Volvo S90 T8 E-AWD — A Swedish gem

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Last summer Volvo announced that every vehicle it launches from 2019 will have an electric motor putting electrification at the core of its future business. Virtually every car maker is embracing electrification, and Volvo said it wants to be out front offering a wide range of electrified vehicles from fully electric cars, plug-in hybrids and mild hybrids.

To this end Volvo has added a plug-in hybrid version to the 2018 model of its excellent new S90 flagship sedan called the T8 Plug-In Hybrid that adds 25 miles of electric driving when fully charge. It's outfitted with the same supercharged-turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four cylinder engine as the T6 making 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. But added to that is a pair of electric motors pushing horsepower to 400 making it easily the fastest S90 with a recorded 0-to-60 time of 4.5 seconds, a second faster than the T6. An eight-speed automatic transmission is used for both the T6 and T8.

Although electrification seems to be all the rage in the auto industry, what does it mean for the average driver — in this case with the S90 plug-in hybrid? The base price of the hybrid is $64,645 compared to the $55,095 base price of a comparable S90 T6 sedan. So the question looms, does the $9,500 premium offset the 3-mpg hybrid advantage (29 mpg vs. 26 mpg)? However, if most of your driving only involves 25 miles a day and most of it would be without the aid of the gas engine, the savings would be significantly magnified. And then there's the 84 horsepower advantage of the hybrid that will certainly turn some power junkies on.

Either way the new S90 is a very desirable near-full-sized luxury car with a Scandinavian flare. It features very clean lines that flow smoothly from front to back, and a coupe-like roofline. The new signature Volvo grille is integrated neatly into the design with harmoniously shaped air intakes and headlights.

The new design language continues inside with a cabin that features high-quality matte-finished open-pore wood inlays and polished aluminum trim pieces. Even the door handles have a beautiful, contemporary look. Most vehicle controls are operated via a 12.3-inch tablet-like portrait-oriented "Sensus Connect" touchscreen that’s attractive, bright and crystal clear. The dashboard is an exercise in minimalist styling compared to modern dashboard designs.

On the downside, that means you have to go into the large screen to access often-used audio buttons and most climate controls. Aside from the video tutorials that come with the car we recommend spending time at the dealership to learn the system.

And at the outset we were a bit annoyed by the transmission shifter. While it’s a delicately beautiful piece, made by a Swedish crystal company, its operation is head-scratching. A single tap of the gearshift forward or back selects neutral, meaning that two taps forward are required for reverse and two taps backward are needed for drive.

The gauge cluster in front of the driver is an attractive representation of the instruments and there's space in between to display a map, turn-by-turn directions, a phone menu, and various sound-system functions. Steering wheel controls include adaptive cruise control and audio functions.

One difference between all versions of the 2018 S90 is that it is 4.5 inches longer than the 2017 model now riding on the long-wheelbase body style previously unavailable in the U.S. This translates into new limo-like stretch-out room for rear-seat passengers who will not only enjoy the extra space, but the plush long-distance seats.

The hallmark of Volvo vehicles is safety, and the S90 carries on that tradition with a full suite of safety systems, and advanced architectural structure and materials, including 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 system should the driver turn in front of an oncoming vehicle.

Like most luxury brands, the base price of the S90 T8 E-AWD Inscription we drove is just a suggestion. Options abound — and many are worthwhile — pushing the bottom line far north of the suggested MSRP of $64,645 to a breath-taking $82,140 as was the case of our test car. Like we noted some options are hard to turn down such as the Inscription ($4,500) package which includes upgraded leather upholstery, wood inlays, 19-inch inch alloy wheels and ventilated front seats; or the Bowers and Wilkins premium sound for $3,200.

Base price: $64,645; as driven, $82,140
Engine: 2.0-liter supercharged, turbocharged 4; 2 electric motors
Horsepower: 400 combined
Torque: 472 pound-feet combined
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 120.5 inches
Length: 200.1 inches
Curb weight: 4,701 pounds
Turning circle: NA
Luggage capacity: 14 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallon (premium)
EPA rating: 26 city, 33 highway, 29 combined
0-60: 4.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Cadillac CTS, Audi A6,

The Good
• Impressive performance
• Many standard safety features
• Beautiful, well-crafted interior
• Intuitive technology

The Bad
• Finicky transmission shifter

The Ugly
Hybrid brings high price