2018 Volvo V90 Station Wagon Review: Is This the World’s Most Perfect Car?

Volvo V90 Luxury Station Wagon

Your mom wasn’t wrong.

An all wheel drive station wagon might be the most ideal car. It can do most everything and compromises very little.

Especially if you’re a family that skis. Or if you’re not tall (you can reach the roof rails to put things in a Thule!). Or if you like to really drive but you need to haul kids and cargo. Or if you are just not a minivan or SUV person.

So what is it about these cars that capture the hearts and imagination of their owners?

Volvo V90 Luxury Station Wagon

That panoramic sun roof! Even a rainy, gray day is made brighter with all that glass. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Station Wagons Are Special Beasts Owned By Discerning Drivers

The wagon is a rare but beautiful beast these days. There was a time when you could find one in every suburban driveway, but of course, minivans and SUVs eclipsed their popularity.

However, this decline offered designers and engineers the unique opportunity to cater to people who love wagons. So, we saw the rise of the turbo wagon, the performance wagon and modern takes on the shooting brake, an early version of the station wagon designed to ferry hunting parties and their equipment to and from the field (that’s what the wagon’s long cargo floor was for: guns). So when you see a wagon on the road, know that the person behind the wheel is a discerning and loving owner.

Volvo V90 Luxury Station Wagon

The V90 wagon next to the very popular XC60 crossover. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Who The Volvo V90 Wagon is For

  • Singles, couples or small families
  • Families with babies or toddlers
  • Buyers who want and appreciate luxury
  • Buyers who love a station wagon
  • Drivers who need all wheel drive, especially those in snowy climates
  • Buyers not intimidated by the luxury price tag
  • Buyers who appreciate Volvo’s commitment to safety and technology
Volvo V90 Luxury Station Wagon

Volvo V90’s grocery shelf kept things from rolling around on the drive home. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What The Volvo V90 Costs

  • Starting Price of the V90 wagon $49,950:
  • Starting price of Inscription edition, which includes top safety technology, a panoramic sun roof, keyless entry with hands free tailgate, illuminated door handles and leather upholstery: $57,950
  • Convenience package including heated washer nozzles, 360 surround view camera, grocery bag shelf and park assist: $1,900
  • Head up display with turn by turn navigation: $900
  • Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system: $3,200
  • Heated steering wheel: $300
  • Premium air suspension in rear $1,200
  • Tailored dash: $1,000
  • Built in child booster seats: $500
  • Price of the model we drove, including $995 destination charge: $69,340

Compare the Volvo V90 to the popular XC90 SUV

Volvo V90 Luxury Station Wagon

The V90’s front cabin is neatly and elegantly organized. Photo: Scotty Reiss

“Oh My, This is a Beautiful Car”

That was what my 90-year-old neighbor Jeanne said as she got into the Volvo with me during my test drive. We were heading to the local middle school to cast our votes in the local election. Long a fan and driver of station wagons, Jeanne was surprised at the sublime details and subtle luxury of the Volvo. She settled into the white leather seat and enjoyed the short ride to the polling station.

The ride was perfect for her. It was easy enough for her to get in and out of the Volvo without too much trouble and her walker easily slid into the cargo area. The low ride height of a wagon is a great thing if lifting is an issue. This is a car Jeanne would have loved when her kids were young.

Note that the V90 wagon is slightly less beefy than the V90 Cross Country crossover, which is a hybrid between the V90 wagon and the XC 90 SUV. 

How does the Volvo V90 compare to the V60 Cross Country?

Volvo V90 Luxury Station Wagon

The built-in rear child booster seat pops into place with the push of a button. Photo: Scotty Reiss

I’m So Happy Someone Thought of That: Smart Features Make Life Easier

Don’t you love having that reaction to a smart bit of technology or convenience? The Vovlo V90 is filled with these pleasant surprises. Such as:

  • Children’s booster seats are built into the center row seats (passenger and driver’s side only). With the push of a button the regular seat converts to a booster
  • A grocery shelf in the back that keeps your groceries from spilling or rolling around. I particularly liked this feature; unlike the nets in many cars, just pop open the shelf to reveal a tactile surface and shelf back. It kept my groceries firmly in place all the way home
  • Center row head rests that drop with the push of a button if they are obscuring traffic behind you (or you need to bop your kids on the head)
  • A panoramic sunroof that turns even a gray, dreary day into a brighter one
  • Automatic high beam headlights that dim for oncoming traffic or pedestrians
  • Automatic rain sensing wipers that turn on as soon as water is detected on the windshield
  • Awesome heated seats and steering wheel, which heat up fast and warm
  • Head up display with turn by turn navigation; this is a both a luxury and a safety feature
  • Built in wifi, which offers a better signal than a phone hotspot due to the ‘shark fin’ receiver built into the car’s roof

