Cons: Tamer handling than rivals, touch screen takes getting used to
The S90 is Volvo’s top drawer saloon that has been gaining lots of attention since it was launched in 2016, and it must be said, for all of the right reasons. The Swedish-built S90 blends striking styling with a luxurious cabin, at a price point that is competitive next to rivals like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It will take time to see if the S90 can become a leading choice with Irish executive car buyers, where the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series traditionally reign supreme. Carzone spent a week with the Volvo S90 on Irish roads to see if it can challenge the class leaders in 2017.
What is it like?
The S90 oozes with road presence, thanks to its sleek exterior with large lights, a swooping front grille and a sloping side profile. Volvo has done a great job of making the S90 stand out from the rest of the cars in its class, and while the shaping of the rear end isn’t to everyone’s taste, it’s certainly a handsome-looking car. Our test car is a high specification Inscription model, so it has lots of appealing add-ons, including 20-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels and metallic paint.
Volvo specialises in well-thought out interiors and this is evident in the S90, which has one of the best looking cabins in its class. Leather upholstery is standard on all models, while the dashboard feels high and is clearly laid out with a large touch screen in the centre console which can take a lot of getting used to at first. There is acres of room for driver and passengers to get comfortable in the front seats, with a large amount of adjustment available. It’s a similar story in the rear with plenty of room for passengers, although the sloping roof line reduces head room for taller individuals. Boot space is plentiful at 500-litres, and our high specification test car even has a power-operated tailgate which isn’t needed if truth be told.
Engine choice in the S90 consists of three different diesel engines, all 2.0-litres in size and powered by four cylinders. The entry level D3 offers 150hp and is likely to be the most popular choice with Irish buyers as it is one of the most frugal options, while the D4 version has 190hp. We drove the D5 PowerPulse all-wheel drive which produces 235hp and has a top speed of 233km/h, while it can cover the 0-100km/h sprint in just seven seconds. It’s an impressive engine and belongs out on the motorway at higher speeds where it propels the S90 with ease, while it builds acceleration swiftly around town too. The lower power front-wheel drive versions are more likely to make sense from a running cost point of view, but the D5 is certainly the most fun to drive. There is no choice of a manual gearbox, as all S90s are fitted with a superb automatic transmission which shifts seamlessly.
Volvo traditionally places emphasis on comfort over handling, and that is certainly the case with the S90 which shares its underpinnings with Volvo's large SUV, the XC90. It’s exceptionally comfortable out on the road, making light work of bumpy roads and offering a quiet ride even at higher speeds. Handling isn’t the S90’s strong point and pales in comparison to the new G30 BMW 5 Series, however S90 buyers aren’t likely to worry too much about this if they prefer a comfortable journey. It is possible to switch between three different driving modes via a switch next the gear lever, with Eco, Comfort and Dynamic options. Each mode adjusts acceleration responsiveness and also the stiffness of the suspension if the car has Volvo’s optional air suspension, which our test car had.
We spent most of our time driving the S90 around the midlands, mixing long motorway stints with urban commutes in Dublin. The D5-powered S90 managed around 5.8-litres per 100 kilometres in fuel economy at best (circa 50MPG) which is reasonable considering it is the most powerful version in the range with an all-wheel drive system too. Annual road tax comes in at €270 for the year but the lower power 150hp D3 and 190hp D4 versions both offer better fuel economy return and lower motor tax premiums.
Prices for the new Volvo S90 start from €44,995 which means it undercuts the entry level prices of both the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class Saloon quite significantly. Standard ‘Momentum’ specification in the S90 is definitely strong with Volvo’s City Safety system with pedestrian and large animal detection along with a front collision system warning, lane keeping aid and road sign recognition systems. As mentioned earlier, leather upholstery is standard, along with 17-inch alloy wheels, rear park assist and full LED headlights. Opting for higher specification versions can hike the price quite significantly so it’s worth considering the pros of each model before purchase.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
At last Sweden’s Volvo has a royal flush in the new S90 which lives up to the competition and sets the standard in areas such as comfort and cabin quality. The S90 is a super-looking car and it is likely to appeal to executive buyers seeking something a little different, while its price point and standard specification are among the most competitive in the segment. The S90 isn’t quite as exciting to drive as the new BMW 5 Series, nor available with the extensive choice of engines seen in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but it is a great all-rounder and especially- suited to those who will regularly cover long distances on varied roads.