Old-line Volvos were driven by school teachers and “sensible” folks who felt Volvos were the safest cars around. Asked if he would ever buy a car, consumer advocate Ralph Nader reportedly said years ago that he might consider a Volvo.
However, observers of the auto scene have seen Volvos become progressively upscale and more expensive in recent years. Old-line Volvos once sold on the basis of safety, but other automakers have caught up in that regard.
I owned the first Volvo sold in America, the mid-1950s PV444 two-door sedan with twin carburetors and a floor-mounted stick shift. It never let me down, although it was a used car that looked much like a late 1940s Ford. The PV444 – followed in 1958 by the similar, updated PV544 – beat sports cars in road races.
The 1958-65 PV544 was the first Volvo to have any impact on the U.S. market. (Never mind the handful of Volvo sports cars that came and went in the blink of an eye in the early 1950s. Bet you never knew they existed.)
Then, despite its somewhat sporting nature, most family class Volvos got stodgy. One exception was the uniquely styled, low-volume, moderately fast P1800 sports coupe sold here from the early 1960s to the early 1970s. Look closely and you’ll see that the S90’s grille sort of resembles the now-collectible P1800’s grille.
The S90 is the best-looking Volvo ever sold. Never mind that it lacks a long hood found on many near-luxury sedans, because its got such things as a low roofline, steeply raked windshield and nicely developed side body panel surfacing. Even the deftly styled horizontally shaped dual exhaust outlets tip you off that this is no family sled.
The S90 really doesn’t need a long hood, because it’s got a sideways-mounted 2-liter four-cylinder engine.
However, thanks to a turbocharger, the small, sophisticated engine develops 250 horsepower in the entry front-drive S90 T5 model. The higher-line all-wheel-drive (AWD) T9 model has both a supercharger and turbocharger that let it produce 316 horsepower. A 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds is pretty good for a four-cylinder car that tops 4,000 pounds.
It’s a neat setup. The supercharger provides immediate responsiveness at lower speeds, while the turbo does most of the work above 3,500 rpm The setup works seamlessly.
Both engines are hooked to a smooth, efficient eight-speed automatic transmission, which has a sharp manual-shift feature and enough gears to get the most from the small engine.
A driver can choose comfort (for everyday driving), eco (for maximum economy) and sport modes for aggressive driving on such things as twisting roads.
Estimated fuel economy of the supercharged/turbocharged T6 AWD is 22 city and 31 highway. The T5 delivers a few more city/highway estimated miles per gallon.
There are two T5 models and two T6 models. List prices for the S90 T5 model start at $46,950. Prices for the T6 AWD models ends at $55,450. The sticker price of my S90 T6 AWD model said $52,950, but options bumped the bottom line to $66,105.
My test car’s quiet interior was well-equipped with the usual standard luxury sedan features and was upscale in a subdued Scandinavian manner.
The backlit gauges could be quickly read, and the dashboard wasn’t cluttered with buttons because a 9-inch LCD screen controls instrument panel functions such as the navigation, climate-control and sound systems.
A heads-up windshield display handily shows both the car’s speed and posted speed limits. But the outside rearview mirrors partially block forward vision, especially when turning around corners.
Steering is quick, but needs more rod feel. The ride is supple, braking is good and handling is very secure. This isn’t a sports sedan because it’s meant to be a responsive luxury car.
Front seats offer superb support and would be at home in a fast sports sedan. Rear seats also are nicely shaped for comfort and grip. The backseat area is roomy, but the center section is too stiff for comfort on anything but short trips. Use the large fold-down armrest back there in the middle.
The trunk is spacious, but a long stretch will be needed to fetch cargo at its far end.
The S90 is a definite contender. Volvo fans likely will love it. Volvo hopes others also will find it compelling because it’s part of the automaker’s strategy to continue moving upward.
On the TFLcar scale of:
- Buy It,
- Lease It,
- Rent It,
- or Forget It,
The 2017 Volvo S90 gets a Lease It!