I am struggling to think of a four-door saloon that has a nicer front-end than the new Volvo S90. The entire car in fact is a remarkable piece of design, a triumph of purposeful lines, proportion and elegance, and commendably true to the 2013 Volvo Coupe concept responsible for the company’s latest design language and rejuvenation.
The most refreshing aspect of the design is its uniqueness – its clean and minimalistic lines could easily be those of a bespoke Italian design house concept car, yet are simultaneously unmistakably Swedish.
The rear of the saloon may divide opinion, but the solution is simple – buy the V90 estate instead which is surely the most handsome looking, if enormous, estate in the world.
The model I tested was the S90 D4 saloon in ‘Inscription’ trim. While there is also a lower-level ‘Momentum’ trim level available, ‘Inscription’ adds so much more luxury and prestige to the car’s exterior and interior for little extra cost.
On the outside, ‘Inscription’ trim brings a gloss black Maserati style grille, additional chrome detailing, 18” diamond-cut alloy wheels and many other very nice premium finishing touches such as LED lighting behind the door handles and integrated dual exhaust pipes. My test car was fitted with 20” rims which really fill the arches, adding to the S90’s visual appeal.
Like its XC90 SUV sibling, there is also an R-Design S90 which trades an element of elegance for aggression, with more sculpted body styling, five-spoke alloy wheels, gloss-black detailing and a more sporty overall appearance.
However, it is perhaps on the inside that the S90 really sets itself apart from its German rivals. The interior is a refreshingly tranquil and minimalistic environment, free of clutter but awash with Swedish flair.
The matt and exposed-grain wooden inlays complement the cream leather interior, while the seats deserve a particular mention so incredibly soft is the Nappa leather that is standard on ‘Inscription’ spec models. The two-tone leather on the steering wheel trim is another nice touch.
The centre console is dominated by an iPad style screen controlling the cars functions and multitude of safety systems. The functionality will also be familiar to anybody who has used an iPad, with a swiping screen changing action and a home button to get one back to base.
Conventional dials make way for a 12.3” TFT screen, while the driver’s heads-up display is very useful indeed. There are also some smaller touches that are quite clever – the windscreen washer nozzles for example are built into the wipers meaning that overspray doesn’t drench the rest of the car, while the 360 degree camera is incredibly useful in parking such a large car around town.
My test car was fitted with the optional Bowers and Wilkins sound system, which aside from sounding great adds some very expensive looking speakers dotted around the cabin, the most noticeable of which is located on top of the dash where one would find the sport-chromo clock in a Porsche Panamera.
One small criticism I would have however is that the interior brightwork, while it looks like aluminium trim is generally plastic. This is where the S90’s interior perhaps loses out to that of rival cars such as the Audi A6 for example, which features finely machined and cold to the touch aluminium trim around almost every button.
Where the S90 regains some points however is in its safety systems, of which this car is certainly not lacking. Adaptive cruise control will bring the S90 to a complete halt if the car ahead slows down, warning lights illuminate in the mirrors if another vehicle enters the driver’s blind spots, corrective steering action will put you back in lane if you wander over the road’s centre white line, warning diagrams and sounds alert the driver to anything such as a passing vehicle or wall being a little too close for comfort, while the car’s ‘Intellisafe’ system monitor’s driver behaviour and will even decide if its time for a coffee break.
The Volvo company is working towards the goal that nobody is killed or seriously injured in a Volvo car by 2020, and if the latest XC90 and S90 models are anything to go by, they are certainly on target to achieve their ambition.
To drive, the S90 is a relaxing albeit not hugely entertaining car. Even fitted with the entry-level 190 bhp D4 diesel engine power is more than adequate as illustrated by the 8.2 second 0-60 time. The D5 diesel engine produces 235 bhp and shaves almost a second off the 0-60 dash, aided by four and opposed to two-wheel drive. The 8-speed automatic gearbox meanwhile never fails to provide silky smooth transitions through the ratios.
The S90 is an exceptionally easy car to live with, and every journey is genuinely a pleasure. On cold winter mornings, features such as the heated steering wheel are very nice indeed, while the car never fails to feel sure-footed and as planted on the road as a Mercedes S-Class.
Volvo really are in a great place right now. They recently unveiled two SUV concepts, both of which looked equally striking, and if they do ever get around to building that coupe concept unveiled a few years ago I may very well buy one myself – something I never thought I’d hear myself say about a Volvo – how times change!