Volvo S90 saloon review (2016-2023)
"The Volvo S90 marks a stylish return to the executive saloon class, with many of the features of the XC90 SUV"
- Beautiful interior
- Well equipped
- Stylish design
- A bit pricey
- Rivals are better to drive
- No standard petrol or diesel engines
The Volvo S90 executive saloon was one of the first models to usher in Volvo’s current design language and it was a real departure from the previous Volvo S80. While it still looks sharp and handsome now, the S90 hasn’t managed to tempt many buyers away from its main rivals.
That’s a little surprising given that the S90 borrows a lot from the Volvo XC90 SUV and shares many of that car’s classy styling cues, along with its fantastic interior quality and comfort.
Admittedly, the S90 is hardly short of impressive rivals, with the BMW 5 Series our current class favourite, while the Jaguar XF and Mercedes E-Class make a compelling case for driving enthusiasts and the Audi A6 is a great all-rounder. More leftfield choices include the Lexus ES and Maserati Ghibli.
It’s clearly evident the S90 was penned with the same design language as the XC90, as it shares that car’s distinctive grille, slim headlights with ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED daytime running lights and rear lights in Volvo’s classic C-shape. Of course, with a far lower roofline, the S90 takes on an elegant style all of its own.
Both of the two diesel options have now been discontinued; these were based on the same 2.0-litre engine, with 187bhp in the D4 and 235bhp if you chose the D5. A Polestar performance upgrade was previously available for the latter. Gone, too, are the two purely petrol options that were offered in the past, and as of late 2021 the S90 is only offered as a plug-in hybrid.
The sole engine is known as the Recharge T8 plug-in hybrid, which pairs a 2.0-litre petrol with a 143bhp electric motor and an 18.8kWh battery. That means the car is now quite expensive, starting at just over £60,000, but the stats are very impressive.
You can travel almost 55 miles on electric power, while the combined output of 449bhp allows a scorching 0-62mph time of under five seconds; faster than many hot hatchbacks and sports SUVs. VED (road tax) is expensive due to the car’s price but it slots into one of the lowest Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax brackets for company cars. Fuel consumption is up to 352mpg, although lots of motorway journeys will return less than the 50mpg that was possible from the now-discontinued D4 diesel.
Our test of the D4 model found its engine was refined and offered impressive mid-range acceleration, but it wasn’t quite as sharp in its responses as a BMW or Mercedes, while the gearbox could also hesitate slightly. In spite of its lesser acceleration, the D4 was our choice of the diesels, thanks to its lower running costs, however, both the D4 and more-powerful D5 diesel engines are discontinued in the S90 but still available in select models of the estate version, known as the V90.
Instead, the S90 majors on ride comfort and making motorway driving a relaxing experience, rather than offering razor-sharp handling on twisty roads. To this end, the steering isn’t the most responsive, while there’s some body lean in tight corners, but the S90 always remains composed and cosseting. It’s worth avoiding the larger alloy wheels, however, as they can upset its composure a little. The Volvo still can’t quite match the Mercedes E-Class when it comes to ride quality.
The front seats are wonderfully supportive on long trips and, like in the XC90, the cabin materials are top-notch. The Sensus portrait touchscreen infotainment system is also a highlight, controlling most of the S90’s main functions.
Trim levels were revised in early 2022, with the Inscription and R-Design trims replaced by Plus and Ultimate. An entry-level Momentum trim was previously offered. With leather upholstery (including heated front seats), sat nav, dual-zone climate control and LED headlights all standard, discontinued Momentum models were hardly basic, while R-Design added a sporty look and Inscription focused on luxury.
The new Plus trim gets everything previously available on the Momentum models, as well as a power-opening boot, internet connection, voice commands and Pilot Assist, Volvo’s latest driver aid, which features adaptive cruise control and can hold the car in lane at up to 80mph. It also comes with 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels.
Ultimate trim gets an improved adaptive suspension set up for a smoother ride, adaptive headlights and different alloy wheels. There’s a head-up display in the windscreen, privacy glass and a powered tilt-and-slide sunroof, as well as a power-adjustable passenger front seat; a more premium Bowers and Wilkins sound system is also thrown in.
Both models can be specified in either a ‘Bright’ or a ‘Dark’ theme. ‘Dark’ theme models come with a grille and other exterior trim pieces finished in gloss black, while these same exterior elements are finished in chrome on ‘Bright’ models.
The S90 scored the full five stars when independent crash-safety experts Euro NCAP put it through its paces – it scored very well for the way it protects its occupants, and received a high rating for its safety assistance technology. This is thanks to the latest evolution of Volvo’s collision mitigation software and hardware which can detect vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals and apply the brakes if it thinks you aren’t stopping.
Volvo came ninth out of 29 manufacturers in our 2021 Driver Power customer survey, even though 20.5% of customers reported a fault within the first 12 months of ownership.
See how this car scored on our sister site DrivingElectric