Volvo’s stunning new saloon offers limousine-style comfort, a range of innovative technologies, all the connectivity capabilities you could wish for and some outstanding new safety features. It also drives very well.
The goodLooks, comfort, safety, connectivity capabilities and handling
The badNot as dynamic as some rivals
Volvo S90 D5 235bhp PowerPulse AWD Inscription
If you want buyers to take you seriously when laying down the gauntlet to the premium marques in the executive field then your car has to stand out from the crowd and have some unique selling points – the latest Volvo saloon certainly ticks those boxes.
Volvo firmly believes that its all-new luxury saloon, the S90, is the company’s best challenger yet to the German dominance in the executive sector and the only way to test such a bold statement was to take the car on a two-week road trip – after all cars in this segment will be expected to eat up the motorway miles for fun.
So with that in mind I set off from my home in Cardiff and headed due west as far as I could go to Fishguard. From there it was three-and-a-half hours on a Stena ferry to Ireland and with the captain warning of gale force winds and heavy swells I was praying that my just-shy-of £50k Volvo with just 615 miles on the clock was coping okay on a much lower deck.
Thankfully my concerns were unwarranted and when we arrived safely at Rosslare harbour, the car was unscathed and my road trip was ready to begin in earnest.
We had a planned route that would take us diagonally across Southern Ireland to Galway and then all the way down the west and southern coastline which is otherwise known as the Wild Atlantic Way.
It was a journey that would see the mileage trip top the 1,480-mile mark and it gave me the opportunity to test out the sporty saloon in all sorts of driving conditions on a multitude of roads.
The test car was the S90 D5 PowerPulse AWD in range-topping Inscription trim. It carried a £42,455 price-tag that increased to £49,880 with options fitted and it was powered by a 2.0-litre 235bhp diesel engine mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox. It could reach 62mph from a standstill in a very swift 7.0 seconds, topped out at 145mph and could deliver combined fuel economy of 58.9mpg with carbon emissions of 127g/km.
Planning for a trip to Ireland is not as easy as it sounds especially during March with its unpredictable weather patterns, so you can imagine my joy when I opened the S90 boot and realised luggage limitations need not apply. In fact, it easily swallowed up coats, walking boots, bags, wet weather gear and clothes to suit all seasons, along with laptops, chargers, maps, books and a list that goes on and on. The official capacity is 500 litres by the way.
Up front there is plenty of room to stretch out in seats that are electrically adjustable and the extra storage facilities include a glovebox, practically-sized door pockets, cup holders, a deep central bin, convenient nets to keep sweets and maps secure, plus a couple of handy trays.
There’s a wealth of on-board technology to explore but one of the first tasks was switching the speedo readouts from miles to kilometres. The nine-inch portrait touchscreen is simple to access and the necessary adjustments were completed in less than a minute (without even opening the handbook).
We did experience a slight issue whereby the sat nav seemed to take a couple of days to find our location and the tyre pressure monitor sent out a couple of inaccurate warning messages, but both of these blips could easily be pinned down to almost four hours enduring storm conditions on the Irish Sea.
However, all the other systems were operating perfectly and once the sat nav lady had caught us up, the planned routes were easily mapped out for us. With regards to the navigation system, I particularly liked the way street names or points of interest could be searched for without going through the laborious task of typing in the country, county, city, town, street, inside leg measurement etc. It was a simple case of tapping in the attraction and the directions came up instantly.
We spent hours driving each and every day so comfort was a vital factor and the S90 didn’t disappoint. The seat heaters and a steering wheel heater warmed up instantly and the leather upholstery looks and feels very premium with elegant design touches throughout the car that give it a truly upmarket appearance.
As well as all the modern connectivity systems and state-of-the-art technology the vehicle featured some excellent safety systems as one would expect from a car wearing the Volvo badge. For example, it boasts city safety which includes pedestrian, cyclist and animal detection along with front collision warning with fully automatic emergency braking. The S90 also comes equipped with Volvo’s Pilot Assist and adaptive cruise control system. This semi-autonomous driving technology assists with the steering up to 80mph taking control of the acceleration and braking to keep the car within the lane markings.
The Pilot Assist system is a fantastic advancement for motorway driving, but the majority of my route incorporated twisting clifftop roads, sweeping country lanes and even a couple of mountain passes and its those roads where the concept of autonomous cars couldn’t be further from my thoughts.
We were blessed with fabulous weather throughout most of the trip and although the all-wheel-drive was reassuring when crossing a below-zero Conor pass with some mist and sleet in the air, virtually the entire route showed off the S90’s agility and comfort as it cruised along with absolute ease.
