The Volvo S90 is an impressive sedan and the perfect answer to its German rivals, writes Alvin Thomas.
What makes a sedan truly special? The answer to that varies from person to person. And because I’m an individual who still embraces the idea of owning a sedan – than say, upgrade to an SUV – I tend to think of sportiness, style and practicality (in that very order) as the key elements that makes a sedan stand out from the rest of the crowd.
However, if you were to delve deep into a range of more upscale “executive” sedans, you’re only left with a handful of manufacturers; namely Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz to do all the heavy lifting. And undoubtedly, this German trinity, with the A6, 5-Series and the E-Class, has been successful in taking over the market share from all other manufacturers – up to a point where no brand tries to outclass these brands anymore.
But as they say, nothing lasts forever. And today, the trio of German sedans have a new rival to deal with; and one that they least expected to show up at the party: the Volvo S90.
Now, I must tell you that the new S90 is yet to be unveiled in the Sultanate. So what you’re reading here is an exclusive review of Sweden’s answer to the Germans. And it all looks very promising.
For starters, the S90 ditches its slender design and stance for a more muscular and broad design (measuring at almost 74.4 inches in width). Aside from that, there are bold lines that run all the way from the front to the back, giving it a very beefy posture. Even the bonnet has subtle, yet distinct flares that add to the overall brawny appeal of the car. Volvo has also been generous with the use of chrome around the car, giving it a very flashy, yet classy aura.
Despite all of that, however, the most striking feature of the car still has to be the Thor’s hammer-inspired headlamps. It is eye-catching to say the least, and also does justice to the sedan, despite being a carry over from its bigger brother, the XC90.
This Swedish treatment is carried over to the inside. Each and every element present in the car has a designated function – everything is orderly – and nothing looks out of place. Despite that, the cabin design takes quite a minimalist approach, with only a few buttons (seven to be precise) placed on the dashboard.
All other controls, from the air conditioning to the interior lighting and even the car’s settings, are controlled via the slick LCD touchscreen infotainment system. Getting used to operating the touchscreen while driving may be a bit arduous at first, but it should be easier once you get used to it.
Apart from that, the interior is wrapped in leather from head to toe, and all the interior elements are either padded or are made of soft touch plastic. There’s a splash of wood on the dashboard and the centre console to add to the overall luxe of the car. The seats are extremely comfortable with good bolstering and lumbar support.
My tester also received a RO1,500 Bowers and Wilkins audio system, and I have to say that it is the best audio system that I have ever experienced in a car. The audio output is sublime, even when you’re streaming low-quality Bluetooth files from your smartphone. I strongly urge you to tick that box; you won’t regret the decision.
Now let’s move on to the powertrain of the car. Underneath the bonnet lies a peppy little forcefully induced (turbocharged and supercharged) 2.0-litre four-cylinder pot-banger, pumping out an unbelievable 320hp and 400Nm of torque. How the engineers eked out so much power from the engine, I have no idea. But what I do know is that there is a substantial amount of turbo-lag when accelerating from a standstill. But this isn’t something to worry about because once the turbo spools up, it picks up speed briskly. I was still able to hit the 100kph mark from a standstill in a mere six seconds, which is faster than most of its German rivals at this price point.
The S90 (T6 Inscription) also rides on massive 21-inch alloys, wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tyres. Despite the massive rims, the ride was still very comfortable (thanks to the air suspension system fitted in the rear) in “Economy” and “Comfort” mode. It stiffened up slightly in “Dynamic” mode and also beefed up the steering feel and holds gears for spirited driving.
In “Dynamic” mode, the car takes corners like an actual sports sedan, with no drama whatsoever. I also noticed very little body roll from the car, thanks partly to the brilliantly tuned chassis and partly due to the air suspension system.
Of course, don’t expect it to slide around corners like a BMW M5; it just won’t. Even with the traction control switched off, the car maintains its line – not under or oversteering – instilling a lot of confidence in the driver.
During the last portion of my review, I also got time to try out Volvo’s latest autonomous driving function. It completely takes over the car’s controls (the accelerator, steering, brakes and gears) and helps cuts the driver some slack (although you should always have your hands on the steering wheel at all times). I first came across this system in the XC90, but I have to say: it still feels a little eerie. But what I do know is that the collision mitigation system stepped in to save my life when I failed to respond to a quick braking manoeuvre.
I enjoyed every minute I spent in the S90. At no point in my journalism career did I think that I would say this: the Volvo S90 is the best sedan that I have ever driven. Mind you, I drive a 300hp Japanese super-sedan, so I think giving the Volvo that kind of praise talks about how good the car actually is. Give this car a shot; it is the perfect answer from Sweden’s automotive industry to Germany’s.