The way modern Volvos have come to incorporate the big wheels and sporty styling that so many customers want in their cars as part of its current design language, without letting those sporty influences skew the comfort-first dynamic appeal of those cars, really is very clever, isn’t it? The company worked out some time ago that, while its customers might want a car that looks a little bit chiselled and purposeful, they by and large don’t want the compromised ‘sporty’ driving experience often associated with that. The current V90 has always been a cracking-looking car, and R-Design bodystyling sets it off very well. The facelift brings modifications to the rear light clusters and front bumper, but pretty subtle ones. Well, there wasn’t much that needing fixing.
The car has sporty-looking, gently bolstered, leather-upholstered seats, but they’re no harder or less comfy as a result of that look, and they’re no problem at all to easily slide in and out of. There’s bags of room for taller adults to sit in comfort in the back row (Volvo has replaced the 12V power outlet here for a couple of USB-C charging ports), while in the boot, you get a perfectly flat load-bay floor, which the rear seatbacks extend very nicely when folded down. No battery intrusion, then; just a smallish charging cable bag to accommodate.
The car’s driving experience is nicely simple by PHEV standards. The stubby gear selector has an extra ‘B’ setting you might not be expecting, which ramps up electrical energy recuperation on a trailing throttle – but if you elect not to use it, this is a big, serene, wafty car that’ll ‘sail’ or coast for what can seem like miles if you let it, apparently running on fresh air. It doesn’t have gearshift paddles, nor does it really have any serious performance pretensions. The ride is soft and quiet and only very occasionally trips up over a raised edge in the road, even on 20in wheels, while the controls are filtered and broadly pleasant.
Interested drivers might have preferred a bit less of an amorphous, spongy feel from the brake pedal and steering, but when you’re floating around at classic Volvo pace, the lack of tactile engagement isn’t likely to bother you too much. If you do feel like hurrying, you can select gears yourself in ‘B’ mode by knocking the shift lever left and right, and if you select the car’s ‘Power’ setting, its steering weights up a touch and its adaptive dampers do a fairly credible job of controlling its mass at swift B-road pace. The car’s perfectly well composed when it needs to be: it’s just at its best at other times.