2021 Volvo V90
Jerry Kronenberg

2021 Volvo V90 Combines Safety, Style, and Generous Cargo Space

View Slideshow
2021 Volvo V90
Jerry Kronenberg

Safe in Style

If I had to pick one car to actually buy among all those that I've tested over the years, a vehicle such as the 2021 Volvo V90 midsize wagon would be high on the list. Slightly updated for 2021, the V90 (base price: $51,800) offers a great mix of style, cargo space, performance, and Volvo's legendary safety features. I sure appreciated the model's automatic braking, which kicked in when the car in front of me slowed suddenly to change lanes on a state highway. I recently tested the V90 T6 AMD Cross Country, which starts at $55,545.

Related: These Are the Least Expensive Cars to Own

2021 Volvo V90 wheels
Jerry Kronenberg

Exterior

On the outside, my test car looked great, with classy Thunder Grey Metallic exterior paint ($645). A large hood and macho-looking Volvo grille in front led to large front doors with generously sized electric folding mirrors. All the way back, my V90's automatic liftgate came with a classic Volvo rear wiper. My test model also featured optional 20-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels ($645) and a panoramic sunroof. An optional $1,360 roof box pretty much covered up the sunroof, but it did add 15.2 cubic feet of storage space.

Related: 50 Classic Family Cars of the Past 50 Years

2021 Volvo Interior front seats
Jerry Kronenberg

Interior: Front Seats

Inside, my test model featured decidedly masculine-looking gray, perforated stitched-leather driver and front-passenger seats ($2,800). Electric seat adjusters helped make these seats very comfortable, with good headroom, legroom, and hip room. My V90 also featured a stitched-leather steering wheel and leather-wrapped gear shifter, along with stylish leather-and-chrome door interiors and a matching dashboard. The model comes with a unique keyless start/stop engine dial in the center stack.

Related: 29 Classic Station Wagons We Miss From Childhood

2021 Volvo V90 interior tech
Jerry Kronenberg

Interior: Tech

My test car's dashboard included a digital speedometer and tachometer, plus a heads-up display that projected speed on the windshield. There was also a voice-activated system and a great touchscreen to control the car's navigation and climate systems, as well as an optional $4,000 FM/SiriusXM Bowers & Wilkens audio system.

Like all Volvos, the V90 features Volvo's very intuitive climate controls, which show a little illustration of a person and allow you to direct heating or cooling toward your head, feet, or midsection. I consider those the best-designed climate controls on the market. Additionally, my V90 came with a backup camera and optional 360-degree view as part of a $1,700 advanced package (which added the heads-up display).

Related: 23 Cars Where You'll Save Big by Buying Used

2021 Volvo V90 interior back seats
Jerry Kronenberg

Interior: Back Seats

In back, the V90's rear seats are fixed into place and nonadjustable. The driver's- and passenger's-side seats offered good headroom, but only okay legroom and hip room. Adults will find the space only semi-comfortable for city trips, and even more challenging for longer journeys. (Younger kids will be fine.) And although the back seat is technically designed for three people, the center section offers very limited legroom and hip room that anyone other than a young child would find cramped. On the plus side, the rear seats have a great center armrest/cupholder that's available for use when there's no third passenger. My test model's back seat also offered its own climate controls and vents.

Related: 50 of the Biggest Cars Ever Made

2021 Volvo V90 cargo
Jerry Kronenberg

Interior: Cargo Space

My test V90 boasted a generous cargo area that could easily fit a small dresser or appliance such as a window air conditioner, even with the back seats in use. A great plastic mat came as part of a $485 Protection Package Premier option, which also added rubber floor mats for each seat. And if the standard cargo area doesn't provide enough space for you, the V90's rear seats easily fold flat, creating a truly generous cargo bay. The space could easily accommodate a fairly large piece of furniture such as a dresser, or perhaps six large suitcases and a few knapsacks.

Related: Cool Gifts for People Who Love Cars

2021 Volvo V90 start stop
Jerry Kronenberg

Road Test

On the road, my test model's 316-horsepower, four-cylinder turbocharged engine offered impressive performance, starting with a quiet ride. The V90 revved to only 4,400 rpm going from zero to 60 mph, with very little engine noise reaching into the cabin. My test V90 also offered four different drive modes — Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, and Off Road — although I noticed little difference among them. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates the V90 T6 AWD at 21 mpg/city and 32 mpg/highway, thanks in part to the vehicle's automatic start/stop function (which turns off the engine when you're idling). During a weeklong test drive, I logged a combined 23 mpg.

Front sightlines are excellent and rear sightlines are good, while sightlines to the rear sides of the vehicle are acceptable but could be better. The model also braked and cornered well, while its modest size made parking and backing up fairly easy. And, of course, the V90 comes with Volvo's famous steel cage and other safety systems. As noted earlier, I had the car flash an alert on the dashboard and apply the brakes automatically when its sensors detected the car in front of me was unexpectedly stopping. (Sorry, I was too busy avoiding a crash to take a photo.)

2021 Volvo V90
Jerry Kronenberg

Pricing

Of course, all this safety and style costs money. My generously equipped V90 clocked in at $67,190. A $995 destination fee brought the grand total to $68,185.

Related: Cars, Trucks, and SUVs With the Best Resale Value

Jerry Kronenberg is former auto editor of the Boston Herald.