLVO” subscription service that takes the hassle out of owning a car. (Photo: Volvo)

Volvo is enjoying a major upswing in popularity this year, all because of its fully renewed lineup of attractive, efficient, fun to drive, luxurious, and always safe new models. 

While year-over-year sales have been strong, up 3.8 percent in October alone, representing 37 consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth for the brand, not to mention 38 percent sales growth year-to-date, it’s always better to be proactive about finding new customers than merely reactive. 

Therefore, rather than have its salespeople sit and wait for new business to pick up the phone and call or walk in through the dealership doors, a new Care By Volvo initiative hopes to lure in luxury buyers looking for a totally different kind of ownership experience. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design
The new made-in-the-USA 2019 Volvo S60 R-Design is one of two new models available in the Care By Volvo subscription program. (Photo: Volvo)

Care By Volvo is Canada’s first subscription-based car ownership program. All it takes is a few clicks on a smartphone, says Volvo, and Canadians can order a new Volvo in less than 10 minutes. 

The first cars available through the new program include the 2019 Volvo V60 sport wagon and the 2019 Volvo S60 sport sedan, both compact luxury D-segment vehicles priced to go up against industry stalwarts like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. 

Where the Care By Volvo subscription service differs from anything offered by these German automakers or any other competitors is that it includes the car as well as all the regular services that go with it, such as winter tire installation and storage, 24/7 roadside assistance, and a concierge service that assists subscribers through every step of the purchasing process including coordinating delivery with their local Volvo retailer. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription
Need more cargo space and versatility? Volvo also lets you choose a V60 sport-luxury wagon. (Photo: Volvo)

“Traditional models of ownership need to be challenged and that’s exactly what we’re doing with Care By Volvo,” says Alexander Lvovich, Managing Director, Volvo Car Canada Ltd. “The subscription service combines the benefits of tomorrow’s technology with the everyday needs of people today – more time for the things they love, fewer distractions, and a clearly defined and predictable cost. We’re proud to be the first in Canada to offer consumers a different way to own and enjoy a car.” 

2019 Volvo S60 Inscription
If you’d like to try something new in 12 months, the Care By Volvo subscription service let’s you choose something totally different. (Photo: Volvo)

Subscription pricing starts at $949 plus tax per month, and includes all professional maintenance, 24/7 roadside assistance, winter wheels and tires, winter tire installation and storage, wear-and-tear protection, appearance protection, road hazard protection, concierge services, and the best part, the ability to upgrade to a new model every 12 months.  

Yes, Care By Volvo subscribers get to upgrade to a new Volvo free of charge after a year of use, or they can keep their existing vehicle for the full 24-month subscription. 

Volvo is hoping this new service is the type of lifestyle choice Canadians want, and if so will have another way of attracting new Volvo owners into the fold. If Care By Volvo sounds like your type of program, check it out at the Volvo Canada website.

Wagon lover alert: In case you hadn’t heard, the all-new 2019 Volvo V60 is now available nationwide from just $43,900 plus freight and fees. That’s only a token $50 more than last year’s base V60,…

All-new 2019 Volvo V60 sport wagon available now for $43,900

2019 Volvo V60
The new 2019 Volvo V60 brings a lot of style, size and luxury to the premium sport wagon sector. (Photo: Volvo)

Wagon lover alert: In case you hadn’t heard, the all-new 2019 Volvo V60 is now available nationwide from just $43,900 plus freight and fees. That’s only a token $50 more than last year’s base V60, and it’s an entirely new car from the ground up, not to mention filled with state-of-the-art standard features. 

The new 2019 V60 sport wagon’s value proposition becomes even more appealing when factoring in its larger dimensions and more accommodating interior. This in mind, the new model probably targets previous V70 customers as much as those who loved the outgoing V60, thanks to a substantive 124-mm (4.9-inch) greater length overall, plus a 9.6-mm (3.8-inch) longer wheelbase that results in the most spacious rear seating area in the luxury D-segment. The new model is 51 mm (2.0 inches) lower than its predecessor too, which adds to its long, sleek visual stance, but nevertheless it provides ample headroom and legroom for a six-foot passenger behind a six-foot driver, or so reports claim, while the new V60 also boasts 20 percent more cargo room than the outgoing car. 

2019 Volvo V60
Hello good looking! Premium sport wagon lovers should unite around this great looking five-door. (Photo: Volvo)

The elegant new design sits atop the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) chassis architecture that underpins the larger V90 sport wagon, not to mention everything else in today’s Volvo lineup other than the compact XC40 crossover that utilizes the brand’s new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform, which incidentally will support a new 40 series line of cars in the near future. SPA and the models built upon it have been widely praised by auto pundits and Volvo customers alike, while sales of new Volvo products have been skyrocketing since the brand’s transformation that started with the second-generation XC90 SUV back in 2015. 

