With premium crossovers now all the rage, the market for large luxury sedans is a fraction of what it used to be. From a design standpoint, it’s really quite tragic, as the elegant land yachts of yore are replaced by one bland looking tall wagon after another. Luckily, someone must have forgotten to tell Volvo, as it’s new S90 flagship sedan is a stunningly modern interpretation of a rather old style of car.
Where Volvo really hit it out of the park with the S90 is its design, both inside and out. Compared to the uninspiring S80 that came before, the S90 is a distinct, bold, and entirely new design, yet still, manages to be unmistakably Volvo. It’s easily one of the most cohesive and handsome mid-size sedans being sold today.
While this is a review of the 2017 model year, we discovered that the 2018 models with the lengthened wheelbase are available now. Basically, Volvo extended the wheelbase on the 2018 models and created an additional 4.5 inches of class leading legroom. If you typically find cabins in mid-size sedans short on legroom, then we suggest looking at the 2018 MY. A short list of what is new for 2018 is called out below.
Whichever model year fits your stature, the S90 is also unique in that it’s one of the only large luxury sedans that doesn’t try and pretend it’s a sports car. There is almost nothing in the driving experience that makes you want to flog it down some twisty back road — although it probably wouldn’t disappoint too much if you tried. Everything from the suspension to the steering is geared more towards comfort than performance, the benefit of which is a smooth and luxurious ride. Given that this is usually what you’d buy a large luxury sedan for, we’d say it’s a smart choice, especially with most other cars in this segment becoming oddly schizophrenic in their intended purpose.
Despite this old-school approach to luxury, the S90 has a surprisingly modern powertrain that takes downsizing to a new extreme. Like the XC90 crossover, there are three engine options, all based on a small 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. The base T5 powertrain features a 250 horsepower version that is merely turbocharged, while the engine in the T6 is both supercharged and turbocharged for an impressive 316 horsepower. And then there’s the plug-in hybrid T8 that adds a 65 kW electric motor to the same engine as the T6, for 400 combined horsepower. All three engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Our test car came equipped in top level Inscription trim with the T6 powertrain and AWD, which starts at around $56k. Add a few options, such as a superb Bowers & Wilkins audio system and look-at-me 20-inch wheels, and you’ll easily cross over $60k, although when compared to a comparably equipped 5 Series BMW or Mercedes E Class this is a relative bargain.
Despite the more relaxed suspension, it takes some practice to learn how to drive the S90 smoothly. The auto start/stop feature is rather abrupt, the brakes engage too quickly, and the prodigious low-end torque kicks in with almost too much authority unless you really feather the gas — especially when downshifting. Acceleration is plenty strong, but there is a lot of mass to shuttle down the road and the powertrain lacks the finesse you’d expect in such a stately sedan.
Comfort and Convenience
Fortunately, the well-appointed interior of the S90 helps make up for the somewhat unrefined powertrain, featuring the kind of subdued luxury and posh contemporary design that Volvo is known for. The cabin is a welcome alternative to the business-like attitude of the German sedans. Ergonomics are excellent, with soft touch points and a quality look/feel that easily bests cars costing substantially more.
Volvo has also upped the ante when it comes to technology, with a large center infotainment screen that features a user interface that has to be one of the best in the industry, although response time could be a bit quicker. Safety technology is also cutting edge, with all models of the S90 equipped with Volvo’s Pilot Assist II semi-autonomous driving technology. Utilizing the radar from the adaptive cruise control along with the cameras from the lane-keeping assist, Pilot Assist helps guide the car down the road with minimal input from the driver.
The fact that such a system is now standard on a car that can be bought for less than $50k is impressive, but unfortunately, the technology still needs work. On anything but a straight section of freeway, the Pilot Assist drives like a drunken sailor and does a poor job keeping the S90 in the lane in shallow turns, even with a solid lane marker. Although this technology is sure to get better over the next few years, for now, we’re keeping our hands firmly on the wheel.
|2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription|
|Price as tested||$66,105|
|Engine||In-line 4-cylinder, supercharged and turbocharged 2.0L|
|Power (hp)||316 @ 5700 rpm|
|Torque (lb-ft)||295 @ 2200-5400 rpm|
|Drivetrain layout||all-wheel drive|
|Curb weight||4,222 lbs|
|EPA-estimated fuel economy mpg||22 / 31 / 24 (city/hwy/observed)|
New for 2018
The 2018 Volvo S90 is close to reaching dealerships. Here is what is new for 2018:
- Standard longer wheelbase, which adds 4.5 inches of legroom
- Standard panoramic sunroof and completely redesigned back seat are included with the S90 T8 (400 horsepower twin-engine plug-in electric hybrid)
- Updated Sensus Connect Touchscreen interface
- Oncoming Lane Mitigation
- BLIS with steering assist
- Updated City Safety
Prices for the 2018 S90 T5 Momentum start at $48,100 plus $995 destination charge. The S90 T6 has a base price of $54,100 and the T8 Twin Engine Plug-in Electric Hybrid starts at $63,650 plus destination fees.
Roman and Nathan has already spent some quality time with Volvo’s flagship sedan. Do they love it or hate it? Watch the video below to find out.