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This Volvo V90 R Design Wagon was intended to blend sport and style in the perfect family car. Can a wagon reach such lofty heights of customization?

The Volvo V90 Wagon was introduced by Volvo Cars in 2016 as a mid-size luxury wagon. This particular version is the R-Design - Volvo’s performance trim which offers sportier interior and exterior design. It was the rarity of this model, and his love for wagons, that drew the owner (Erik Johnson of Image Detailing Service) to the vehicle. Ironically, what started as a search for a family car took a turn toward style and sport which belied the original intent.

“I bought the car in May of 2018. I have always loved station wagons and have been looking for a wagon for some time for a family car. I came across this 2018 Volvo V90 R Design Wagon on Instagram before I saw it in person… and I just knew I had to have it!”

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The sleek, clean simplicity of its lines represents the Swedish approach to car design, and was one of the drivers for Erik’s attraction to the vehicle. He was also drawn to its scarcity of representation, which is in stark contrast to the ubiquity of Mercedes-Benz and Audi wagons on the streets of L.A. The aftermarket air-spring suspension system by Slam Specialties helps to refine the sleek, performance-ready appearance of the vehicle’s profile.

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The V90 was purchased with minor cosmetic modifications like black badging, 21” XC90 wheels, and a roof wrapped in gloss black. Initially, Erik thought that it would simply require a bit of lowering and removal of the fender well gap to make it perfect, but he would soon discover that the aftermarket options for newer Volvos were few. Even worse, custom coilovers would require prohibitive amounts of both time and money.

Opting for a custom, air-suspension installation, Erik enlisted the aid of Bobby at Sadistic Iron Werks to help him build the first bagged V90 R Design Wagon. Clearly, they were successful⁠—so successful, in fact, that the vehicle was one of the Golden Ticket winners of the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational at SEMA, where it participated in the autocross portion of the event despite having very few suspension modifications.

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The original gloss black XC90 wheels were replaced with custom 21” 1221 0051AP2X APEX 3.0 wheels wrapped in Toyo Proxes, sized 255/30/21. These wheels are a forged, two-piece offering from 1221 Wheels that save weight through a proprietary 20-bolt construction that halves the normal 40-bolt construction and tips the scales at nearly the weight of a single-piece wheel. Erik credits the air-suspension and the addition of these custom wheels with taking this build to the next level.

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The interior upholstery and dashboard are stock, but this in no way detracts from the overall luxury feel of the V90. The black leather trim, chased with silver accents, lends a touch of high-quality styling to a functional and ergonomic driving environment.

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The R-Design front seats are standard with the sport trim. Both are leather with 8-way power adjustment and heated cushions and seat backs. They strike a balanced compromise between sport and stylish comfort as evidenced by the seamless transition from luxury to autocross that the V90 handled with such grace at SEMA.

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The leather-wrapped steering wheel with metal-look trim is both sturdy and functional, placing everything from the speed-sensitive steering to the system diagnostics and audio volume at the driver’s fingertips. That's as long as those fingertips remain on the wheel. The Pilot Assist feature does not allow drivers to remove their hands from the steering wheel for longer than fifteen seconds however the wagon can speed up, slow down, come to a stop, maintain itself between lane markings and sense road edges with its semi-autonomous driving system.

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The large and prominent 12.3” touchscreen serves as both control center and coordinating design feature, consolidating and drawing attention to the numerous interior design cues. Look for variations on the parallelogram. The easily navigated interface is pleasing to the eye without being overwhelming.

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The crystal/metal-look shifter engages an 8-speed shiftable automatic, hinting at the performance that underscores the R-Design sport package. To the right of the shifter, where the main storage compartment would be, the Accuair e-Level touchpad interface hides in plain sight. The touchpad is perfectly integrated into the interior design theme, poised to adjust the ride height at the touch of a button.

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The sleek rear view mirror, beyond its obvious function, boasts an auto dimming system that detects and eliminates ultra-bright lights, like high beams. This feature is also extended to the side mirrors and is enabled by both forward and rear-facing sensors in the rear view mirror.

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The rear seating of the V90 continues the black leather trim theme with this 60/40 split-bench with rear child seat and armrest with pass-thru. There is plenty of leg, shoulder, and head room for a very comfortable passenger experience. The seats also fold down to provide an excess of load capacity - up to 69 cu. ft. in the stock version.

