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Road Test: Volvo S90 D4 Inscription

By / 1 month ago / Medium, Road Test, Small / No Comments

The S90 manages more than just a good first impression, says Alex Grant.

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SECTOR: Executive PRICE: £35,555 FUEL: 64.2mpg CO2: 116g/km

Despite the advantages of getting an early drive in the latest cars, there’s an inherent problem with launch events. On a sun-baked stretch of coast road, driving the top-spec version lavished with every possible optional extra to try out, it’s possible to be over-impressed with what can be an average car in a more realistic trim level. But not always.

The S90 saloon, and its V90 stablemate, aren’t just a case of new platforms, new engines and new technology. They’re cars which bring a wow factor to the Volvo range, of beautifully finished interiors and sublime long-distance comfort. Strong foundations for impressing on a two-day launch event – but does it last?

This is the S90 in the spec people will buy. Steel-springs instead of air suspension, two-wheel drive instead of four, and the 190bhp D4 engine rather than the 232bhp D5 that made light work of a lengthy road route through southern Spain last summer. Several hundred miles of wet and gridlocked British roads later, I’m pleased to say that if you’re searching for an executive car and Volvo isn’t on your shopping list, then you’re missing out.

For a start, it’ll be an unusual choice. Volvo expects the V90 to be by far the bigger seller in the UK, but neither will be as common a sight as the German executive cars. It’s a striking saloon, with lines lifted straight from the coupe concept car shown a few years ago, yet also understated and classy where others tend to be brash. There are R-Design versions and bright paint hues for those who want it – and Brits tend to – but the laid-back S90 with its focus on comfort works best in its luxury-biased versions.

More importantly, perhaps, the cabin puts Volvo right at the top of the class. The seats are some of the most comfortable on the market, the dashboard wraps gently around the driver as he or she stares down a long flat bonnet. Lighter colours and wood inserts are the best way to make it feel un-German – but darker shades suit it too. Accents of aluminium, the portrait-oriented touchscreen and textured dials give a sense that every detail has been considered, perhaps except for a bit more RAM to help the navigation system load faster. Kudos to Volvo, it’s got its own character.

This also extends to the way it drives; I’ve no doubt that other executive cars would get around the Nürburgring faster, but the S90 is the one people would be looking at in the car park. It’s a relaxed long-distance car, versions without air suspension do without the sophisticated multi-link rear axle, yet this manages to soak up all sorts of rough road surfaces on large wheels without jittering around all over the road. The D4 engine – Volvo’s own – is so quiet and offers such a wide spread of torque that it’s possible to mistake it for a petrol. Rival German cars are all more fuel-efficient, though.

There’s a real opportunity for the S90 in this segment, as it offers something a bit different to the norm. It drives as well as it looks – even without all the bells and whistles – and it’s built like a German car. Whether you’re wafting across the French Riviera, or letting the Pilot Assist system crawl around a gridlocked and rain-soaked M25, it’s a fantastic executive car that’s very much worthy of disrupting its sector.

What we think:

This is a segment driven by default choices, but there are plenty of drivers who might welcome a change. Especially when it’s this good.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.