17 November 2016
Review: Volvo S90
And in fairness, that was partly due to presenting not always inspiring cars in the key medium-large executive space. Like the S80, always worthy, nicely specified, but not meriting a second glance for any presence.
That changed somewhat with the arrival of the new XC90 a few years ago. Somewhere, Volvo had relearned style and well as adding to the not inconsiderable substance which much of the rest of its model range had already developed.
And now, with the S90 which was launched here earlier in the year, Volvo has to my mind definitely earned its place in the privileged car classes, right there with BMW's 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The S90 has become one of those cars that turns the heads of even those who have no particular interest. Somewhere, the designers tapped into that very hard to find part of the senses that triggers the silent 'wow!'.
So it was with quite a sense of anticipation that I got back into an S90 last week for a full review opportunity. I wasn't disappointed, though there's a caveat here about how extras can wind up a price considerably.
Those headlights with the daylight running lights sliced across the covering glass are from the same pen as in the XC90 stylist, and are already an unmistakable signature of Volvo of these and future times. And the rear treatment is distinctive too, and with the lights there taking advantage of LED technology so that they don't have to be massive.
Ancillary controls, the keyless starter is by a stylish rotary switch on the centre console, no hunting for a button hidden behind the steering wheel. The shifter for the 8-speed automatic gearbox is blessedly a traditional one on the same console.
Accommodation is excellent, with room for three adults in the rear and lots of leg room for them. A fine boot, electrically operated in the review car, is finished as well as is the inside of the car.
Driving the car, powered by a 190hp diesel, is an elegant progress in every normal situation, and an audibly impressive one if you like your music played through the very high end Bowers & Wilkins sound system. The engine doesn't intrude, the gearshifting is seamless, and there's just such a great sense of being in a good place.
Volvo make much of the semi-autonomous technology in this car. Yes, it can park and park out automatically. And its active cruise system works very well in even busy highway traffic. Also, the lane-keeping assist will maintain the car around curves on properly marked roads, though you are required to keep your hands on the wheel. Truthfully, though, I think we're much further away from self-driving cars than most companies will admit.
Didn't matter. Apart from the active cruise control, once I tried out the other things, I switched them off and concentrated on my driving. Which was no hardship in the S90.
Did I mention money? Oh yes. The starting price for the S90 is €48,400. This is the Momentum grade, and it does come with all the technology as standard. The Inscription grade adds a bunch of things that I'm not going to go into here, and that brings the price up to the mid- €50,000 space. The review car options brought it up to €75,195, a big chunk out of anyone's bank account. But also to be fair, getting the same options on the key pair of competitors would probably also bump them up to the same rarified strata.
I think most people looking at the S90 will have no complaints about buying in at the more affordable level. They're not going to feel deprived, as that basic specification is so good anyhow.
I guess by now you've noticed that I like the S90. A lot.