Volvo has rightfully earned its reputation as a builder of safe, comfortable, reliable cars. Occasionally those cars have some real punch, too. The new flagship S90 furthers that reputation, and it's easy enough to add the punch if desired.
The S90 builds upon the luxury found in the outgoing, long-in-the-tooth S80, but it draws many styling cues from the Concept Coupe of 2013. As such, with the exception of its subtle, familiar Volvo "shoulder" line, it departs from recent Volvo styling with its slightly concave grille, which sits between LED headlights. The heavily raked windshield and back glass frame a low roofline. Overall, it is an elegant, flowing look that suits the car's dimensions.
Two trims are offered -- S90 Momentum and S90 Inscription -- and each is available in either T5 front-wheel drive or T6 all-wheel drive configuration. The differences are greater than simply which wheels are powered, however. T5 models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four, which produces 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. T6 models benefit from a 2.0L four that is "twin-charged," with both a supercharger and turbocharger. The combination is good for 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet, and it means that turbo lag is almost non-existent, with the supercharger spooling from low in the rev range and the turbo taking over higher up. All S90s utilize an 8-speed automatic transmission, and all are equipped with ECO+ automatic stop/start functionality. Adjustable drive modes include Comfort, Eco, Dynamic, Off Road and Individual, and allow drivers to customize responsiveness of the S90's engine, transmission and optional air suspension.
No matter the powerplant and drive configuration, Momentum models offer 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome-tipped dual exhaust, leather upholstery and trim, aluminum sills, power adjustable front seating with 4-way lumbar support, 2-zone electronic climate control, a power sunroof, adaptive cruise control, park assist, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and HD radio.
Inscription models differ with 19-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights and "Thor's Hammer" running lights, and headlight washers. Upgrades inside include soft Napa leather with heated and cooled front seats, walnut inlays, a leather-clad dash, 4-zone climate control with a cooled glovebox and a 12.3-inch digital display.
Popular packages on the S90 include the Vision Package, with auto-dimming mirrors, blind spot information with cross-traffic alert, and visual park assist with "fisheye" view in the front. A Climate Package brings heat to the front and rear seats, steering wheel, windshield washer nozzles, and windshield. The Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound System adds upgraded audio with a 12-channel amplifier, 1,400-watt output, and 19 speakers.
Standalone options include a graphical head-up display with driver information, as well as air suspension, which automatically adjusts the rear height to account for load. The system also adapts on the fly to changing road conditions.
Safety has not been overlooked in the newest Volvo. In addition to anti-lock braking and stability and traction controls, a bevy of air bags fill the cabin. Advanced standard safety features include front collision mitigation with emergency braking, lane keeping assist, pedestrian/cyclist/animal detection, and OnCall telematics, which can remotely unlock or start the car and notify first responders in an emergency. Additionally, Pilot Assist pairs semi-autonomous self-steering, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control to allow the S90 to drive itself with minimal driver input in certain scenarios.
The Volvo S90 is a smart-looking and super compelling midsize luxury car. Even with attention-getting gaudiness at a minimum, the S90 is still one of the most seductive sedans on the market. It's also incredibly comfortable and relaxing to drive.
You'd think that its fastest and (potentially) most fuel-efficient T8 variant would be the ultimate S90, but I'm not so sure. After a week with the top-tier S90, I think a less-is-more approach might be best if you're considering filling your garage with this salient Swede.
The S90 T8 plug-in hybrid is talented at jolting you back into your seat. With 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque, the nearly 4,600-pound sedan can scoot to 60 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds. On its own, the turbocharged and supercharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine is great at delivering off-the-line torque, but is a little more lively thanks to the 87-horsepower electric motor mounted at the rear axle. All that instant, electric power is especially useful if you need to dart ahead of traffic to make a lane change after the signal turns green.
The Good Gorgeous looks inside and out make this midsize luxury sedan stand proud among strong competitors.
The Bad The poor brake modulation of the T8 model is a deal-breaker.
The Bottom Line The S90 is one of the best ways to turn heads without appearing as though you're trying too hard.
It's hauled our gear, amused (and frustrated) our staff and proven to be thriftier than expected. Our long-term Swede has been anything but dull.
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