2019 Volvo V60
The new V60 shares many of its larger V90 sibling’s styling cues, not to mention the rest of the updated Volvo lineup. (Photo: Volvo)

No one expects this V60 wagon to sell anywhere near as successfully as that XC90 mid-size SUV or the more recently introduced XC60 compact crossover SUV, or for that matter the upcoming V60 Cross Country that adds a little more off-road flair, a la raised suspension and tough looking matte black body cladding, to this sport wagon’s road-hugging handling prowess. Still, it supplies a major dose of Volvo DNA to the entire brand. After all, Volvo has had a wagon in its lineup longer than most people can remember, and now that the larger V90 has been slated for cancellation in Canada (it was only ever available via special order in the U.S.), availability of this V60 is critical for keeping up the Swedish brand’s pragmatic image. 

2019 Volvo V60
Unique City Weave plaid textile upholstery is available on Momentum trim. (Photo: Volvo)

Climb inside and any such practical thoughts may at least temporarily be swept away by feelings of pampering hedonism, being that the 2019 V60 continues Volvo’s new brand ethos of providing more luxury than any rival. Expect to find more soft-touch surfaces, satin-silver trim, jewellery-like detailing, and genuine hardwood inlays than rivals from Germany, Japan or the U.S., while electronic interfaces are some of the best in the business, from its standard 8.0-inch digital driver display within the gauge cluster to the optional 12.3-inch version of those same primary instruments, not to mention its standard 9.0-inch tablet-style Sensus centre-stack touchscreen. 

2019 Volvo V60
The V60 cabin is well laid out, highlighted by one of the best infotainment touchscreens in the industry. (Photo: Volvo)

Sensus boasts one of the auto industry’s most user-friendly and feature-filled infotainment interfaces that includes 50 percent faster processing speeds than previous iterations used in other models for quicker startup, quicker response from the backup camera, much improved voice activation, and faster navigation route calculation. The standard backup camera includes dynamic guidelines and graphics for the standard rear parking sensors, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi, 10-speaker 330-watt audio, satellite radio, a four-year subscription to Volvo On-Call that features remote start and vehicle tracking, plus connects to one of two standard USB charging ports. 

2019 Volvo V60
The V60 boasts a standard panoramic sunroof. (Photo: Volvo)

The base 2019 V60 is dubbed Momentum, and not only includes the aforementioned items but Volvo’s signature “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlamps as well, plus 18-inch alloy wheels, metal door sill treadplates, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a three-spoke leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control with a Clean Zone Air Quality system and a humidity sensor, unique Iron Ore decor inlays, Moritz leather upholstery, power-adjustable heated front seats with two-way powered lumbar support and driver’s memory, a 120-volt household-style power outlet in the rear console, a powered liftgate, power-folding rear seat headrests, power-folding rear seatbacks with controls in the cargo compartment, a semi-automatic cargo cover that conveniently slides up and out of the way when opening the tailgate, a metal cargo scuff plate, black integrated roof rails, dual chromed tailpipes, and more. 

2019 Volvo V60
Volvo has made sure the new V60 exceeds all crash test standards, so we should expect stellar safety ratings from the NHTSA and IIHS. (Photo: Volvo)

Of course, this being a Volvo means that safety is of the highest priority, therefore the new V60 features standard City Safety automatic front collision mitigation featuring collision warning, steering support, and full low- and high-speed autonomous braking, plus Driver Alert Control, Run-Off Road Mitigation, Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, as well as all the usual active and passive safety features including an airbag for the driver’s knees, front seat whiplash protection, and pyrotechnical seatbelt pretensioners in all positions front to rear. 

2019 Volvo V60
LED headlights are standard, as are many of the latest advanced driver assistance systems. (Photo: Volvo)

Of note, the 2019 V60 introduces Volvo’s new Oncoming Braking system, which if sensing an imminent head-on collision will automatically actuate maximum braking force two-tenths of a second before impact. This is said to reduce vehicle speed by 10 km/h (6 mph) before a crash, which could potentially be a lifesaver and certainly help to minimize life-altering injury. 

Momentum trim is available with the choice of two powertrains, the first being the T5 FWD that consists of Volvo’s well-proven 2.0-litre direct-injected and turbocharged engine, good for 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and the second the T6 AWD that costs an additional $4,000 for a total of $48,900 yet adds a supercharger to the turbocharged four-cylinder resulting in 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The former allows for a zero to 100km/h sprint of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph), whereas the latter cuts standstill acceleration runs down to 5.7 seconds and ups max velocity to 249 km/h (155 mph). 