You can see how the built in booster seats work here:

The Secret to Volvo’s Stellar Safety Ratings? Industry-Leading Technology

Volvo has always taken pride in its safety record and still does, even citing its use of high strength steel in the car’s roll-cage. Add to that traction and stability control and some of the leading safety technology in cars and you get a package that is hard to beat if safety is your top priority. Among the in-car tech features that are notable are: 

  • Pilot Assist that maintains the speed of crawling traffic around you on the highway, even coming to a complete stop and restarting when traffic does
  • Adaptive cruise control; set it for your ideal speed and it maintains that speed or slows with the traffic, speeding up again when traffic allows
  • Road sign information; Volvo’s system actually reads the signs!
  • Blind spot information
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Lane keep assist
  • 360 degree surround view camera

Check out the Volvo S90 sedan and see it park itself! 

Volvo V90 Luxury Station Wagon

The large touch screen arranges options into four groups: navigation, radio, apps (Apple Car Play is shown here) and phone. Swipe left for apps and right for car settings. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Volvo’s In-Car Technology is Fun, Fancy and Potentially Distracting

There’s a lot of technology in this car. Which requires a lot of buttons. Most of them are found somewhere on the touch screen’s menus, which are neatly and smartly organized in four key areas: navigation, climate, apps and phone. Swipe left or right to toggle between the screens, or find many of the regularly used  functions available via a dashboard button for a quick fix of climate or radio volume.

Volvo V90 Luxury Station WagonBut most functions are on the touch screen and yes, touch screens can be distracting. Volvo, like most car designers, makes an effort to reduce distraction with intuitive screens and quick-access buttons. They go a bit further with large, well-placed icons on the touch screens. I found most functions easy to use once I learned the locations. 

Volvo V90 Luxury Station Wagon

The V90’s drive settings, controlled by the elegant metal toggle next to the stop start control. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Drive Experience: Fast and Fun, With More Than Enough Power

The Volvo V90 wagon was a blast to drive. I can see why so many wagon fans love them; the Volvo hugged the road like a performance sedan and had very responsive acceleration. In sport mode it was even more fun. You can forget you’re in a family car (the real reason I think so many wagon fans love them).

The drive experience was easy and confident; I never felt like it was a risk to pull out onto a busy road or merge onto the highway. And driving my daughter to school was nice, too. The Volvo was fun to drive on our windy back-country roads.

I was surprised to find that the powerful 316 horsepower twin turbo engine is a 4 cylinder engine. But, that is the miracle of today’s turbos: more power in a smaller, more fuel efficient engine. And the Volvo excels here, too. It gets nice fuel economy for a family car, with an estimated 22MPG city/31MPG highway. Though I would guess our fuel economy during our test drive was more in the 22MPG range.

But honestly, fuel economy is probably the last thing I’d consider when deciding if this is the right car for my family. There are so many other things it does so well that may be one I’d be happy to give up.

Volvo V90 Luxury Station Wagon

Head up display projects key information on the windshield in front of the driver. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What We Loved

  • Beautiful interior details and leather upholstery
  • Active safety features including Pilot Assist and adaptive cruise control
  • Head up display
  • Digital driver information screen
  • Grocery shelf
  • Panoramic sun roof
  • Built in child booster seats
  • The confident drive experience, especially in sport mode
  • The nicely arranged touch screen
  • Automatic high beam head lights and rain sensing wipers
Volvo V90 Luxury Station Wagon

The Volvo V90’s vehicle settings screen lets you manage many features including head up display and auto start/stop. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What You Need to Know

  • Auto high beams and wipers have to be turned on each time you start the car
  • Many of the car’s functions are found in the touch screen
  • Seating for 5 but more comfortable for 4
  • 4 year/50,000 mile warranty
  • Factory-scheduled maintenance included free for the first 3 years/36,000 miles
  • Fuel economy is an estimated 22MPG city/31 MPG highway
  • Uses regular gas

What We Listened to In the Volvo V90

The Volvo V90 wagon’s elegant interior, flawless drive experience and sublime Swedish design inspired us to listen to this fun playlist of modern danceable songs.


Volvo V90 Luxury Station Wagon

The 2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD Monroney.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss