IF a group of 15 year olds take the time to look over a car and then comment on how “cool” it looks then there is a good chance the car in question is either a super-car or the latest hot-hatch. If that car is a Volvo then clearly something has happened at Volvo to wipe away years of “pipe-and-slippers” association.
To be fair, Volvo have been producing stylish cars for a good number of years now and have in their stable the very-cool-indeed XC90 SUV, not to mention the ultra-quick Polestar versions of the S60 and V60.
So, I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the “young adults” when they voiced their admiration for Volvo’s new executive saloon – the Volvo S90.
We were shooting some photos of the car in Marple and I must admit the tranquil, canal-side setting suited the car very well. It is, after all, an effortless cruiser although much more manoeuvrable, refined and a hell of a lot quicker than your average houseboat. It appears to be about the same length though . . .
The S90 and its Estate sibling the V90 are Volvo’s attempt to take on the Germans at their own game when it comes to big, executive saloons that cosset and spoil their be-suited occupants. They come with a choice of two 4-cylinder diesel engines – The D4 with 190 bhp or the D5 with 235 bhp and AWD. If you want to go the hybrid route and also like your eyeballs being pushed to the back of your skull, then there is also the 408 bhp T8 AWD.
I’ve been wafting around in the entry-level Volvo S90 Momentum that has a recommended OTR price of £33,865 which I think is a bit of a bargain.
If your idea of Swedish “entry-level” is a cheap bowl of meatballs on the first-floor of Ikea, then think again because the Volvo S90 Momentum is a Michelin Star offering when it comes to comfort and refinement.
For a start, all models come with a host of equipment you might expect to pay extra for elsewhere – including an excellent 8-speed automatic gearbox with stop/start and Sports mode. They also have leather upholstery, Adaptive Cruise Control, Pilot Assist (up to 80mph), LED headlights and brake lights, Automatic Wipers, Powered Bootlid, Rear Park Assist, 17in alloy wheels, Dual Zone climate control with CleanZone Air Quality System, 8in TFT info Screen, Power Adjusted Driver and Passenger Seats and Heated Front Seats.
And that’s before we get onto the safety and audio/communication systems, the highlights of which are: City Safety with Steer Assist (includes Pedestrian, Cyclist and Large Animal Detection and Front Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake), Oncoming Lane Mitigation, Road Edge Detection, Run-off Road Protection, Speed Limiter, Road Sign Information Display, 9″ Centre Console Portrait Touch Screen with Voice Activated Control for Key Functions, DAB Radio, Bluetooth Hands-free System, Sensus Connect with High Performance Sound, USB/Aux. Input – 10 Speakers, 330W Output.
There is also Sensus Navigation – European Mapping and Traffic Information with Lifetime Annual Map Updates. That’s a heck of a lot for “entry-level” and £33,865. Specify all that equipment on a BMW 5-series or an Audi A6 and your eyes will be watering well-before you reach the end of the list.
There are higher trim levels: the Momentum Pro, R-Design, R-Design Pro, Inscription and Inscription Pro which costs £47,615 OTR with AWD – but why would you bother spending another £14,000? What can you possibly need that the “entry-level” doesn’t have? Okay, maybe AWD if you live on a farm.
So the quality of materials and fitting won’t be up to German rivals then, right?
Wrong. Just like the XC90 – from which Volvo have lifted a lot of the interior including the large portrait infotainment screen – the S90 is a lesson in how to put together a premium cabin. Understated, uncomplicated and refreshing are just 3 of the words that spring to mind along with “rock” and “solid”. If you have any doubts about Volvo wanting their products to last just take a look at the door hinges on the S90. They’re huge.
The Volvo S90 is a large car so no one is getting short-changed when it comes to space. Up front the leather-faced seats are amongst the most comfortable you will ever sit in and are both adjustable for height and lumbar. Visibility is very good, only the thick rear pillars obscuring some visibility behind.
Rear passengers have generous head and leg room although anyone sat in the middle seat has a rather wide transmission tunnel to deal with which won’t be a problem for younger passengers. My car had the optional integrated booster seats fitted to the outermost rear seats. They are very simple to use and an absolute must for those with young children.
The quality of materials used is very good – I would say as good as Audi and BMW and better than in the Jaguar XF.
I loved the “crystal” starting switch on the centre console and the diamond-cut “Drive Mode” selector wheel just behind it. The chunky gear selector falls easily to hand and the centre console feels very uncluttered with no mechanical handbrake to negotiate.
The central, 9in. infotainment screen is clear and responsive but takes a little while to get used to as there are a myriad of sub-menus – which also means you end up with a screen full of fingerprints that jump out at you when the screen is off. I would prefer a touch-wheel like BMW and Mazda employ but it’s no deal-breaker.
A deal-sealer is the quality of ride in the Volvo S90 as it is very good indeed and one of the quietest cars I’ve driven – perhaps only the new Audi A4 beating it for serenity.
The 4-pot diesel engine is a little clattery on start-up and when accelerating hard, but generally is very quiet around town and at motorway speeds too. There is very little road noise and wind noise is virtually non-existent – Volvo have done a fine job of insulating the S90s passengers from extraneous sounds and it all adds to a very comforting and calming ride.
You can specify adaptive dampers with rear air-suspension for the ultimate in ride comfort – but once again, I wouldn’t bother as the S90 handles lumps and bumps so well. For such a large car it handles well but the S90 doesn’t reach the same levels of chuckability that the BMW or Jaguar XF do on twisty roads. The S90 feels flatish through tighter bends with body roll well controlled but there is a hint of understeer that you don’t get on the sportier rivals. Also, the steering itself is a little on the light side for A-road fun.
The Volvo S90 delivers on what it sets out to do though – namely get you and your passengers to their destination safely, without fuss and with reduced stress levels. It really is a bit of a förhandla (that’s Swedish for bargain).
All photographs by Tony Whittle Photography
Volvo S90 D4 Momentum 190
OTR Price: £33,865
Engine: 2.0 diesel
Power: 190 bhp
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
0-62mph: 7.9 secs
Top Speed: 140 mph
Combined Economy: 64.2 mpg