2019 Volvo V60
A new standard 8.0-inch digital gauge cluster and an optional 12.3-inch version of the same will display the new V60’s performance in full graphical colour. (Photo: Volvo)

Both use a quick-shifting and efficient eight-speed “Geartronic” automatic transmission with manual mode to transfer power to the drive wheels. The new V60 can also be had with available Comfort, Eco, Dynamic sport, and Individual Drive Mode Select driving modes, while fuel-saving and emissions-reducing automatic start/stop, which shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, comes standard. The V60’s official Transport Canada fuel economy rating is still to be determined, but expect it to be one of the segment’s more efficient packages. 

2019 Volvo V60
Sensus infotainment has been improved to perform tasks up to 50 percent faster. (Photo: Volvo)

Volvo’s Dynamic Chassis is made up of aluminum double wishbones up front and an exclusive integral link rear suspension design that features a transverse lightweight composite leaf spring, the fully independent setup reportedly balancing a comfortable ride with sporty handling. 

Those choosing Momentum trim can swap out the standard Charcoal (black) or Blond (beige) leather upholstery with slick $400 City Weave plaid textile inserts in either colour, while standard Black Stone or Ice White exterior paints can be upgraded to one of nine $900 metallic finishes. Additionally, a set of $1,000 18-inch five Y-spoke diamond cut alloy wheels can be added too, while individual options include a $250 Charcoal headliner, $1,150 graphical head-up display unit, and $1,200 14-speaker, 600-watt Harmon/Kardon audio system. 

2019 Volvo V60
Rear seat passenger space is much improved thanks to a significantly longer wheelbase. (Photo: Volvo)

Momentum buyers can also add a $1,250 Climate Package that includes heated Aquablades windshield wipers, a heatable steering wheel, and heated rear seats; a $1,500 Convenience Package with Volvo’s advanced Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system featuring Adaptive Cruise Control, plus a Homelink garage door opener and a compass integrated into the rearview mirror; an $1,800 Vision Package with a 360-degree surround parking camera, Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self parking, front parking sensors, auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert; and lastly a $3,400 Momentum Plus Package incorporating dynamic cornering headlamps, headlight washers, fog lamps, proximity-sensing keyless access with a hands-free tailgate function that lets you open the liftgate by waving a foot below the rear bumper, the aforementioned 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, Drive Mode Select, four-zone automatic climate control, navigation (that lets the cruise control access map data for adjusting vehicle speed through corners when appropriate), Road Sign Information, and more. 

2019 Volvo V60
Cargo carrying capacity is up by 20-percent over the outgoing V60. (Photo: Volvo)

If you opt for the T6 AWD all of the same standalone options and packages remain, except for wheels that start with a unique set of open-spoke 18-inch alloys as standard equipment and can be upgradable to a set of $1,000 19-inch alloys, while special Amber caramel brown leather becomes an interior option. 

Moving up to $55,400 Inscription trim adds the T6 AWD powertrain as standard equipment, plus a unique chromed waterfall grille, bright metal integrated roof rails, unique 10-spoke 18-inch diamond cut alloy wheels, fog lamps, cornering headlights, a special leather-wrapped and metal edged Inscription key fob, low, medium or high steering assistance via Power Steering Personal Settings, Driftwood decor inlays, the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, perforated Nappa leather upholstery, four-way powered lumbar support, ventilated front seats, and more. 

2019 Volvo V60
A 400-hp plug-in hybrid V60 may be on the way. (Photo: Volvo)

Option out a V60 T6 AWD and you can have special $1,000 19-inch multi-spoke alloys, the aforementioned Charcoal headliner and graphical head-up display, as well as a $3,750 19-speaker 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio upgrade, and $1,300 massaging front seats. The Momentum Plus Package is no longer offered due to most of it being standard in Inscription trim, but the three remaining Climate, Convenience and Vision packages remain available. 

2019 Volvo V60
Wagon lovers will want to see the new V60 parked in their driveway. (Photo: Volvo)

While Momentum and Inscription are the only two trims currently available, a sportier V60 R-Design is expected at some point in the near future, featuring special 18-inch alloy wheels, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and slightly edgier interior and exterior design, while it will incorporate most of the same features offered in the Inscription. Likewise, the V60 will also be available with Volvo’s T8 Twin-Engine powertrain that uses a plug-in hybrid drivetrain to increase engine output to 400 horsepower while reducing fuel consumption considerably. 

As it is, 2019 V60 Momentum and Inscription trims are available across Canada right now, so wagon lovers should make sure they head on down to their local Volvo dealer to partake. It certainly appears like the new V60 delivers a lot for its very reasonable asking price, and therefore should be a minor hit for the upwardly mobile Swedish luxury brand.

