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(Pocket-lint) - Volvo is on a roll. The Swedish company has come out of the shadows of the dowdy, safe image it once had and is managing to out-cool the established German brands with some very handsome new car designs which are awash with tech.

Nothing we're going to write about this new V90 estate changes that. The V90 follows the XC90 SUV we were so impressed with at the turn of the year, and is the sister car to the S90 saloon - together they are Volvo's rival to the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5-Series and Audi A6.

So while Volvo might be on a roll with its design (we think the V90 is pretty sharp looking for a big wagon), that German competition is pretty stellar in all regards. So why might the Swede make you look in its direction?

Volvo V90 D5 Inscription review: No German grunt

On tech specs alone, if you're a keen driver then the V90 gets off to a disadvantage: there are no 6-cyclinder engines, it's front-wheel drive based (although this D5 Inscription version drives all four wheels) and together that means it's unlikely to be a driver's delight in the mould of the 5-Series.

However, spec sheets and reality are two separate stories, and out on the road the V90 aquits itself well. No doubt helped by our test car's adaptive suspension, which keeps the ride from getting too pogo-like.

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Mated to the 235hp D5 variant of Volvo's 4-cylinder diesel, and running through an 8-speed autobox, the V90 D5 gets off the line sharply, runs the 0-60 benchmark in just over 7-seconds and generally feels swift and relaxed.

It doesn't suffer from the same issues of mass as the XC90 - which we felt struggled slightly with this engine. But nor is it "OMG-fast" like a BMW 535d. In fact, that's not the Volvo's style at all. And we quite like it - this is a machine for wafting, for crushing big mileages and for being comfortable, non-stressed and happy.

Volvo V90 D5 Inscription review: Superior interior

It's in that slightly innocuous last line that you'll find the Volvo's raison d'etre compared to its rivals: it's not a thrusting, dynamic, all-black machine. It's more like a calm, Swedish lounge - a place to feel comfortable, relaxed, share a conversation and shut out the world beyond you as you while away the miles.

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We suspect a V90 interior is capable of lowering your heartrate. And with its sumptuous leather, beautiful hunks of sectioned blonde wood, with gloss black and crystal details it's a frankly lovely place to sit. Quiet, comfortable, easy to use and not intimidating. It's simply a great interior.

The tech suite is the same as we found in the XC90. It features a 9-inch "sensus" portrait centre touchscreen, a 12-inch TFT driver display and - in this D5 Inscription model - a bundled-in Bowers and Wilkins sound system that will rush you for another £3,000.

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And as with the XC90, this system is largely easy to use - certainly one of the better in-car touch setups - but is frustratingly 15-percent away from being great, with it's slightly unfinished, wire-framey on-screen graphics and a lack of customisability within the driver cluster. Still, what is there is pretty easy to use - although making Apple Carplay and two USB ports a £300 extra is frankly a little tight on a £50k car.

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Volvo also showed off its new Sensus app to go with the car - which allows you to find it, check fuel level, service needs and honk the horn/unlock the door from your smartphone or tablet. It was neatly done and easy to use, but we'll need to spend a bit more time with one to understand if it's truly useful.

Volvo V90 review: Not a bad seat in the car

What is useful is the space on offer. The V90 has caused a stir among the Volvo cognoscenti - because it's a Volvo estate which ditches the upright rear screen and tailgate, causing antique dealers to mourn a loss of space.

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For everyone else, there's still so much space in the boot that you'll lose children and enough legroom in the back for you to act as airport chauffeur with ease. Volvo has also pulled out the stops with clever functional extra such as pull-up board, straps and buttons to drop the seats which are all integrated into the load bay. In sum total, whether you're the driver or the labrador in the boot, we don't think there's a bad seat in the new V90.

First Impressions

If you're looking for an alternative to the German brands then the Volvo V90 (and it's saloon sister the S90) now offer a genuine alternative you don't need to make excuses for.

However, it doesn't wow us with technical "fazination" (as the Germans would say), whereas a car like the Mercedes E-Class does.

But as a home for the successful executive with motorway miles to cover, late night runs back from the airport where you simply want looking after, and a large family at home, a V90 would fit into life arguably better than some of its rivals.

Writing by Joe Simpson. Originally published on 7 October 2016.