MONT TREMBLANT, QUÉBEC – With Canada’s short-lived driving season, a family car that can wear multiple hats is always a welcome proposition, especially for those who like to have a little fun behind the wheel. Larger sport utility vehicles are often come with significant weight and fuel economy penalties, as well as extra ground clearance that hurts handling in an urban environment. For those who appreciate these aspects of vehicle design, there’s a luxury ride for you – the 2018 Volvo V90 T6 R-Design. This week, Volvo Canada gave us a chance to take the new R-Design out for a spin in order to demonstrate what they felt a fun family vehicle should be. The twisty backroads near Mont Tremblant, just outside of Montreal, Québec, would make an excellent proving ground and visual backdrop.
In the same estate (wagon) format as the conventional V90, the R-Design purports to add more driving dynamics. With stiffer springs, dampers, and 20mm lower ride height, handling response is noticeably sharper, and grip limits are increased. The R-Design still biases toward safe and predictable understeer at the limit, but is easily controlled with by modulating steering and throttle input. With an all-wheel drive system keeping traction in check, powering out of corners will be just as fun as going for a rip in snowy conditions. Steering and brake response remain about the same, and is tuned more towards comfort over feedback. Cars equipped with the optional air suspension will enjoy further improved ride quality.
Under the hood, the same “Drive-E” 2.0-litre twincharged inline four – yes, it’s both turbocharged and supercharged – does duty in moving around the V90 R-Design. With optional Polestar Optimization, peak power increases from is 316 to 330 horsepower at 5,700RPM, and peak torque is upped from 295 lb-ft to 325 lb-ft between 2,200 and 5,700RPM. With the supercharger covering the low end of the rev range, throttle response is excellent, without any of the delay that afflicts smaller displacement engines that are turbo-only. As the engine winds out into the midrange and towards redline, the turbocharger comes through and ensures that power doesn’t taper off. The Polestar Optimization makes throttle response a bit sprightlier, while also firming up the shifts on the transmission for better performance.
Even with two times the gadgetry providing boost pressure, fuel economy remains a strong point. While the twincharged engines do require premium fuel, city consumption is rated at 10.6L/100KM, and highway cruising will net you 7.6L/100km. Fuel capacity is 60 litres.
Inside, expect the same wonderful design currently present on Volvo’s latest generation of cars. With material selection and fit and finish suited for royalty, they are at the forefront of automotive interiors, and it’s hard to imagine an automaker who will trump Volvo in this regard. Seat comfort is second to none, and although some of the major climate control and seat heating functions are buried in the touch-screen infotainment system, it’s a slick interface that appears to be very well polished. The optional Bowers & Wilkins audio is an absolute must-have for those who resemble anything remotely similar to being an audiophile. Just like the existing S90 (reviewed here) and XC90 cars, the V90 T6 R-Design has a great cabin to spend time in.
In addition to taking the V90 T6 R-Design around the roads near Mont-Tremblant, Volvo Canada had a pairing of Rebel Blue 2017 S60 and V60 Polestar (reviewed here) for track use at the Circuit ICAR in Mirabel. With 367 horsepower and more rear bias on the all-wheel drive system, these potent variants also feature Ohlins suspension and countless race-tested improvements in the areas of chassis, aerodynamics, and electronic calibration. Drawing upon the successes of the S60 in the World Touring Car Championship, Polestar sought to create a wild road version of the relatively sedate S60 and V60.
While remaining firm but relatively tame on the open road, the Polestar S60 and V60 also shone brightly at the race track. The front-wheel drive nature of the chassis still made itself apparent however, with the front wheels giving up the traction ghost first when feeding too much power on corner exit. Steering feel from the electric power assist was wonderful, and the six-piston caliper, 371 millimetre (14.6 inch) diameter Brembo brakes didn’t miss a beat all day long. Sport and Sport+ modes helped to keep the eight-speed automatic transmission in the optimal rev range, with Sport+ activated by a cheat-code like button sequence with the car stopped. In a series of laps set around the Circuit ICAR, the S60 and V60 Polestar are reminiscent of a more mature and premium version of the Ford Focus RS – with the Volvo being the much more livable car for daily use.
By recently gaining the responsibility of figuring out Volvo’s future electric performance offerings, Polestar’s future is shining bright in all areas. With Volvo experiencing a surge in sexiness and popularity with their latest offerings, having Polestar on board will help to inject performance and sportiness wherever and whenever it’s needed. With an as-tested price of $79,930, the 2018 Volvo V90 T6 R-Design manages to effectively fill the great niche of luxo-performance estate family haulers. The $67,050 Polestar S60 ($69,000 for the V60) goes a long way to demonstrate Polestar’s dedication and willingness to create fun and truly race-inspired cars that also keep things tame enough for daily use. Boiled down, Volvo’s continual strong sales growth over the past couple years is a great indicator of their success, and makes them the current envy of the automotive industry.
First Drive: 2018 Volvo V90 T6 R-Design Gallery