You can count the number of luxury sport wagons available to Canadians on one hand. Raised crossovers and low-volume plug-in electrics aside, BMW offers one true wagon, Mercedes-Benz antes up with two,…

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design Road Test

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Need the practicality of an SUV, but want the performance of a low-slung sport sedan? Look no further than the new Volvo V90. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

You can count the number of luxury sport wagons available to Canadians on one hand. Raised crossovers and low-volume plug-in electrics aside, BMW offers one true wagon, Mercedes-Benz antes up with two, and Volvo gives us the choice of another duo, one of which I recently spent some quality time with. 

I purposely slid the word “quality” into my previous sentence to highlight the incredible lengths the Swedish brand has gone to up its game when it comes to fit, finish, premium materials, attention to detail, technology leadership, powertrain advancements, and just generally providing an awe inspiring sense of occasion that at the very least measures up to its German contemporaries, and often surpasses them. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
The V90 looks sportiest in R-Design trim, plus my tester’s optional 20-inch alloys don’t hurt matters either. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester this time around was the 2018 V90 in T6 R-Design trim, which in Volvo-speak means that I had the sportiest of its three trim levels, showing second on the brand’s rung of aspirational feature sets, yet for the most part on the same level as top-tier V90 Inscription trim. 

To clarify, the V90 is offered in $60,500 base (but by no means basic) Momentum trim, $65,100 R-Design guise, or lastly as the $66,700 Inscription, and make sure you see all prices, including dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, at CarCostCanada, where I referenced these. As you can see there’s little price differentiation from R-Design to Inscriptions trims, so both can be considered top of the line. It really comes down to priorities. Personally, I’m more attracted to this sportier R-Design model, but I must admit to really liking the design of this practical five-door sport wagon no matter the trim. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
No matter the angle, the V90 R-Design looks fabulous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A quick review of features shows you’ll be getting an impressively outfitted car no matter which version you choose, with the base Momentum including standard 18-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights with active cornering and high-pressure cleaners, fog lamps, proximity access, pushbutton start, an electromechanical parking brake, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather shift knob, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8.0-inch digital gauge cluster, Road Sign Information (RSI), adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving capability, dual-zone automatic climate control, a large tablet-style touchscreen filled with one of the best infotainment interfaces in the industry, a clear backup camera with dynamic guidelines, rear parking sensors, accurate navigation with detailed mapping, 224-watt 10-speaker audio, satellite radio, Volvo On-Call featuring remote start and vehicle tracking, active noise control, leather upholstery, heatable power-adjustable front seats including four-way lumbar and driver’s memory, power-folding rear seat headrests that flip down to make seeing rearward easier when no passengers are in back, power release folding rear seatbacks, a hands-free powered liftgate, and more. Whew! That’s a long list, and Momentum is just the base model. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
“Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Volvo never shortchanges its loyal clientele on standard safety features either, so along with Volvo’s usual tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist, ABS, usual collection of airbags including one for the driver’s knees, etcetera, the V90 comes equipped with autonomous front collision mitigation with pedestrian detection as well as a lane keeping aid, and the systems weren’t overly sensitive so they gave off no false alarms, yet came into action each time they were needed. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
These sporty 20-inch alloys on Pirelli P Zeros only cost $1,000 more and really look good while providing better handling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Autonomous in mind, aforementioned Pilot Assist won’t completely take over the steering wheel, but as a precursor to full autonomous driving it works together with the adaptive cruise control to provide short-duration self-driving in the city and on the highway, so long as road markings are clearly visible. It works quite well too, but for the time being such systems are in their development stage and therefore are more novelties than anything particularly useful. I did find it helpful during bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, however, where it when about its business quite effectively, allowing me to relax a bit more than I would normally. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
That’s one very big vertical LED taillight, ideal for grabbing the attention of cars behind when slamming on the brakes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

R-Design trim enhances styling with unique diamond-cut 19-inch alloys framing an upgraded sport suspension, a special blackened grille and trim, matte silver side mirror caps, and silk metal side window trim, while inside it gets an even nicer perforated leather sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, metal foot pedals, a full 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that’s beautifully detailed and filled with functions, four-zone auto climate control that includes a panel with controls in back, a subwoofer for the stereo, richer Nubuck leather upholstery, ultra-comfortable contoured sport seats with added side bolstering and a driver’s cushion extension that nicely cups under the knees for added support, unique Metal Mesh décor inlays, a black headliner, rear side sunshades, and plenty of R-Design branding. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Come on in! It’s very comfortable and wonderfully luxurious in here. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I won’t go into too much detail regarding Inscription trim, but as noted before its feature set is much the same as with the R-Design other than the latter model’s sportier theme getting replaced by a unique chromed waterfall grille and ritzier chrome elements on the outside, whereas the interior is pure class due to beautiful Linear Walnut trim and stunning perforated Fine Nappa leather. Also, take note the Inscription includes ventilated front seats, front passenger seat memory, and more. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
The quality of materials and artisanship is as good as this class gets and better than most. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

