Volvo S90 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.
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Advanced safety features
- Powerful engines
- Quiet on the move
What's not so good
- Boot capacity lags behind best
- No standard Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Not that exciting to drive
Volvo S90: what would you like to read next?
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. If you want a sportier drive, R-Design is the trim to go for. It adds sports suspension and gives the S90 more athletic looks. The Cross Country only comes as a V90 estate but gets raised suspension and four-wheel drive to help it cope with the rigours of an active lifestyle or rural living.
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. 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, dinosaurs 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.
The S90's automatic braking system is the first capable of detecting even large animals
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.
The Volvo S90’s interior looks fantastic and feels just as posh as many German alternatives, but the infotainment system misses out on some key standard features
There’s plenty of space in the S90’s back seats for two tall adults, but carrying three adults in the back is a bit of a squeeze and alternatives have bigger boots
The Volvo’s front seats are so comfortable, you might find it hard to stop yourself nodding off on long journeys – no wonder the S90 comes with so much safety kit as standard…
There’s plenty of space in the S90’s front seats for you to get comfortable – even if you’re very tall – and both front seats come with height adjustment and electric lumbar support as standard. As a result, you get a good view out over other cars and don’t have to worry about backache on long motorway journeys.
Pick a Momentum Pro model or above and you get extra lumbar adjustment and extended seat cushions as standard to give your legs even better support on long drives. These models also get a memory function for the front seat – handy if you regularly lend your car to someone else.
Space in the back is pretty generous in all S90s. The front seats are thinner than in a Mercedes or BMW so your passengers in the back have plenty of legroom to stretch out. There’s just enough headroom for six-footers to get fairly comfy, too.
Carrying three adults side-by-side is a bit of a squeeze – thanks to the tall lump in the floor and hard central seat – but there’s enough space under the front seats for three rear passengers to fit their feet comfortably. That said, an E-Class is better still for carrying three adults in the back.
The S90’s wide rear door openings make it easy to lift in a large child seat and folding covers help you quickly locate the two sets of Isofix points. Unfortunately, the Volvo’s low roofline means you have to stoop down low to strap in a child, but you’ll have a similar issue in almost all large executive saloons.
The Volvo’s cabin comes with plenty of handy storage spaces to help you keep it looking as tidy as possible, All four door bins and the glovebox can comfortably hold a 2.0-litre bottle and there’s some extra storage space under the central armrest for your phone or a pair of sunglasses.
You get two cupholders beside the gear lever under a neat folding cover and two more that pop out of the folding rear armrest. This also comes with a neat storage tray with a lid to keep thing safely in place if you need to fold the armrest away.
The S90’s 500-litre boot isn’t quite as big as the 530-litre and 540-litre loadbays you get in a 5 Series and E-Class respectively, but it’s still big enough to carry a baby buggy and some soft bags or a set of golf clubs. The wide opening makes it easier to load than the likes of the E-Class, too, and you get a few tether hooks and a netted cubby to keep smaller items secure.
You can’t adjust the height of the boot floor, however, so there’s a slight lip you’ll have to lift luggage over. It’s no worse than in the BMW, Mercedes or Audi, though, and you do get some neat switches beside the headrests that’ll let you fold the back seats down from inside the car – when the rear doors are open, that is.
With all the back seats folded away, there’s space in the back of the Volvo to carry a bike with both its wheels attached. The flat floor makes it easy to push heavy items right up behind the back seats and the loadbay’s square shape means you won’t have any trouble carrying a large TV box or some bulky flat-pack furniture.
All S90s come with a ski hatch behind the rear armrest so you can carry some very long items and two back-seat passengers at once.
The Volvo S90 is very comfortable, impressively quiet and super relaxing to drive, but you can’t get it with any smooth six-cylinder engines…
The S90 comes packed with loads of safety kit, including Volvo’s Pilot Assist feature that’ll let it pretty much drive itself – on motorways at least
Unlike most large executive cars, you don’t get a plethora of four, six and even eight-cylinder engines to choose from in the Volvo. All S90s come with 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines.
If you do a mix of town and motorway driving, the D4 is your best bet. It’s punchy enough to overtake slow-moving traffic (it’ll accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds), reasonably quiet at speed and returns a claimed 61mpg – although you’re more likely to achieve around 44mpg in real-world conditions.
There’s also a D5 model with 235hp that comes with four-wheel drive as standard but it’s more expensive to buy and costs more to run than the D4.
If you fancy a petrol model, there’s a T4 with exactly the same 190hp as the D4, but it’s slightly slower to reach 62mph from rest than the diesel and only returns a claimed 42mpg. It’s still worth considering if you do lots of city driving, however.
If it’s a sporty saloon you’re after, you should consider the T5 models. It comes with 250hp and will sprint from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds but it never feels that fast. It needs a bit of revs to get going as well, which is the result of it only being a 2.0-litre, but it’s a similar story in alternatives with equivalent engines. Ultimately, the T5 feels a bit out of place – you’re better off with one of the diesels.
Whichever model you pick, your S90 gets an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. It changes gear nice and smoothly, especially at slow speeds, but doesn’t respond particularly quickly when you put your foot down. As a result, the Volvo doesn’t feel quite as rapid as the likes of a comparable 5 Series or E-Class.
It might be a big car, but you won’t have any trouble seeing out of the Volvo. The relatively thin pillars and large windows give you a good view out, and the light steering helps make it reasonably easy to manoeuvre around town.
If the thought of parking a big saloon car gives you chills, you can get the S90 with a self-parking feature that’ll steer you automatically into parallel and bay parking spaces that are just 1.2 metres longer than the car. This costs an extra £1,600 but comes with a 360-degree camera system and a panoramic glass sunroof.
Thankfully, Volvo’s Pilot Assist feature won’t cost you a penny extra. This system combines lane-keeping assist with adaptive cruise control to accelerate, brake and steer for you at speeds up to 80mph – providing you keep your hands on the steering wheel. This helps make long journeys – especially on busy motorways – as relaxing as possible.
Adding to the S90’s stress-free driving experience is the comfortable suspension. You can get it with adaptive dampers and rear air suspension but the standard setup does such a good job ironing out bumps and potholes that you needn’t bother.
Sadly, while the Volvo does a great job isolating you from the patchy road surfaces, it doesn’t feel particularly fun to drive. Sure, it doesn’t lean much in tight corners, but a BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF both feel more involving on a twisty backroad.
If safety, rather than sportiness, is your main concern, the Volvo claws back plenty of points. It comes as standard with a wealth of active systems designed to prevent crashes including pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection, automatic emergency braking and even a feature that’ll tighten your seatbelt if the car detects a possible collision.
All these features helped the S90 achieve an impressive five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP when it was tested in 2017.