Volvo S90

Luxurious executive saloon is a worthy alternative to German rivals

7.9
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 10 reviews
  • Advanced safety features
  • Powerful D5 diesel
  • Luxurious interior
  • Large wheels reduce comfort
  • Not the sportiest drive
  • Boot capacity lags behind best
 

£32,955 - £42,455 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

58 - 64 MPG

Review

The Volvo S90 proves you can have a fantastic executive saloon that’s not made in Germany. The big Swede is a safe and relaxing alternative to the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Audi A6.

It is immediately obvious that Volvo wants to offer something different when you open the driver’s door and take a peek inside. There’s nothing overtly sporty about the S90’s high-quality finish and armchair-like seats, instead Volvo has focused on offering huge levels of comfort – something the old S80 (the S90’s predecessor) did rather well.

Faced with a long motorway journey, few cars are better prepared than the S90 – its seats are hugely comfortable, its ride composed at speed and noise suppression is very good, although just short of Mercedes E-Class levels. The S90 steers and stops with confidence, but the Jaguar XF is still the driver’s choice in the class.

The engine range is extremely straightforward, so buyers get a choice of 188hp D4 and 232hp D5 diesels, along with the clever petrol-electric hybrid fitted to the 402hp T8 that will join the range in the near future. Whichever of those models you choose, official fuel economy shouldn’t drop significantly below 60mpg. All come with eight-speed automatic gearboxes and four-wheel drive is an option too.

In keeping with nearly every Volvo that’s ever left the factory the S90 is super safe. It pioneers a new automatic braking system that can detect large animals (deer, dinosaur and the like) on the road. That’ll join a huge list of features seen elsewhere in the firm’s range, including an autonomous driving system that works up to speeds of 80mph.

If this sounds like your ideal car, make sure you get one in the perfect colour by reading our complete Volvo S90 colours guide with individual images and prices for each shade or read our Volvo S90 sizes and dimensions guide to see if it’s the right size for you. If you’d prefer a slinky two-door coupe, check out Volvo’s upcoming C90 Coupe.

Volvo’s already set a benchmark with the interior of the XC90, so it makes sense to give the S90 a similar design. Where a BMW would use carbon-fibre-look trim, there’s an altogether more natural feel to the S90 thanks to the acres of wood, cold-to-the-touch metal and soft leather. It’s a handsome, premium interior and the soft plastics breeze through the carwow flick test.

Volvo S90 infotainment

All S90 models come with a nine-inch touchscreen that’s positioned in portrait mode, so if you can operate an iPad, you can operate the Volvo’s Sensus system just as easily. The screen itself is quick to respond and has sharp graphics. The sat-nav itself is very good at avoiding congestion and providing you with a realistic estimated arrival time, unlike some systems which optimistically assume you’re the only car on the road.

The S90’s standard 330-watt sound system is so good that the £3,000 optional Bowers & Wilkin stereo seems redundant, and if you want to mirror your iPhone’s screen or connect your music library then you’ll want the £300 Apple CarPlay option. The screen mirroring works well, only taking up half the screen, letting you operate the climate controls easily. Android Auto compatibility will follow soon.

Volvo S90 passenger space

Seat comfort is a Volvo speciality (the ones fitted to the S80 could cure back ache rather than cause it) and the S90’s chairs do nothing to diminish this reputation. They even have a hidden easter egg in the form of a small Swedish flag sewn into the sides – such attention to detail used to be reserved for a Rolls-Royce, rather than regular saloons.

Although not as good at carrying three adults in the back as the Mercedes E-Class, the footwells are big so there’s somewhere for everyone to put their feet. There’s space for four 6”2’ adults with room to spare for knees and heads.

Volvo S90 storage space

Storage space is good too, and all four doors get large pockets that can each accommodate a 2-litre bottle of water. There’s also a large storage area in the centre console that comes with two USB ports to charge your devices and there are numerous cup holders, too. The glovebox isn’t the biggest in class, but is big enough for the car’s manual, or another 2-litre bottle.

Volvo S90 boot space

The boot releases electrically and opens up a 500-litre space, which is about what you would expect for the class – it’s close as makes little difference to matching the Audi A6 (530 litres), BMW 5 Series (520 litres) and Mercedes E-Class (540 litres). It can swallow a TV box, two large boxes and a pair of small boxes with room leftover for a couple of soft bags.

Fun handling was never a priority for the S90. Driven at a steady pace, it does little to annoy, but press on and you can feel the car isn’t really enjoying it. There are still huge reserves of grip and the steering, although devoid of any feel, is direct enough keep the car composed if you’re late for that all-important meeting. However, you don’t get the same enjoyment from it as you would a BMW 5 Series or Jaguar XF.

