Bad Vibrations: More Unfortunate Luck for Our Volvo V90 Long-Termer

Did a black cat cross our path and we didn’t realize it?

Billy RehbockwriterBrandon Limphotographer

EL SEGUNDO, California—Our resident long-roofed Scandinavian long-termer, a 2019 Volvo V90 T6 Inscription, has been remarkably unlucky during its stay. Having already suffered the indignities of a parking-lot bumper bash and a stone-cracked windshield, the Volvo now has a new malady caused by forces outside its control: a pair of bent wheels. Fate can be cruel.

There's been little cruel about the way it has treated the occupants inside, however. During a 700-mile trip up to the Bay Area, I not only took full advantage of the effective massaging seats, but also fell in love with the Bowers & Wilkins sound system, a $3,200 option. Using Apple CarPlay to stream music from Google Play Music via my iPhone, I put the high-fidelity audio setup through its paces over a dozen hours of driving. As an example, as Sylvan Esso's "Just Dancing," an indie-pop track with ultra-crisp production values, cascaded from of the speakers, the electronic beat came alive, and the sound quality was so good my girlfriend and I could practically visualize the exact point from which the music was emanating.

To anyone looking to add a V90 to their garage, I'd absolutely recommend ticking the box for the premium sound system—although it might perhaps be too good. A slight buzzing has developed in the driver's door when music is playing, its intensity varying with the frequency of the audio. It's something we may get checked out if it doesn't remedy itself in short order.

The sensitivity of the collision-avoidance systems has come in for some criticism, as our long-termer tends to activate its automatic braking feature when it isn't necessary. It's a frankly disconcerting experience when the system engages, with a cacophony of beeping accompanying immediate ABS engagement. One such false alarm happened when one staffer drove through a tight righthand bend on a major street in Los Angeles at about 35 mph. Part of their normal commute, it's a fairly sharp turn with no divider between the opposing traffic; as the V90 was steered through the bend, the sensors seemingly detected a car in the opposite lane as being an obstacle and brought the Volvo to a standstill in the middle of the road. It was very disconcerting, although the same staffer says it has yet to happen again.

As for those recently bent wheels, they're both on the passenger side; someone apparently hit the mother of all potholes and didn't realize or—far more likely—didn't fess up. The wheels made themselves known with a steering shimmy that was especially prominent at freeway speeds, and Volvo Cars South Bay recommended the wheels and the tires be replaced. That diagnosis cost $210, a total that will count toward the total estimated repair bill of $2,838.22—should we decide to follow through with the dealership's recommendation. We haven't done so just yet as we spend a little time determining if there's a more cost-effective—read: less than nearly $3K—way to bring the wheels back to spec. In the meantime, we've rotated the damaged front wheel diagonally to the rear to mitigate the shimmy and limited the V90 to short local jaunts.

The V90 has racked up a healthy 8,131 miles under our car, with design director Darren Scott among the Volvo's biggest fans. Of the design, he said, "It's unmistakably elegant in any car park, with its deep glossy black and chrome trim, muted alloys, and confident dark chestnut leather interior." He also likes that "The usual malignancy of buttons and switches is compiled into a large, noninvasive touchscreen running a beautiful and extensively considered UI, perhaps rivaled only by Tesla." Poetic and uncontested.

On the fuel mileage front, we affected our overall average a touch by running a set of Volvo accessory roof-rack cross rails for a month as an experiment. We noted an average of 20.6 mpg with the rails in place, 0.5 mpg less than what we achieved before it was installed and still within rounding to 21 mpg overall throughout the car's stay. We've removed the rails and will provide another update on this front soon.

We'll close this particular update with some final words from design director Scott: "Our V90 is being asked to run the gantlet, to earn its place in the world. It's putting up a fight, and with some style. 'You are safe with me,' says the Volvo. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more." Hopefully the car's luck improves and it won't need such valor during the remainder of the test.

Our 2019 Volvo V90 T6 Inscription

MILES TO DATE 8,131
GALLONS OF FUEL 394.19
OBSERVED MPG 21
FUEL COST TO DATE $1,580.63
AVERAGE COST/GALLON $4.01
MAINTENANCE None
WARRANTY REPAIRS None
RECALLS AND TSBs None
OUT OF POCKET Windshield replacement, $1,557.42
Dent repair, $150.00
Wheel diagnosis, $210.00
SPECIFICATIONS
AS-TESTED PRICE $70,290
ENGINE 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 316 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 2,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD station wagon
EPA MILEAGE 21/31 mpg (city/highway)
LxWxH 194.3 x 74.0 x 58.1 in
WHEELBASE 115.8 in
WEIGHT 4,248 lb
0-60 MPH 5.8 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 155 mph
OUR OPTIONS Advanced Package, $2,500
20" Inscription wheels, $800
Massaging front seats, $600
Bowers & Wilkins audio, $3,200
Heated steering wheel, $300
115-volt outlet, $150
Rear air suspension, $1,200
Charcoal headliner, $200
Roof load bars, $250
Metallic paint, $645
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