Volvo S90: New breed holds on to classic Volvo-ness

Behind the Wheel-Dark Horse Cars
The Volvo S90 in mussel blue.

2017 Volvo S90 AWD T6 Inscription: A luxurious and smooth new-Swede-in-town?

Price: $65,105 as tested (price for the Inscription trim level is $56,250; Vision Package and Climate Package with HUD added $1,950 each; Convenience Package added $1,000; metallic paint was $560; 20-inch wheels, $750; more below)

Marketer’s pitch: “Elegantly confident. Powerfully simple. The S90 is a feat of design that speaks for itself.”

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver liked the “knee-weakening style, pleasant cabin, efficient and responsive powertrain” but not the “loose-feeling chassis, complex display screens, engine lacks refinement.”

Reality: It’s all that.

Meet the new breed: Volvo — the company that started the yuppiemobile ideal back in the 1980s — hasn’t changed its focus all that much, all these years later.

And that’s a good thing. It’s given us the XC90 crossover, and now the S90 sedan. (Soon, it’s likely to take the focus off the internal-combustion engine, also not a bad thing.)

Like the XC90, the new top-of-the-line sedan from Volvo really shows what Volvo can do.

The outside resembles a Volkswagen Passat or Audi A6, both of which are pretty cars to emulate, in my estimation.

Up to speed: The standard Volvo 2.0-liter four-cylinder gets both supercharged and turbocharged, creating 316 horsepower in the T6 version of the S90. (A less charged, T5 front-wheel-drive version comes at a discount rate.) Acceleration to 60 mph is 5.7 seconds in the T6, according to Volvo.

The S90 could get itself onto highways in quite a hurry. Passing was never a problem. Yet, sedate driving was also comfortable; one didn’t feel the enjoyable experience was lost if not going full tilt.

Shifty: The 8-speed GearTronic shiftable automatic functioned without much notice. In Dynamic mode, shifts were a little more abrupt than I might have liked.

On the curves: Handling was never sporty or exciting, but the S90 moved through winding roads competently. Body roll was a bit of an issue, but this is a giant luxury sedan targeted for comfort. It was — Volvo-y.

Driver’s Seat: Front-row passengers were blessed in comfort. Lumbar, wing, and cushion extender could be adjusted by a knob and buttons by following the interface. All this plus ventilation was thanks to the Inscription trim level.

Speaking of Volvo-y, luxury is the order of the day here. We had burnished walnut trim on the dash and in the console, and silver accents abound.

Camera icon Volvo
New Volvo S90 & V90 interior

Friends and stuff: Legroom was stupendous, reports Sturgis Kid 4.0, but headroom left a little to be desired. Foot room under the seat is a bit of an issue. Humpage for center passengers would also require stupendous balance. But the seats were really comfortable, although the headrest was not up to Genesis standards.

Trunk space was a cavernous 17.7 cubic feet.

Play some tunes: The S90 benefits from the Sensus radio interface pioneered in the XC90. The iPad-like interface offers clear control in its 9-inch screen, and getting from mode to mode was just a simple press or swipe.

The Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound ($2,650) replays your music in various forms, from Gothenburg Concert Hall to Personal Studio. Each mode offers a distinct sonic treat.

The car also had a full 12-V outlet for the rear passengers, a thoughtful touch.

Keeping warm and cool: The HVAC settings only operate through the touchscreen. This becomes a bit of a problem when the car heats up in the sun; the screen responds best to warm hands, and became unresponsive when the inside temperature was close to body temperature.

Smart owners would do well to plan for this when they’re parking in sunny spots. Blast the AC before shutting down so that the setting comes on automatically at start-up.

Controls: I like Volvo’s new silver and black starter knob.

Night shift: Active Bending Headlights (part of the Inscription trim) made driving around curves pretty fun. The interior lights were magnificent.

Fuel economy: I averaged about 25 mpg in a variety of driving experiences. Feed the S90 premium only.

Where it’s built: Gothenburg, Sweden.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports puts its predicted reliability at 2 out of 5, but that’s without data. The 2015 V60, built at the same plant, rates about a 3/5.

In the end: If you’ve got the money, go for it. I would.