I’ll come out and say it: I generally enjoy driving Volvos. Typically, I find them to be honest, well-made cars that while most often aren’t sporty (Polestar variants excluded), are still entertaining to drive with a certain personality. At Motor Trend several years ago, I chaperoned the magazine’s long-term 2012 S60 sedan and was more than happy with it in daily use. Later, I used a long-term V60 for a Pacific Northwest roadtrip with my wife and found it to be about the perfect car for the job. In more recent times, I’ve driven Volvo’s new XC90 and S60 Polestar and enjoyed both greatly.
Which leads me to the new 2017 Volvo S90 that showed up at our doorstep several weeks ago. The first photos of Volvo’s newest flagship sedan grabbed me. That long, low, sleek profile and bold front grille make a statement. Volvo hopes it’s a big enough statement to claim a bigger share of the premium full-size sedan market and I predict it will be. Automobile named the S90 our 2017 Design of the Year, a decision I’m happy to get behind. The S90 is gorgeous inside, too, with its use of real metal, natural-finish wood, and leather. Even the infotainment display is great to look at thanks to its sharp graphics and portrait-orientated layout.
Dig into the specs and the Volvo is appealing there too, proving its beauty to be more than just skin deep. Its scalable SPA platform is shared with the XC90 and the upcoming V90 wagon and uses large amounts of high-strength steel for rigidity and safety. A choice of two 2.0-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder engines is available; our tester uses the more powerful T6 unit, which is both turbocharged and supercharged for an impressive 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Our T6 tester also comes with all-wheel drive (standard for T6, optional for T5) and an eight-speed automatic transmission, the sole S90 gearbox.
Even before getting to the Inscription package, the S90 T6 is loaded with standard features such as a 9.0-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi connectivity, pedestrian and animal detection, low-speed accident avoidance tech, LED headlights, a power moonroof, heated leather seats, walnut trim, and lane-departure warning, among other items. Add $3,300 for the Inscription package and you’ll receive active bending headlights, four-zone climate control, upgraded interior trim, Apple CarPlay, cooled front seats, and rear window curtains.
Other options include the Vision package ($1,950) with a 360-degree camera system and blind spot monitoring, Climate package ($1,950) with heated rear seat, steering wheel and heads-up display, and the Convenience package ($1,000) with park assist, HomeLink, a power trunk lid and more. Add the $2,650 Bowers & Wilkins sound system, $560 Mussel Blue Metallic paint, $750 20-inch wheels and our S90 rings in at $66,105 – completely reasonable for the luxury sedan class. If you want to be more fiscally responsible, you could kill most of those packages without missing them too much and get closer to the car’s $53,945 base price. Or opt for the 250-hp, front-drive T5 model for sub-$50,000 sticker of $47,495.
Get the S90 T6 AWD on the road and you’ll instantly notice how refined it feels. Comfort is a priority over sportiness (keeping in line with what most buyers will appreciate in this class of sedan) and the car simply soaks up nearly all road imperfections, large and small, without fuss. There’s a bit of body roll, pitch, and dive as a result of the car’s softly-sprung nature, but nothing excessive. Power from the twin-charged I-4 is strong, but not overwhelming – after all, this Volvo tips the scales at over 4,200 lbs and a little over 300 hp isn’t as bonkers as it was even five years ago.
As we’ve found with other Volvo models of late, the steering is a little lifeless and brake feel is slightly spongy, but neither characteristic seems to affect performance beyond tactile feel. The front seats are hard, wide and flat, a minor disappointment as I consider the seats found in the S60 and V60 to be among the most supportive and comfortable in the business. The S90’s rear seat is roomy and my larger 5’11” frame fit comfortably with plenty of head and legroom. The center display also functions well, acting more like a tablet than a traditional infotainment system. The screen’s icon layout is customizable and swiping either left or right brings up more screens of options as it would on popular devices.
Despite the niceties, I couldn’t shake a feeling that beyond the car’s design, there was nothing to really grab me on an emotional level – nothing to endear it to me, no sense of personality that I’ve gotten from other Volvo models. Maybe it will take the upcoming Polestar S90 or the hybrid-powered T8 version (with a rumored 400 hp) to make this sedan a little more engaging. As it stands, the Volvo S90 is an excellent car, but a lackluster companion.
2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription Specifications
|Price:||$53,945/$66,105 (base/as tested)|
|Engine:||2.0L turbocharged and supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/316 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 2,200 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan|
|EPA Mileage:||22/31 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||195.4 x 79.5 x 56.8 in|
|0-60 MPH:||5.7 sec|
|Top Speed:||130 mph (est)|