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This trunk is both clean and functional with side windows and silver-gray upholstery. Even with the ENDO CVT tank co-opting a portion of the trunk space, much of the 19.8 cu. ft. is still available for luggage or groceries. The remaining 50 cu. ft. to be gained by folding the rear seats insures that most cargo needs can be met easily.

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The ENDO CVT tank blends well with the silver-gray of the trunk space. In fact, it could have been installed and left “as is” without the aesthetic suffering. However, this custom-made cover integrates the tank into the build while subtly elevating the aesthetic. Every aspect of this vehicle maintains its integrity with the unifying theme of simplicity as functional beauty - sport and style.   

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This five-gallon, internal compressor, ENDO-CVT tank with four-corner integrated valves and raw aluminum finish has all precision machined aluminum components with a bolted construction that makes it both weld and leak-free. This configuration enables precision air spring control at all four corners of the vehicle which the system can adjust on the fly based on dynamic input.

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Much of what lends the V90 its distinctive look is its low-slung, rakish roofline. The gloss black roof wrap only accentuates these lines while highlighting the rear wing. The subtle downsweep of the rear wing coupled with the integrated roof rack system are complementary while balancing the vehicle’s overall look.    

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The Accuair e-Level system masters form and function throughout this build. The natural lines of this wagon, which signal speed and grace, are only enhanced by this slam and tuck. Again, sport and style - the best of both worlds.

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These stainless steel exhaust tips are perfectly suited to this vehicle. Managing to look aggressive while maintaining the clean functional style that defines this wagon, they are also drawing upon, and mirroring, the series of parallelogram-like structures that can be seen throughout the design of the entire wagon.

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The panoramic, laminated-glass sunroof was a brilliant design upgrade for Volvo. Through sheer size alone, it commands the attention of the passenger, bringing the illusion of even more, light-filled space into the cabin. Sliding or tilting it open (it does both) only enhances this effect. On an even cooler note, an attachment can be added to the sunroof which allows passengers to view eclipses safely without the need for special eyewear.

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The “chrome delete” and gloss black badging of the grill adds another accent of aggressive sportiness. This effect is ratcheted up by the shape and placement of the LED low/high beam headlights. Again, the variations on parallelogram-based shapes is apparent in many of the styling cues.

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The R-Design sport package has the 2.0 liter inline-4 engine powering all four wheels. The Geartronic sequential shift control and 8-speed with overdrive transmission transfers a respectable amount of power to the wheels. Producing 316 hp at 5700 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque from 2,200-5400 rpm, the V90 goes from zero to sixty in 5.5 seconds.

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Erik (pictured here) started with a vision for a simple, clean family wagon. Now, it seems, the V90 has drawn him into another adventure. He plans to continue this build with big brakes, a roof storage box, front and rear diffusers and side rocker enhancements. He promises that he will stick to the simple and clean aesthetic.

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This R Plate digital license plate is far more than it appears to be. If the V90 were stolen, this license plate would display the word “stolen” in lieu of the personalized tag. If the plate is compromised or tampered with, SMS, email and app alerts are issued. It also GPS tracks and logs all trips. The car can even be geofenced so that, if it leaves or enters the designated geographic zones, an alert will be issued.

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This airbagged Volvo V90 R-Design Wagon is the embodiment of sport and style - two things which often appear to be mutually exclusive. It can be very difficult to find harmony between function and aesthetic. Beautiful things often lack functionality and functional things often lack beauty.  However, sometimes magic happens and synergy can arise from seemingly opposing concepts. Lofty heights, indeed.

Story by Avon Bellamy
Photos by Antonio Alvendia

If you enjoyed this Volvo V90, you can find additional Volvo-related content at, as well as more build features like this one, here. If there's anything specific you would like to see, or if you have any questions/comments, leave them in the comments section below.

author image
Written by :
Antonio Alvendia

Antonio Alvendia is an aficionado of cameras, rare wheels, hip hop, and obscure aftermarket car accessories. He bought his first E39 Touring after seeing M5 Estates on photo trips to Europe, and now has sights set on restoring a classic Mercedes. Antonio was a principal photographer on the limited edition hardcover book on Singer Vehicle Design's Porsche 911 builds, entitled One More Than Ten. Future goals include returning to the Nurburgring to shoot the N24 race and driving the Nordschleife again. ••• Instagram : @MOTORMAVENS

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