Volvo S90 review
"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
The Volvo S90 executive saloon follows shortly behind the warmly received Volvo XC90 SUV and shares many of that car’s classy styling cues, along with its fantastic interior quality and comfort.
Like its big brother, 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.
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.
There are two diesel options based on the same 2.0-litre engine, with 190bhp in the D4 and 235bhp if you choose the D5. Polestar also offers a performance upgrade for the D5, improving engine response and the speed of the automatic gearbox at a cost of around £800.
An entry-level 2.0-litre petrol T4 model is available, which produces 190bhp and returns around 35mpg on average, although CO2 emissions are higher than for both diesels, at 155g/km. Unusually for the class, the petrol model is also not much cheaper than an equivalent diesel. There's also a more powerful T5 petrol and a T8 Twin Engine hybrid.
The D4 model costs £140 in road tax, while slotting into the 29% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax bracket for company cars. Fuel consumption is up to 50.4mpg and both the D4 and D5 have an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with no manual version expected. Choose the D5 and economy drops to 43.5mpg, with 142g/km of CO2 emissions for a BiK rate of 33%. Road tax remains the same.
The D5 does, however, provide a significant performance boost, cutting almost a second from the 0-62mph time, which takes 8.2 seconds in the D4 and just seven in the D5. Versions of both the D4 and D5 costing more than £40,000 attract an additional tax surcharge of £310, payable from the second year for five years. So do the expensive hybrid versions, although their road tax is £130 a year.
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 is our choice of the two models, thanks to its lower running costs and the character of the S90, which doesn’t really encourage or reward fast driving.
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.
Momentum, Inscription and R-Design trim levels are offered, and with leather upholstery (including heated front seats), sat nav, dual-zone climate control and LED headlights all standard, Momentum is hardly basic. It also gets 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.
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 13th out of 26 manufacturers in our 2018 Driver Power customer survey and 10.4% of customers reported a fault within the first 12 months of ownership.
See how the electrified version of this car scored on our sister site DrivingElectric