The Volvo S90 is the big Swede’s first genuinely luxurious large saloon - pushing its remit past the comfortable, safe and spacious, and into refined and good looking. The Swedish executive car drives smoothly and has a very classy cabin. Safety is of course as good as it gets and Volvo’s environmental credentials shine through. The S90 manages to be both cool and eco-aware – just like David Attenborough.
The S90 is the four-door version of its sister car, Volvo’s big V90 estate. Together, they have changed most people’s perceptions of large Volvos.
The unkind might say they’ve showed that they don’t have to look like a pile of boxes. Whatever, this elegant executive class saloon from Sweden is certainly one of the company’s best designs and more than matches its German rivals for road presence and desirability.
Yes, it’s a large car. It manages to disguise that with its sleek classic lines that manage to look modern, purposeful and prestigious all at the same time.
Certainly one of the company’s best designs and more than matches its German rivals.
What’s it like to drive?
The S90 range covers several important bases. There’s both two- and four-wheel drive, and you can find versions with petrol, diesel or petrol/electric hybrid power systems. All models come with a slick changing 8-speed automatic gearbox. There’s no manual gearboxes available.
All those engines are smooth and economical. Volvo’s commitment to environmental concerns means the latest versions now only use the plug-in petrol/electric mix, which is no hardship because it offers a great combination of low emissions, high fuel economy and punchy performance.
The S90 is quiet, comfortable and refined whichever model you choose. Drivers will appreciate the precise, well-weighted steering that makes cornering smooth, safe and rather enjoyable.
S90s with larger 19-inch wheels look sportier, yet have a slightly less comfortable ride. The R-Design has a stiffer suspension, which is again a little less comfy because it is a bit more tuned towards enthusiastic drivers.
The S90 is quiet, comfortable and refined whichever model you choose.
The interior’s stylish Scandi-design is typically modern Volvo style – neat, unfussy and easy to use. It carries over many of the internal successes of the award-winning XC90. That includes using lighter coloured trim than many rivals that, along with the big windows, creates a light and airy ambience.
Some versions are leather-trimmed, others high-quality animal-free substitutes. There are simple panels of wood trim to add a timeless, quality feel. The details all feel beautifully put together and durable.
Volvo seats have always been highly praised and the S90 continues that tradition. These are heated, multi-adjustable and remain comfortable even for the longest journeys. There’s lots of adjustment on the steering column, too, so the driving position can be perfect for all shapes and sizes. Perhaps best of all, it’s a very spacious cabin. There’s plenty of head- and leg-room front and back, making it easy to carry five adults.
The dashboard is dominated by a 9-inch touchscreen that controls most of the car’s functions including the superb infotainment (with DAB and sat-nav) and its sophisticated air-filtration system. There’s a dual-zone climate control system in all models and higher-spec versions add premium details like a head-up display and massaging seats.
All S90s come with digital dashboard instruments and along with that multi-function screen it does away with the need for lots of switches and buttons, creating a clean, uncluttered impression.
The list of safety equipment is both enormous and state-of-the-art. That means you could drive versions with a semi-autonomous driving system like a super-sophisticated cruise control that automatically pilots the car by matching the speed of the vehicle in front. It brakes and regains speed as required.
Other safety details include LED running lights, airbags in all directions and a sophisticated anti-skid system. The large saloon can be slightly intimidating to park so the rear camera and all-round parking sensors are a great help.
The boot is large and some versions come with a powered lid. The cabin itself is full of ingenious cubbyholes for storage, including bottle holders in each door and a big tray between the front seats.
Running costs and reliability
The plug-in hybrid offers the best fuel economy in the range although the official figure of 141mpg may be hard to achieve in the real world. The various diesels aren’t bad for the size and performance of the S90, returning around 44-50mpg. Running costs vary between the various models but expect overall tax, insurance and maintenance to be similar to rivals.
What we love
German brands have dominated the large saloon sector for years. Now, the S90 offers a genuine alternative that matches most rivals on appearance, quality and style. It’s exceptionally safe and built with serious concern for the environment. The cabin is classy, very spacious and provides a relaxed and comfortable place to travel.
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The S90 offers plenty that its German rivals can’t match. Its safety features are among the best in the business and Volvo treat sits environmental responsibilities very seriously. The executive saloon is also a cool, classy machine that looks impressive in the metal and travels in a relaxed and refined manner.
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