The rejuvenation of Volvo began in 2014, after the carmaker had been bought by its current owner, Chinese motor manufacturer Geely.
Geely pumped money into the brand and gave Volvo the wherewithal to rediscover its cool Scandinavian roots.
The current-shape XC90 large SUV was the first fruit of that change in parentage, and the revolution continued with the V90, a large estate of the type long favoured by tow car buyers.
Out went the old V70 – a car that looked like the designer had only had a ruler to hand on the day – and in came cool, curvy style, modern materials and the latest in safety and comfort technology.
The engine range comprised a petrol-electric hybrid badged TE, and the engines we focus on here, the D4 and D5 2.0-litre turbodiesels. In 2017, Volvo added a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol, badged T4, and in 2018, the more powerful T5.
The D4 offers 187bhp and the D5 232bhp, and it’s the latter that will better suit those who tow, because the V90 is no lightweight itself. This does increase the weight you can tow, but the downside is, it means the engine has to work harder to get the car moving, let alone anything it’s pulling.
The D5 also has four-wheel drive as standard, which should greatly ease manoeuvring on slippery ground.
Four trims were available at launch, and all have more standard equipment than your average mission to space.
For tow car buyers, the V90 D5 AWD Momentum is the sweet spot in the range. The engine offers plenty of punch at all revs, and manages an average economy figure of 57.6mpg and emits 129g/km of CO².
It excels as a tow car, with a legal towing limit of 2200kg and a maximum towball weight of 100kg. It makes short work of even a hefty trailer, to the extent that you need to look in the mirror occasionally to make sure it’s still hitched up, so little effect does it have on the Volvo’s progress. Even violent changes of lane do little to affect the car’s equilibrium.
The electric parking brake makes even steep hill starts simple, and the strong brakes mean coming to a halt quickly is drama-free.
As a solo steer, the V90 is a comfortable, quiet companion, and the sort of car in which you can travel a very long way with no problems. It’s quick and the gearbox is smooth, albeit a little slow to change in Comfort and Eco modes.
Long, straight roads are the car’s forte, whereas twistier routes expose the slightly soft body control and a steering system that, while quick, doesn’t tell you much about what the front wheels are doing.
Volvo’s name is synonymous with the estate body shape, so it’s a bit of a surprise that the boot is one area in which the V90 is merely average. It has 560 litres of space, which is five less than an Audi A6 Avant, and a whopping 80 litres less than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate. The load area is long, wide and flat, just not deep.
The rest of the cabin is superb. There’s plenty of space for five occupants, who will be surrounded by soft-touch materials, cutting-edge design and loads of technology, most of which is controlled through the large, portrait-style central touchscreen. Even the seats are excellent. Standard kit includes sat nav, heated seats and dual-zone climate control, while upgrading to Inscription trim brings plusher leather, and powered seats and tailgate.
Of course, every V90 has the full suite of systems to stop you having a crash, and plenty of stuff to protect you if you do.
The V90 has been subject to four recalls by Volvo. One, in January 2017, concerned an airbag that might fail to open properly in a collision.
The second happened a few months later, and related to the possibility of a broken retaining bolt for the curtain airbag. Then the V90 was recalled in 2018 because of a possible software issue in the vehicle connectivity module, which is the system that sends location details to the emergency services if the vehicle is involved in a collision.
Volvo also issued a recall this year for various models with the D4 diesel engine, because of the possibility of a plastic inlet manifold melting and causing an engine fire. Owners are being urged to watch for symptoms including a burning smell, hesitant acceleration and the engine light illuminating. But apart from these, the Volvo has been dependable, and fared well in this year’s reliability survey carried out by What Car? by finishing fourth overall in the executive class.
The earliest cars will be at the end of their manufacturer warranty, so it makes sense to get a professional mechanical examination on any V90 you’re tempted to purchase.
Anything newer than this will still have at least a portion of its new car warranty remaining, so problems should be covered.
You need a suitable budget, but if that’s the case, there are few finer used tow cars than the Volvo V90. Everything about it seems designed to make towing life easier, from the strong and smooth drivetrain, to the four-wheel-drive, the lush interior, and the fact that it can deal with even a heavy trailer without becoming flustered.
Volvo V90 – need to know
How much? £19,000-£54,000
The good news is, the V90 is still pretty young, so most examples haven’t had time to accumulate high mileages. The bad news is, the V90 is still pretty young, so prices haven’t had time to plummet!
You’ll need at least £19k o get one of the earliest ones. Increase that to £27k and you’re in the market for a 2018 or 2019 model, with less than 10,000 miles.
You can spend a lot more (up to £54k!), but there’s no need, so good is the choice of used stock. For that cash, you’d just as well buy new.
What will it tow?
- Kerbweight 1817kg
- 85% match 1544kg
- Towing limit 2200kg
- Noseweight limit 100kg
How much is a towball?
- Witter flange towbar £171.60
- Witter detachable towbar £273.60
- Fitting extra (from pfjones.co.uk)
What about servicing?
- Interim service £91.56
- Full service £152.18
- Prices supplied by Servicing Stop, 0844 324 5262
The good and the not so good
Top tug: D5 AWD Momentum
The ideal blend of low-rev torque and 4WD gives great towing ability and good economy, and this trim has everything you need.
Barge pole: 1.6 Access T4 Inscription
The lower-powered petrol model has the muscle to pull a trailer, but you’ll be aware it’s trying harder to do so.
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If you’re considering buying a second-hand tug, there are certain things to take into account while you’re shopping around; our Used Tow Car Buying Guides will give you a good idea of what to look out for.
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The D5 also has four-wheel drive as standard, which should greatly ease manoeuvring on slippery ground