No matter the trim specified, everything comes together within a cabin that’s not only beautifully finished as noted earlier, but also supremely comfortable and ergonomically ideal. Finding the perfect driving position is easy, and that’s a big bonus for me as my shorter torso and longer legs don’t always fit within Volvo’s competitors. The V90 offers ample telescopic steering wheel reach and plenty of rake, while the seat adjustments provide more than enough flexibility for most any body type to find a good position. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
The V90’s digital gauge cluster looks great and is highly functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The outboard rear seats are comfortable too, and especially supportive at the lower back while wonderfully sculpted with thick side bolsters similar to those up front, plus the flip-down armrest is wide and filled with pop-out cupholders as well as a handy lidded storage compartment. The large panoramic sunroof overhead offers an open and airy environment, while Volvo also provides real air via an excellent rear ventilation system that includes outlets on the backside of the front centre console plus additional vents on the B-pillars. Lastly, the three-way heatable outboard cushions noted earlier add rear passenger comfort on cold winter mornings. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
That’s one serious bird’s eye view, taken from the V90’s optional surround camera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those rear seat heaters will be appreciated when traveling home from a day on the slopes too, and thanks to ultra-useful 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks they can be put to use while everyone’s skis are placed down the middle. Volvo also finishes the V90’s cargo area off beautifully, with a stylish metal cargo door protection plate that sits above another similar metal guard atop the bumper (this one a $155 option from the accessories catalogue), two of the nicest chromed tie-down hooks available from any luxury manufacturer, high quality yet durable carpeting most everywhere, and lastly a $215 reversible cargo mat from the accessories catalogue. What’s more, V90’s cargo cover is a technological marvel all on its own, automatically moving up and out of the way when the powered liftgate is opened, while below the strut-mounted load floor is a shallow but useful carpeted tray that sits above the compact spare tire and tools. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
With all of the unusual gear selector’s these days, the V90’s elegant yet straightforward lever connecting to an 8-speed auto is refreshing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you’re getting the idea that Volvo goes above and beyond to provide a new level of luxury to its fortunate followers, I’m glad. That’s what I’m trying to convey, and it gets even better when factoring in the driving experience. It starts with the most advanced 2.0-litre engine available today, the Swedish brand’s direct-injected four-cylinder benefiting from turbocharging as well as supercharging in order to make a stellar 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s real V6 power from a fuel-efficient four, the Transport Canada numbers coming in at 10.6 L/100km city, 7.6 highway and 9.3 combined, which is excellent considering the performance available. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
These upgraded R-Design sport seats are superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Aiding the powertrain is an efficient eight-speed automatic with auto start-stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, reducing fuel consumption and emissions, but to just comment on this highly responsive transmission’s wallet and environmentally friendly attributes wouldn’t be doing it full justice, as, together with the aforementioned paddle shifters, it provides engaging hands-on performance that really ups the entire driving experience. 

Improving handling and stability in both dry and slippery conditions is standard all-wheel drive, but my favourite V90 attribute is its incredible ride quality. Together with the previously noted seats, the V90’s cushioning ride is best in class, and that’s even after factoring in my tester’s $1,000 optional 20-inch eight-spoke silver diamond-cut alloys on 255/35 Pirelli P Zero performance rubber. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Now that’s a sunroof! It’s powered too, and makes the cabin feel like a convertible. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My test car didn’t include the $2,350 available Four-C Active Chassis and rear air suspension however, which would have made it even smoother, while upping performance by automatically maintaining a constant ride height. The Four-C system utilizes the standard Drive Mode settings, which include Comfort mode, Eco mode, and Dynamic sport mode, but specifically enhances the suspension calibration of each, while the standard Drive Mode system enhances powertrain and steering characteristics, plus climate control in Eco mode. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Rear seating is roomy and comfortable, with excellent side bolstering and lumbar support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While we’re on the subject of options, my tester also included deep, rich $900 Onyx Black metallic paint on the outside and $750 worth of sensational carbon fibre inlays inside, plus a $2,000 Vision Package featuring auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert, and one of the best 360-degree surround parking cameras in the biz; a $1,500 Convenience Package with a compass integrated into the rearview mirror, front and rear parking sensors, and Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self-parking; a $3,000 Leather package featuring Charcoal leather R-Design seats and a tailored leather dash top and door uppers; a $1,250 Climate package with heated wiper blades, a heatable steering wheel, and those heatable rear outboard seats noted earlier; an outrageously good $3,250 Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system with a 12-channel amplifier, 1400 watts of output and 19 separate speakers including a tweeter on top of the centre speaker that minimizes acoustic reflection from the windshield; and lastly a $1,150 Graphical Heads-Up Display that projects speed, speed limit info, navigation directions and more onto the windshield ahead of the driver, with everything listed pushing my V90 R-Design tester’s list price up to $80,270 before freight and fees. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Need to stow gear? Look no further than the V90’s accommodating cargo compartment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

There were a few other options available, like rear entertainment, dual two-stage child booster seats integrated within the rear outboard seats, and the aforementioned suspension upgrade, but for the most part this is a fully loaded mid-size Volvo sport wagon. 

Getting back to the competition, the V90 truly only really competes with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon being that both are mid-size E-segment vehicles, whereas the others are based on compact D-segment models. So if you happen to appreciate the practicality of a larger five-door body style yet want the low-slung performance of a luxury sport sedan, the V90 is an excellent choice.

Some want the best price they can get, some want luxury above all, and others want something sporty to spice up their daily commutes. It just so happens that Volvo answers all of the above with its base…

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design Road Test

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
The good looking XC90 gets sportier with R-Design trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Some want the best price they can get, some want luxury above all, and others want something sporty to spice up their daily commutes. It just so happens that Volvo answers all of the above with its base Momentum, sporty R-Design, and ritziest Inscription trims, while still providing plenty of value, performance and luxury in each. 

When Volvo first introduced its completely overhauled XC90 mid-size luxury SUV for the 2016 model year I tested and reviewed a T6 AWD R-Design, which was such an improvement over its predecessor and so much more competitive against key rivals that it was easy to recommend. I followed this experience up with a 2017 XC90 T8 eAWD Inscription, which increased straight-line performance while replacing some of the R-Design’s sporty detailing for a classier, richer look and feel. For 2018, I was once again given the chance to test the faster T8 eAWD powertrain, albeit in R-Design trim with a sportier wheel and tire upgrade, and I must say it was a match made in heaven. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
The XC90’s distinctive rear styling makes it stand out in a crowd. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

R-Design trim gives a sporting twist to the inherently elegant XC90, complete with a black mesh grille insert, less chrome and metallic trim, an edgier body-colour and glossy black lower front fascia, satin-silver mirror caps, machine-finish twinned five-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels with black painted pockets (that were upgraded to 22s on my tester), and a body-colour bumper filled with a unique gloss black diffuser-style grille. Together with the XC90’s dramatically penned standard features that include Volvo trademark Thor’s hammer LED headlights and an eye-grabbing set of vertical LED taillights, all set within a gracefully shaped body shell that’s easy on the eyes no matter the angle, the XC90 R-Design is one compelling package. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
R-Design trim provides a sportier body-colour and glossy black lower fascia. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with its outwardly pleasing character the XC90 provides one of the more visually appealing and best executed interiors in the mid-size luxury SUV class, this particular model finished in classic black with satin-silver and optional carbon-fibre detailing, the leather-covered dash, door uppers, armrests and seat upholstery featuring sporty white contrast stitching, the light coloured thread coming standard, but all the fanciful leather made available due to a $3,000 Leather package that also includes rear side sunshades. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
All XC90s come standard with Volvo’s trademark Thor’s Hammer full LED headlamps. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those seats look absolutely stunning, and their standard 10-way adjustability, upgraded to special sport seats with power-extendable lower cushions and expanded side bolstering in the R-Design, made them even nicer on the back than they are to the eyes, with all around good inherent design and no shortage of calibration. Additional interior highlights include gorgeous perforated aluminum speaker grilles for the sensational sounding $3,250 1,400-watt 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio upgrade, plus a jewel-like Orrefors crystal and polished metal shifter, because hey, we all need one of those. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
These gorgeous 22-inch alloys are optional, with the R-Design normally riding on 20s. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, the XC90’s finer detailing is more of a wants over needs issue, the beautifully detailed diamond-pattern bright metal rotating start-stop knob making a luxury statement all on its own, although it’s backed up by a cylindrical drive mode selector shod in the same dazzling full metal jacket. These last three items are totally unique details that separate Volvo from any other brand, giving its cabin an upscale ambience that wouldn’t feel out of place to a Bentley or Rolls-Royce owner. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
R-Design trim includes this exclusive body-colour and black diffuser-style rear bumper. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Luxury snobs might find that last statement laughable, but truth be told that’s only because we’re all conditioned to believe such highfalutin ultra-premium brands are better in every way then lesser nameplates, yet such is not always the case. The quality of leather, metal and composite workmanship around the XC90’s cabin proves this point, with hard plastic difficult to find and the design, density, fitment, and damping of Volvo’s switchgear second to none. 

Likewise, the 8.0-inch digital instrument display is mighty impressive for a standard primary gauge package, not to mention filled with useful functions like navigation directions, phone details, road sign info and more, but the standard 12.3-inch TFT gauge cluster in my R-Design is even more cutting-edge and gets all the same features plus four configurable graphic modes. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
XC90 interior quality and refinement is second to none in its mid-size luxury SUV class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Over on the centre stack the XC90’s vertically positioned 9.0-inch tablet-style Sensus touchscreen is better yet thanks to its multi-award-winning infotainment interface with ultra-familiar tap, pinch and swipe gesture controls. Truly, it’s best of the best when it comes to user-friendliness and overall functionality, while its standard feature set, including a backup camera, four-zone climate control, navigation, real-time traffic info, voice activation, Volvo On Call app (with remote start, vehicle tracking, and more), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, audio/radio functions, car settings, etcetera, leaves nothing to the imagination. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
The optional Bowers & Wilkins stereo is superb, and the perforated aluminum speaker grilles are stunning. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Another area of Volvo technology leadership is powertrains. Its singular engine approach is unique in the industry, and I must say quite brilliant. Rather than wasting resources on myriad engine configurations and displacements, the Swedish brand makes one direct-injection turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder Drive-E engine and sources one eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission before implementing this combination in a variety of ways throughout its entire lineup. A model’s trim level doesn’t denote the powertrain provided, although only the base Momentum is available with the least potent T5 AWD combination, good for 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
This is one of the most ergonomically friendly cockpits in the segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Momentum, R-Design and Inscription trims can all be had with either T6 AWD or T8 eAWD drivetrains, both of which feature a turbocharger and a supercharger. This twin charging process allows for a maximum of 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque in the T6 AWD, and thanks to a complementary Twin Engine plug-in hybrid electric motor/battery combo, a monstrous 400 net horsepower and 472 net lb-ft of torque in the T8 eAWD. 

Monstrous probably isn’t the right word to describe T8 eAWD performance, as it’s the most progressively linear 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque you’ll likely ever experience. I’ve enjoyed the T8 around town, on long high-speed freeway trips and most every other type of roadway in between, and have grown to appreciate its relentless forward thrust as much as its smooth, refined demeanor. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
An 8.0-inch digital gauge package comes standard, although the R-Design gets upgraded to this even nicer 12.3-inch configurable cluster. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To be clear, it’s fast, but it’s no Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S or BMW X5 M beater, and it’s not even trying to be. Instead, Volvo has its sights on the Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e 4Matic and BMW X5 xDrive40e, its mid-five second sprint to 100km/h coming milliseconds from matching the former and annihilating the latter by more than a second, while its claimed fuel economy rating is 10.1 L/100km in the city, 8.8 on the highway and 9.5 combined compared to 11.1 L/100km combined for the Merc and 9.9 combined for the Bimmer. Volvo’s small-displacement four-cylinder, twin power and plug-in hybrid combination certainly pays off in performance and at the pump. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
The R-Design gets exclusive paddle-shifters behind its sport steering wheel to improve driver engagement. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, all of the aforementioned SUVs were designed to drive on electric power only for about 30 kilometres before automatically starting up their respective internal combustion engines and continuing on as hybrids—the T8’s battery was upsized this year for an estimated 30.5-km of range from its two electric motors. While 30 km doesn’t sound like a lot, if your commute is short it’s possible to get to and from work without using any gasoline at all, but Volvo more realistically estimates the result of regular charging (which takes about three hours from a 240-volt charger) will reward you with an Le/100km (gasoline litres equivalent per 100 kilometres) rating of 4.7 combined city/highway. That would make a welcome improvement to my fuel budget, considering pump prices for regular in my area are now averaging above $1.50/litre after hitting record highs of $1.65 in May, let alone premium unleaded that shot up to $1.87 last month. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
Volvo’s award-winning Sensus infotainment system is excellent, and the optional overhead parking monitor is one of the industry’s best too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Similar to the formidable yet linear power delivery, the XC90’s ride and handling compromise is wonderfully agile without any harshness. Even with my tester’s optional Pirelli Scorpion 275/35R22s it remained comfortably compliant no matter the road surface, yet pushed hard through a serpentine set of switchbacks it lived up to its European performance pedigree. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
Of course the shift knob is made from Orrefors crystal. Doesn’t every manufacturer go so far to pamper its clientele? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Adapting to your mood and/or surrounding conditions, Volvo allows for adjustable steering and Drive-Mode settings, the former modulating between low, medium and high steering assistance, and the latter featuring Comfort, Eco, Dynamic (sport) or Off-Road modes. It’s a quick and easy system to set up, and makes a big difference to how the XC90 drives. 