Dial the speed back to Volvo levels and the S90 absolutely shines as a relaxing means of transport. It’s silent at high speeds with the autonomous driving system taking the edge off long drives on congested motorways. Backing up the comfy-cruiser theme is the S90’s eight-speed automatic gearbox. It offers creamy – near imperceptible – shifts that make extracting a decent turn of speed effortless. However, it can be a little hesitant to respond if you want it to kickdown for bursts of acceleration.

Owners get three suspension grades to choose from – the standard steel springs, a sportier setup, or a clever air-suspension system. The latter is comfortable, only unravelling when you hit larger bumps that send (a louder than expected) thunk through the interior. That said, the basic car on the smallest 17-inch wheels is so comfortable you don’t really need the air suspension unless you move up to larger wheels.

Unlike rivals that tend to offer an even split between petrol and diesel power, the S90’s engine range is composed of the D4 and D5 diesels. The clever T8 petrol-electric hybrid, which offers an electric-only driving mode, will join the range soon.

The D4 is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that puts out 188hp – a near-identical output to the best selling engines in rivals. This means that the D4 is competitive in performance terms, with 0-62mph coming up in 8.2 seconds – impressive for such a big car, especially if you take into consideration the decent combined fuel economy figure of 64mpg and 116g/km CO2 emissions that translate into road tax of just £30 a year.

The D5 ekes out 232hp from the same 2.0-litre diesel and features a system called PowerPulse that is designed to improve the engine’s responses at low speeds by spinning the turbo with compressed air at low speeds to cancel out lag. The result is that the 2.0-litre engine feels extremely punchy – perhaps more so than you would expect in a car of the S90’s size. Almost as important is its smooth operation and the fact that it is near-silent at a cruise.

Performance of the D5 is decent rather than electrifying – 0-62mph takes around seven seconds, while you can expect the Volvo to return fuel economy of 58.9mpg and emit CO2 emissions of 127g/km for annual road tax of £110 a year. If you’re looking for spine-tingling performance, however, you’ll be better catered for by a larger six-cylinder diesel engine offered by the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

Volvo has priced the S90 confidently – unlike Volvos of old, it doesn’t undercut German rivals, but instead comes with lots of standard equipment. Highlights include the eight-speed automatic gearbox and autonomous driving system – the latter in particular is a costly option in all main rivals.

Volvo S90 Momentum

Buyers only get two models to choose from, but to call the entry level Momentum model ‘basic’ would be pretty misleading. It comes with lots of kit including LED headlights, a nine-inch portrait-style touchscreen, leather seats, and a comprehensive suite of safety systems that should cushion (or completely prevent) impacts like no other car on the road.

Volvo S90 Inscription

The vast range of safety features comes standard, so choosing Inscription trim is all about making your S90 smarter looking, better feeling and even easier to use day to day. A subtle body kit and 18-inch alloy wheels take care of the exterior aesthetics, while inside you get high-grade Nappa leather, deeply woven floor mats and additional mood lighting (with colour adjustment) that come together to lend an even more premium feel. You also get additional toys such as a 12.3-inch multi-function colour display (replacing the conventional instrument binnacle – much like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit) and an electrically adjustable driver’s seat.

If you want to throw some cash at some desirable options Volvo will happily oblige – the £2,000 Xenium pack caught our eye. It gets you a full-length panoramic sunroof, park assist and a 360-degree camera view. The Winter Plus pack is also worth considering. Available from £1,475, it bundles together active headlights (which follow the curves of the road), headlight washers, a heated windscreen, steering wheel and windscreen washers, plus a handy head-up display that projects vital driving information (such as speed) onto the front window.

Volvo S90 R-Design

In R-Design trim the S90 comes as standard with a revised front bumper with integrated fog lights and a new splitter. The grille features piano black inserts and the five-spoke alloy wheels boast a two-tone diamond cut finish. New floor mats and revised pedals are also fitted as standard, as are sportier front seats with a more heavily contoured design.

Conclusion

Volvo’s return to the large-executive class will be a welcome one to anyone looking to buy outside the default options of BMW, Audi and Mercedes. Volvo has stuck to its roots by building a car that will devour huge mileages with ease and although it may not be at its best on twisting country roads, it promises to be altogether more accomplished than its predecessor. It will, we are sure, be as safe as the proverbial houses, but what is likely to excite buyers more is the luxurious interior that oozes quality.

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