2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Review and Road Test

2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD

Volvo’s resurgence continues.


Like the XC90, it executes the whole Swedish aesthetic thing wonderfully well.

Those of us with familiarity of Scandinavian design are most likely due to weekend outings at Ikea. As we know, there are few (if any) flamboyant exercises in the looks of their products, keeping the Form Follows Function mantra top of mind when their designers sit down in front of their sketch pads. Unlike the furniture behemoth’s offerings, the Volvo S90 feels substantial and meticulously assembled. And while it does have clean, Swedish influenced styling and feel, we’d call it more understated than spartan. It would be unfair to compare it on the same level as a Malm night table- we’d even go so far as to call it beautiful. No matter what your opinion on its looks happens to be, it is a refreshing departure from the banality of Audi A6 and Mercedes Benz E-Class offerings that proliferate the midsize luxury ranks. One passerby even remarked on how he thought it was a Bentley.

It’s pretty nice inside, too.

The cockpit of the S90 could double as a slick relaxation chamber. First of all, it’s library quiet- we noticed that the window glass Volvo uses is extremely thick, making sure the clattery diesel idle of the dump truck next to you at an intersection sounds pleasingly far away. Volvo employs a rich tapestry of materials that wouldn’t look out of place in the living room of a luxury home. There’s immaculately finished open pore wood trim, the speaker coverings are made of real metal and the infotainment screen closely resembles an iPad in terms of its look and feel. Then there’s the seats- finished in glove soft leather, they are just about the most comfortable you’ll find in the automotive kingdom. Settling into them after a long day was a treat and we would feel instantly more relaxed. If you cover a lot of miles in your day-to-day life and are considering choosing a vehicle in this segment, the S90 makes for a compelling choice to while away a bunch of kilometers.

It’s got some nifty looking lights front and back, doesn’t it?

Automotive lighting isn’t a subject you’ll hear people talking excitedly about at dinner parties, but the S90 would give them reason to do so. A crisp LED treatment outlines the taillights, but the headlights are a particularly stirring conversation starter. Volvo calls them “Thor’s Hammer” and that’s exactly what they look like, except that Thor wishes his hammer could light the way as brilliantly as these. The are easily seen by oncoming traffic in the daytime, and even the most encompassing darkness is defeated by the high beams. We have no way to quantify it but wouldn’t be surprised if they were the brightest in the industry.

How does it drive?

The S90 feels a lot like the XC90 we drove last year, just with a lot less ground clearance. It feels most at home in normal situations, like trudging from light to light and plying the highways, i.e. the stuff that most of us do on a daily basis. The suspension, steering and brakes simultaneously work together to impart a feeling of effortless control. In fact, the ride is downright plush and you get the feeling the engineers were trying to insulate you and your passengers from the unsavory aspects of driving; namely, the feel and noise associated with driving down a pock marked street. The idea that a midsize luxury sedan would be powered by a 2.0 litre four-cylinder (even one that features both a turbo and supercharger) ten years ago would have been extremely hard to believe, but that’s what you get under the S90’s hood. Volvo recently swore off using engines with anything more than four pistons, but for those who still believe these are too meek to power larger cars, Volvo will soon offer a T8 hybrid version that cranks out sufficient grunt to satiate power junkies. They’ve done an excellent job choreographing the dance between supercharger at low revs and the handoff to the turbo at the top end, but putting the throttle down deeply and often will have a disappointingly negative effect on fuel consumption. At least it’s a smoothie and doesn’t have any unpalatable sounds that smaller displacement four bangers can typically make. It will send power to all four wheels when necessary, and is mated to an 8-speed transmission that does nothing whatsoever to call attention to itself, and we mean that as a praiseworthy achievement. It also has selectable drive modes for you to play around with, though we mostly avoided Sport and Eco Modes in favor of its nicely balanced default setting.

Sport Mode in a Volvo, eh?

Actually, it’s called Dynamic Mode, and it’s called on a by an intricately hefty cylindrical switch on the console. Once activated, the serene S90 becomes a little tenser, a little more alert. It does a good job of giving the car a set of dual personalities, but we began to wonder: how many S90 owners will use this, and how often? We think Volvo’s omission of shift paddles behind the steering wheel and steering feel that remains pinky-turn light is a gentle reply of “Not much.” Besides, while the S90 can boast good handling as part of its CV, it feels inappropriate to have the tach holding onto hi revs with such conviction. Besides, the S90’s raison d’etre is comfort and safety, not slicing your way down a winding two lane.

What might go wrong?

Volvo is following in the footsteps of other luxury brands and offering semi-autonomous driving on the S90. We’re still very much in the infancy of these technologies, and it’s to be expected that there should be some rough edges that are in need of polishing. We have had the opportunity to sample this feature in a wide array of cars, and have thusly concluded that it’s still a little half-baked- our Volvo was no exception. While it’s nice to have a gamut of cameras and computers looking out for you in stop-and-go traffic and highway slogs, there’s still no substitute for good old fashioned human concentration while behind the wheel. The S90 began to feel a bit uncertain as to what to do in certain situations and lurched about somewhat uncomfortably. One day, the Pilot Assist (in Volvo parlance) will work flawlessly…just not yet. We noted that the structure resonates loudly when you slam over uneven pavement or a pothole, but the blame could be attributed to the sporty summer tires and corresponding tiny sidewalls shod on our tester. The only other flaw we’ll gripe about stems from our latent OCD, and that’s the ugly fingerprint smudges left on the touchscreen panel that becomes painfully visible when the car is parked. Not a big deal, but the interior is so gorgeously finished otherwise that it feels like someone used your iPhone after eating Buffalo wings.

Should I buy a Volvo S90?

We think the S90 represents a breath of fresh air in the segment- it’s sharp styling and beguiling interior are enough to set it apart from its competitors. Our Inscription trimmed tester rang in at $73,925 and was packed with every single luxury and convenience feature Volvo offers (the wonderful Bowers and Wilkins stereo and air suspension were among our favorites.) To provide some context, a similarly equipped Audi A6 will extract an extra $14,000 dollars from your wallet- a significant sum indeed, and it makes the S90 something of a bargain. It’s the same story with most of the other players in the segment. Based on the cost savings alone, we’d say the S90 is worth a good look. When you consider the level of comfort and serenity it provides coupled with the designer looks inside and out, it makes for a pretty convincing choice. Or you could wait a little bit and put the achingly beautiful V90 wagon in your driveway instead; it’s your call.

2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $73,925
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
  • Powertrain Layout: Front-engine/All-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Engine:  2.0 turbocharged and supercharged inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  316 @ 5,700 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 295 @ 2,200-5,400 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,831 kg (4,037 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 11L/100km (22 mpg)

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