Volvo backs up the XC90’s confidence inspiring performance with a plentiful supply of advanced driver assistance systems, safety having always been core to the Swedish brand’s ethos. It starts with auto on/off LED headlights with active cornering, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (that even includes its own head-up display), lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, and rear parking sensors. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
Got to love the diamond-pattern metal detailing on the standard rotating ignition switch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester was upgraded with a $2,000 Vision package that adds blindspot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, one of the clearest, most helpful 360-degree surround-view parking monitors in the business, and power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors to go along with the standard auto-dimming rearview mirror inside, while a $2,200 Convenience package included front parking sensors, semi-autonomous Park Assist self-parking, semi-autonomous Pilot Assist self-driving with adaptive cruise control, a Homelink garage door opener and a few other handy items. Lastly, my loaner came with a $1,250 Climate package adding a heatable steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, and heated wiper blades, making it perfectly suited up for winter ski trips with the entire family. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
The R-Design’s upgraded sport seats are truly superb, while these were improved further with leather upholstery. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, Volvo offers plenty of standalone options, such as a graphical head-up display, a dual-monitor 7.0-inch rear entertainment system, an integrated second-row booster seat, an active air suspension, and more. 

I’d be remiss not to jot down some key standard features too. Momentum trim starts at $59,150 for the T5, $63,350 for the T6, and $74,950 for the T8, these prices easily sourced on CarCostCanada.com, along with invoice pricing, rebate information and much more, with standard items not yet mentioned including fog lamps, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition and a hands-free powered tailgate, metal treadplates, aluminum interior inlays, rain-sensing wipers, satellite radio, a powered panoramic moonroof, a cooled glove box, rear climate controls, heatable powered front seats with four-way powered lumbar, driver’s memory, mechanical releasing second-row seats, power-folding rear headrests, a semi-automatic load cover, a cargo opening metal scuff plate, active noise control (with engine enhancement), roof rails, and more. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
Second-row roominess and comfort is generous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Features not yet mentioned on the R-Design, which starts at $67,900 for the T6 and $80,050 for the as-tested T8, include more sporty styling and trim modifications, a perforated leather steering wheel, exclusive steering wheel paddle shifters that really make a difference to driver engagement, metal pedals, a black roofliner, etcetera, while the Inscription, priced at $69,550 for the T6 and $81,650 for the T8, features a more luxurious exterior and interior design motif including genuine walnut inlays and standard perforated Nappa leather upholstery, plus ventilated front seats with power-adjustable side bolsters, front passenger seat memory, rear sunshades, and more. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
This massive powered panoramic sunroof comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

No matter the trim, it all comes in an interior that’s extremely comfortable and very roomy. Even the third row was spacious enough for my medium-build five-foot-eight frame to fit in without feeling cramped, leaving about an inch ahead of my knees when the second-row was pushed as far rearwards as possible. I had a couple of inches remaining over my head too, plus ample elbowroom thanks to armrest cutouts. Volvo also provides pillar-mounted air vents for superb third-row ventilation, these identical to those found on the backside of the B-pillars for second-row passengers, while roof-mounted LED reading lights benefit both rear rows. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
The third-row is spacious enough for medium sized adults. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I wouldn’t expect anyone to gripe about cargo capacity either, with 447 litres (15.8 cubic feet) available aft of the rearmost seatbacks, 1,183 litres (41.8 cubic feet) behind the second-row, and 2,427 litres (85.6 cubic feet) when both rear rows are flattened. What’s more, Volvo adds to XC90 versatility by dividing the second row into thirds in order to fit loads of long cargo like skis down the middle while the two outboard rear passengers enjoy the comfort of window seats (and those aforementioned rear heaters). Additionally, the load floor is almost totally flat when lowered, plus Volvo includes a convenient flip-up divider in the very back for stopping smaller items from shifting forward. 

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD R-Design
The XC90 swallows up loads of cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s tempting to go on and on describing the exceptionally good build quality of those seats, their folding mechanisms, the solid sound made when each door shuts, the beautiful finishing and fine materials used throughout, etcetera, etcetera, but I’d better leave it there in order to let you enjoy a few surprises for yourself. The XC90 is a superb luxury SUV that you should experience firsthand, after which I’m willing to bet you’ll be hard pressed to leave behind when it comes time to go home.