I’m going to cut right to the chase…this engine doesn’t belong in this car, the semi-autonomous driving features aren’t fully baked and this Sensus interface makes you wish you had Thor’s hammer at times. All that being said, I really kind of like the all-new Volvo S90.
The design team for Volvo’s 90 Series cars deserves all the credit, both for this gorgeous exterior and this Scandinavian-chic cabin. The S90 has truly unique and elegant styling. It makes you feel something and in no way cribs design language from any of its high-end competitors. The use of matte wood and a minimalist layout inside is the very embodiment of a boutique hotel. It’s quiet so conversation is effortless and it’s a Volvo, so you know it’s a comfortable place to sit and spend time. Technology is at the forefront and I love that, with the tablet-like center screen, high-speed internet connection and the semi-self-driving feature called Pilot Assist. The displays look sophisticated and modern and there’s Apple CarPlay in here, so you don’t have to mess with your phone in an unsafe manner. But tiny Swedish flags and Gothenburg Concert Hall-like hi-fidelity sound can only take you so far. Volvo has certainly crafted the S90 in the correct fashion but there a few key missteps sure to annoy potential buyers.
Volvo is a 4-cylinder turbo company…they don’t sell anything else here. When you order the S90 with the T6 engine, you also get a supercharger to go with that turbo. I’ve driven it in a number of their vehicles now and here in the S90, it feels the most out of place. Oh, this has nothing to do with too little power; with over 315 horsepower and a sub-6-second 0-to-60mph there’s plenty of that. The issue stems from expectations of what a stately sedan should be. And it shouldn’t include coarse engine sounds and a non-linear power delivery; both are too present here. This hyper-efficient motor capable of 31mpg highway is the proverbial fish out of water in a $60,000 sedan. Volvo has decided to take cylinder count out of the luxury equation but for as much fun and energy as this one provides, it lacks polish.
Now I loved the self-driving feature of the Mercedes E-Class. OK, I’m not supposed to call it that but that’s essentially what it is. It worked flawlessly. But here in the S90 not only is it confusing to set; it simply doesn’t work very well. Pilot Assist, as it is called, never makes me feel confident that the S90 knows exactly what it is doing so I find myself nervously intervening and completely taking over.
And then there’s this Tesla-like infotainment system. You can swipe, touch and bask in the glow of cool apps. Except in today’s smartphone age it can be deathly slow. I shouldn’t have to wait for the backup cam to kick in when I shift into reverse, or the climate control screen to become active in order to heat the steering wheel or seats but you do because there ae essentially no buttons. And I’ve been waiting for this same weather report for about a week. It’s better than the archaic 3G system in my wife’s V60 but Volvo needs to politely ask Hyundai or Kia for some ergonomics help. And that translates to the steering wheel controls and gauges as well. Volvo fails to make their cool tech intuitive and that’s at times maddening.
The good? The ride quality isn’t just good, it’s great…it nails the soft, forgiving luxury component while at the same time providing body-roll -free cornering. And yes, there’s a Sport mode and it’s a very confident drive all around…not sports sedan like but self-assured as if to say go for it, I’ve got this. The high performance Michelin rubber no doubt helps with the notable handling.
And that’s without the optional air suspension. This new architecture underpinning all of Volvos newest models is brilliantly engineered, affording rock solid body rigidity, light weight, and headline grabbing driving dynamics. Plus, a front-to-back all-wheel drive system, double wishbone front and rear suspension and 8-speed automatic transmission lend a driving spirit here that helps wash away the car’s other ills. It has that stout, boss feeling from behind the wheel that makes driving in any situation a joy. Plus, the interior is pure eye candy – so understated and spa-like. This top-trim S90 T6 AWD Inscription is loaded with the Vision Package including a 360 surround view camera, Climate Package with a heads-up display, Convenience Package with self-parking, 20” wheels and a killer B&W Premium Sound System for an MSRP of $66,105 though a base front drive T5 Momentum model can be had for under $50,000. This Muscle Blue Metallic S90 uses its beauty and its drive to disguise some ugly warts and does it very well.
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