I have to say Volvo have nailed it with the new S90, totally nailed it inside and out, from the ground, up nailed it. The new S90 is like a burst of interstellar cosmic rays transmitting positively charged particles merely by standing still. Since Ford off-loaded Volvo from its product brand portfolio in 2010 to Chinese automaker Geely the company was effectively set free from its incarceration after over a decade of being chained to Ford’s corporate egotism and return on investment culture.
Today Volvo is in rude health selling more cars and making more profits because people are buying more of their cars because they are more in demand, it really is that simple. And when a product is in demand its usually as a result of said product offering something unique that can’t be defined by advertising campaigns alone.
The S90 replaces the venerable S80 and is not merely giant leap over its predecessor it’s as if the two cars were created in a alternative universe. The S90’s exterior design is balanced and proportioned with neat edges merging into soft creases, it’s a saloon with a coupe form factor twist.
The interior carries over styling elements from the XC90, so you get that big touchscreen infotainment system unit which houses many of the primary and secondary controls. More importantly the whole interior environment is as trendy as the outside it’s also comfortable, spacious, well built, modern, simple clearly taking tips from Scandinavian design heritage.
Entry level S90 ownership starts at £32k, with three model variants to choose from Momentum, Inscription and R-Design the latter two starting from £35k. A Leather interior is standard and so is hardware like the 8-speed auto transmission. All models get adaptive cruise control autonomous braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection as standard.
For the UK market Volvo offers the S90 either as FWD or AWD with the 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine available in two power variants. D4, 190bhp, 400Nm or the D5, 232bhp, 480Nm. The T8 petrol hybrid as used in the XC90 will eventually filter it’s way into the model range. Volvo currently does not offer any S90’s with a standalone petrol for UK punters just yet.
Your S90 will come loaded with a generous amount of standard kit, as per usual press cars are always stacked to the hilt with every conceivable optional extra. So the entry level D4 Momentum came loaded with extras like a heated steering wheel, heated front seats and the latest semi-autonomous self-driving function (Auto Pilot) on top of a cache of driver safety features like lane departure, blind spot indicator.
The interior’s simplicity is matched by the complexity of the 9 inch infotainment touchscreen system where most of the primary functions for the heating controls, Sat-Nav, DAB radio etc are housed. Actually it isn’t that difficult to grasp, if you can use an iPad you can use the Volvo’s ”Touch Sensus” system without any issues because it is intuitively easy to operate. Complexity? what complexity.
Interior space, front and rear, is the biggest in it’s class, slightly ahead of the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6. However the rear boot capacity of 500-litres is slightly down on it’s key rivals, the rear seats do fold down flat to reveal a fairly large vertical load space although the rear bulk head behind the passenger seats does restrict the height and width of whatever it is you care to transport.
With 190bhp to play with the D4 offered plenty of power from the low end of the torque spectrum but especially so from the mid range. The engine is modestly quiet in the low to mid rev range and it barley penetrates the cabin when at cruising speed. The gear shifts from the 8-speed auto were smooth and unruffled and made for easy accessibility of power and the combined economy of 48mpg is plenty good enough for most.
Like the XC90 the new S90 has a three stage driver mode system Eco, Standard and Sport. Selecting between the three increases the engine revs, sharpens the steering and relays a quicker gear shift pattern. I left it in Sports mode all the times because it gives you that extra bit of zip and acceleration off the line.
While the old S80 had sloppy handling, the new S90 feels like a featherweight boxer by comparison, it’s more agile through the corners, change of direction is lightyears ahead and there is minimal body roll when cornering at pace. While the steering feedback doesn’t offer the best of times you won’t gripe about the levels of grip on offer. The S90 in D4 Momentum trim is neatly balanced all round.
I must admit while the handling is typical of a modern day car I actually preferred the ride of the S80. Don’t get me wrong the S80 was sloppy, the gear changes from the automatic was worse then a differed student loan and it was like trying to navigate a ship around a supermarket car park. But the S80 had Mercedes S Class rivalling ride comfort, in my opinion better.
The S90 ‘s standard setup ventures slightly into the firm territory however it is available with optional air suspension so if ride comfort is more valuable to you over handling then you might want to consider the latter… If you have a spare £2k lying around. However the R-Design models usually always offer best compromise between ride and handling in one package.
So why should you go for a Volvo S90 over a BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 or Mercedes E Class? You know what I really can’t think any reason as to why you should or shouldn’t. It’s your choice. The 5 Series will offer the better engine and handling. But it looks boring.
The Mercedes is all about the prestige, the three-pointed star and that over the top expensive looking but cheap feeling interior and lbland exterior. The Audi A6 is the quiet assassin dressed in a expensive suit but sadly these days driven by crack heads. So it comes down to personal preferences, me? I would definitely go for the S90 because because it’s different without being different.