One thing about the Volvo S90, is that it’s easy to lose sight of this lovely saloon in light of the success of the attention grabbing XC90. That is, until you spend some time with the car. At its core the S90 is another logical extension of the design language that underpins the SUV, and one destined to challenge the usual suspects in the hotly contested segment. The S90 manages to accomplish an aesthetic that stands out, if only for its smoothness, amid a jumble of sameness, managing to be both new and timeless, without putting you to sleep.
Based on Volvo’s blown 2.0-liter, which the powerplant, which it shares with the XC90 is blown to rising levels of horsepower.The car also shares its platform with the SUV, and offers a host of cutting edge tech like Pilot Assist. And, because it’s a Volvo, you can expect class-leading safety here as well.
About that, back in 1958 Nils Bohlin, who previously designed ejector seats for Saab fighter jets, was hired by Volvo as their chief safety engineer, a then new position created after a relative of CEO Gunnar Engelau’s perished in a car accident. The next year, Bohlin revolutionized automotive safety by introducing the three-point harness safety belt, helping establish what became one of the brand’s key differentiators. In keeping with their legacy of safety conscious engineering, Volvo has spent more than half a decade engineering these safer, more streamlined seats, which are both friendlier to leg room (with less mass in the seat back, there’s more legroom for the person behind you) and extremely pleasant to sit in. There’s no bad seat in the house here, and the thoughtful 'theatre' positioning helps afford each passenger an improved view.
The S90 is a sign if forward momentum for Volvo Cars, a company best known for its SUVs and estates, that now seems intent on making a dent in the premium sedan segment with its distinctive executive class sedan. With plenty of new technologies ranging from cutting edge safety to cloud-based apps and services, the S90 is further proof of the Swedish brand’s continuing transformation.
“With the launch of the XC90 we made a clear statement of intent. We are now clearly and firmly in the game. With $11 USD billion of investment over the past five years we have not only reimagined what Volvo Cars can be – we are now delivering on our promise of a resurgent and relevant Volvo Cars brand,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President & CEO, Volvo Car Group.
The new Volvo S90 comes equipped with an advanced semi-autonomous drive feature, Pilot Assist. The system gives gentle steering inputs to keep the car properly aligned within lane markings up to motorway speeds of around 130 km/h and no longer needs to follow another car. Pilot Assist is another step towards full autonomous drive – a key innovation area for Volvo.
The S90 will also come with a clean and powerful T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid powertrain and one of the most luxuriously appointed interiors and connected infotainment systems in the large sedan segment.
“Our idea was to bring something entirely new to this rather conservative segment and deliver a visual expression that exudes leadership and confidence on the exterior. On the inside we have taken the S90 to the next level, delivering a high-end luxury experience that promises comfort and control,” said Thomas Ingenlath, Senior Vice President Design at Volvo Car Group.
The S90 also introduces a world first function to City Safety - large animal detection - a system capable of detecting large animals such as elk, horses or moose, night or day. The technology offers an intuitive warning and brake support to help avoid a collision. The S90 has also benefitted from Volvo Cars’ recent investment in a highly advanced chassis simulator.
“The S90 has taken a big stride forwards in terms of driving dynamics, performance and ride. We have completely redesigned the Volvo driving experience from the ground up to deliver a sense of precision, engaging control and comfort,” said Dr Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President, Research & Development at Volvo Car Group.
The big S90 handles well, albeit not as unflappably well as something like the Jag XF. But then, it’s larger and less sporty, so that’s as it should be. Nonetheless, the new chassis is quite capable, body roll is minimal and there’s no tendency towards outsized understeer. Think of it as a sort of execu-sled wafter with a Swedish Chef accent.
This big-boned Swede excels at comfort, both in the driveway and on the road. We recommend the optional air suspension for a superbly smooth ride atop the 20-inch wheels that accompany the top trim level. Step up to the 21’s and things get a little less placid, but either would suffice for a run up to Jebel Hafeet, or the getaway spot of your choosing.
Buy an S90 and you’ll be extremely comfortable and well looked after inside. You will also be quite safe, and that’s no small thing on our roads. Volvo is projecting zero fatalities in their cars by 2020 and so far, the data they’ve gathered since 2010 has them right on track. The legacy of Nils Bohlin is alive and well at the company, and Volvo studies real-world accidents in depth to augment the safety testing it does at its own facility. The car has a solid cage and a wide range of active avoidance systems, some unique and, one day, you may just be able to leave all the driving to Volvo. Given their track record, that could be a very good thing.
By: Adel Habib