2017 Volvo S90
PHOENIX — We were more than impressed with the completely redesigned XC90 when it was introduced for 2015. It was the first Volvo to be updated since Chinese automaker Geely bought the Swedish car company from Ford in 2010. For the record, the brand has kept its promise to completely refresh and revamp its entire product line by the end of 2017, recently introducing a redesigned XC60 crossover, V90 and V60 crossover wagons, and the all-new flagship S90 mid-sized luxury class sedan tested here.
For the record, while Geely has poured billions of dollars into Volvo, the S90 and the XC90 vehicles coming to the U.S. are still built in Gothenburg, Sweden, not China.
If you liked the styling of the redo on the XC90 as we did, you’ll love the looks of the S90. Both vehicles are built on the same SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform — as are the new V90 wagons — and give the S90 a long 115.8-inch wheelbase for an excellent ride and roomy interior.
Much of the S90’s styling cues come from the Concept Coupe that Volvo debuted at the 2013 Frankfort Auto Show, especially the low sweeping roofline, steeply raked windshield and rear glass, and the long hood and concave grille inspired by the classic Volvo P1800 coupe. There’s even a Thor’s hammer light design in the daytime running lights. Out back, distinct wraparound tail lamps complete the squared off rearward cabin look.
Inside, the cabin heavily mimics the XC90 — and that’s a good thing. Top-notch materials, switchgear, and quality craftsmanship almost never found except in top-tier of luxury vehicles seem to abound in the S90. The overall look is unmistakably Scandinavian with its clean, uncluttered look.
Front and rear seats upholstered in supple, perforated Nappa leather are excellent. There’s even a tiny Swedish flag sewn into the front passenger seat as a reminder of its origin.
The dashboard and upper door panels are covered with hand-stitched leather; real matte finished walnut wood inlays that have been cut to a specific curvature on the instrument panel, center console and doors create a 3D effect. A single strip of brushed aluminum trim runs from the steering wheel, under the center display screen to the passenger door. Air vents with “air blade” strakes intentionally bear the same design as the front grille of the vehicle.
Most vehicle controls are operated via the 12.3-inch tablet-like portrait-oriented Sensus Connect™ touchscreen that’s attractive, bright, crystal clear and fast acting. But it isn’t intuitive or easy to use. We strongly recommend extensive tutorial time at the dealership to learn the system, rather than distractingly trying to maneuver through the numerous screens while operating the vehicle.
The tablet-like display allows you to swipe right and left for various operating controls. Swiping to the left displays the application list including Pandora, Yelp and, my favorite, Spotify, among others. The system supports 4G LTE where Apple CarPlay launches. Android Auto is not available but the folks at Volvo say it’s on the way, although no timetable has been announced.
The hallmark of Volvo vehicles is the reputation for safety, and the S90 carries on that tradition with a full suite of safety systems, advanced architectural structure and materials, including ample high-strength boron steel. The standard forward-collision avoidance system known as City Safety is the umbrella name for all Volvo cars’ auto-brake functions. It also includes the world’s first automatic braking should the driver turn in front of an oncoming vehicle. It also addresses detection of cyclists and pedestrians in certain situations, day and night. Other standard safety features include pilot assist (a semi-autonomous driving system), a side-impact protection system, whiplash protection system, lane-departure warning, and run off-road protection/mitigation.
The S90 is offered in two versions of Volvo’s Drive-E engine; both are four-cylinder. First is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 250-horsepower in the entry-level T5 trim level with front-wheel drive. The second offering is the more powerful T6 model that employs all-wheel drive and adds a supercharger to the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine to generate 316 horsepower. An eight-speed automatic transmission is used for both engines.
We found the T6 performance to be smooth, quiet and adequate for most drivers. But competitors in this class of vehicle — like Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E Class — all offer a V-6 or V-8 option in their line-up. Those vehicles all place more emphasis on performance and sporty driving dynamics, something Volvo has little regard for.
What you will get with the S90 is an extremely comfortable European sedan that’s quiet, comfortable, loaded with features with a luxurious interior and near artistic perfection in styling and aesthetic design execution in a Scandinavian-like sanctuary.
We suspect those who prefer the sporting dynamics of the German sedans won’t be influenced by the opulent appeal of the new S90, but trust us when we say the new Volvo is nothing short of excellent and an easy decision for considering a mid-sized luxury sedan.
Base Price: $46,950
Price as Tested: $66,105
Engine: 2.0-Liter Super & Turbocharged 4-cylinder
Fuel Economy: 22-MPG City – 31-MPG Highway
Crash Test Safety Ratings: IIHS 2017 Top Safety Pick
What Stands Out
Luxurious interior with comfortable seats
Extensive advanced safety technology
Smooth, quiet ride
— Jim Prueter