The all-round visibility was excellent and at no time did I tire of driving the car – even after a long journey of up to six hours behind the wheel. The road-holding was confident and assured with very precise steering and the cabin remained beautifully insulated against any outside noise. That said; the Irish roads are in a far superior condition to the ones throughout England and Wales with few very potholes to watch out for.
To compete against the likes of Mercedes, BMW, and Audi in the executive sector a car needs to have all the right qualities to attract die-hard fans away from the German brands, and after two weeks behind the wheel I can honestly say the S90 is a very worthy rival.
It looks fabulous, is packed with technology, it’s practical, comfortable and delivers outstanding driving dynamics. It is even competitively priced, so it would be fair to say Volvo has every reason to be excited about its S90 saloon.
Volvo S90 – first drive (2016)
Volvo has thrown down the gauntlet to the premium German marques with the launch of its all-new super-sleek saloon car that does a very good impression of a swanky limousine with all the bells and whistles.
It’s called the S90 and replaces the somewhat dated S80, and with prices starting from £32,555, a choice of powerful and economical engines and richly-equipped trim levels, the car is guaranteed to gain plenty of attention.
The S90 is available in two spec grades called Momentum and Inscription and, at present, is powered by a pair of 2.0-litre diesel-driven, four-cylinder engines – the D4 190bhp and the D5 235bhp. Both engines are mated to 8-speed automatic gearboxes. A T8 twin engine plug-in hybrid model will be introduced a little later on as will a sporty R-Design version.
The stylish saloon looks fabulously smart from any angle thanks to its beautifully streamlined curves, smart alloys, distinctive upright grille housing the company emblem and Volvo’s iconic Thor-hammer headlights.
Move inside and the interior has premium build quality written all over it with natural leather upholstery as standard, along with smart wooden inlays, soft-touch materials and plenty of light flooding the cabin from every angle to help give the vehicle a true Scandinavian feel.
There is a wealth of on-board technology to be explored as all models are lavishly equipped with the likes of Sensus Connect and Navigation systems with full European mapping, a 9-inch centre console touchscreen with zoom and swipe functions along with voice control, two-zone climate control, heated seats and a raft of safety features.
And it’s always worth remembering that Volvo is a name that is synonymous with safety. The S90 shares the same platform as the latest XC90 which was deemed the safest car ever tested by Euro NCAP. But the S90 boasts even more technology to make buyers sit up and take note.
There is a camera and radar system that scans the road ahead for objects and can now detect large animals such as deer. Then there is the run off road function which steers the car back on track if the system detects you are moving too close to the edge of the road. Finally the Pilot Assist which is a giant step towards semi-autonomous driving. This system is ideal for motorway driving and will keep you in the correct lane whilst watching out for any hazards. You still have to keep your hands on the steering wheel every few seconds, but the system works at speeds up to 80mph and no longer needs a lead vehicle to focus on.
The front-wheel-drive D4 model is expected to account for about 70 per cent of sales, so it was that particular car in top-of-the-range Inscription style that we tested out on a variety of roads around the Berkshire countryside.
This car was priced at £35,555, increased to £41,530 with options such as a winter pack, a powered glass sunroof and park assist added. And being an Inscription version, the likes of Nappa soft leather upholstery, powered seats, hands-free boot lid/tailgate opening and closing, plus multi-colour interior theatre lighting were included.
The test car can reach 62mph from a standing start in 8.2 seconds, tops out at 140mph, delivers combined fuel economy of 64.2mpg and has carbon emissions of 116g/km.
The saloon is a real looker thanks to its neatly proportioned dimensions. It looks impressive from any approach and has performance capabilities to match its appearance. Whilst Volvo admits it has no intention of taking on the German marques in the driving dynamics stakes, it believes it has the upper hand when it comes to the finer things in life such as comfort, control and confidence. And the S90 is the perfect example of this theory.
It handles elegantly and smoothly at all times and delivers all the power you could wish for, yet it remains perfectly refined no matter how hard it is pushed. The acceleration through the gears is both smooth and responsive and the road holding nicely assured. It simply goes about its business without any fuss and nonsense or the need to show off which is a quality in itself.
There is a Drive Mode feature that allows you to adjust the car’s handling and dynamics with choice of Eco, Comfort or Dynamic to select from. Eco will help maximise fuel efficiency, whilst the Dynamic mode sharpens up responses and increases the performance and fun factor.
Since 2010, Volvo has been owned by the Chinese company Geely Holding Group. It was seen as a fresh beginning for the Scandinavian brand and the all-new S90 is a clear indication that the Volvo name has been reinvented. It still features all the safety specifications we have come to expect, but add in premium styling, pioneering connectivity capabilities, sublime comfort, practicality and plenty of innovative technology and it soon becomes clear the company is evolving at a rapid pace.