We all knew the brand-new Volvo S90 sedan would be a quantum leap ahead of its S60 and S80 predecessors in the luxury segment. We knew this new S90 is the second Volvo since XC90 to be a real class-best achievement in style and safety.
But knowing all this still offers no prep for how absolutely phenomenal the new S90 is inside and on the road. It is so magnificently high-tech, yet grounded in light Swedish leathers and a open-pore walnut woods.
It drives with lightness and agility unlike anything you might expect from a 5 series or E-Class rival.
Knowing the S90 from the inside out even made us fall hard in love with its unusual rear end design. And even this color!
After flinging this 316HP AWD machine around onramps and through twisty corners for a week — it was instantly clear this S90 would be the Best of 2017 Award winner here at Car-Revs-Daily.com. A machine so advanced that its only real rival feels like the Tesla Model S?
A Volvo that is as joyful as any full-size luxury sedan we’ve ever tried.
Let’s prove why this S90 is so amazing via the standard section headings of Exterior, Interior, Performance and Price. We have an ultra short video of the car’s mid-5-second sprint to 60-mph and a few dozen photos to come along for this Swedish joyride.
We genuinely liked how the S90 looked in real life before driving one. But now that Like is a big Love. A big dancing emoji of love!
The S90 is so gorgeous from all angles that it even made us forgive the ancient S80. Clearly, the work on its replacement could not be rushed.
Starting in the nose, the S90 evolves the stunningly sexy slim Thor-Hammer LED daytime running lights from the XC90 SUV. It brings a boxy new grille with concave waterfall details and a slim, wide overall face. Chrome wraps the outside of the grille but the inner elements are matte silver — a brushed nickel look that also shows up on the sill accents.
The S90 looks immensely wide and luxurious from dead ahead. Below the grille and slimline lights are two levels of horizontal air intakes, both with a flipped leading edge for aero smoothness and downforce. Tasteful brightwork in the lower corners forms wraps the LED foglamps down below, before the whole look flows cleanly into the front fenders.
These design details alone are nice, but it is their packaging that makes them eye=popping. The ultra low hood ends with a near 90-degree chop at the top of the grille. A similarly low, long hood look complements the ultra chopped front overhang and big, lux length between the front doors and the front axle. This S90 has the proportions of a top luxury model — and those looks are spellbinding.
Moving more into profile, we see the front windshield and the entire cabin has been shifted rearward. Ready to pounce and certainly slick in the wind tunnel. The windshield rake is fairly fast for a traditional luxury car, but its base is also far rearward. All giving great elegance outside and world-leading visibility inside.
The S90’s doors and bodysides are clean and free of distraction, even as the surface is a graceful wave that is thickest around door handles and carved out a bit down toward the sills.
Inoffensive brightwork wraps the windowline with a slight upkick in the C-pillar — another slim piece of metal that proves how much glass S90 has versus other luxury sedans and their thick metal elements.
Into the tail, the S90’s most controversial angle is its boomerang taillamp graphic. This sharply creased shape grew on us — to the point where it now looks sexy editing the photos.
What the tail proves in this S90 design is the overall blockiness of the overall look. Yes, the corners are rounded off. And yes, the S90 is low and lithe like a Fisker Karma versus any Volvo sedan since the 960.
But at its core, the squared lines right under the alloy bodywork of this Volvo reflect its richly cubed design history. You sense this in the chopped trailing edge of the trunk, and the inverted kink of the metal housing the V-O-L-V-O script on the trunk face. This is a blocky machine that is somehow also smooth and elegant.
A solid A-plus grade for the exterior design of the S90 — enhanced by the 20-inch optional wheels but still gorgeous even on the Inscription’s standard 19’s.
Here is the Volvo S90’s most instagrammed element: its gorgeous cabin! Nothing prepares you for this level of craftsmanship in a $50k-ish sedan. The design is intensely satisfying to look at, and even more-so to touch and live with.
The $3300 Inscription option package really helps up the ante in here, and seems well worth it. (Full sticker below details what is included).
A leather dash, nappa leather for the vented seats, power squab extension, power side bolsters and much more are substantive additions for the Inscription.
It takes a minute for the S90’s cabin brilliance to really sink in. The steering wheel with its squircle shaped central boss is slightly unusual, but is a friendly and unaggressive look that reflects the overall Volvo personality nicely. Things like the LED ambient lights, LED overhead lights and LED sill plates are fairly standard for the luxury segment these days. Same goes for the 9-inch vertical touchscreen in the center stack and the 12-inch TFT display for the virtual gauges.
Fancy wood is obviously nothing new for luxury cars, either. But it is the execution of all of these minute details that captures the heart/soul of this car. The linear walnut elements with their touchable grains are lovely. The door accent piece, for example, is a longcut section of an entire tree trunk — steamed into this shape and absolutely begging to be touched.
The precision-sliced wood cover for the drink holders is far more special than it has to be. This rolls away into the armrest easily, but when extended you can see the actual grains of the wood across the 20 or so sliced segments. Exquisite.
A cooled glovebox is a nice touch, as is the four-zone HVAC of the Inscription package. This adds another touchscreen for the back seaters to control their microclimates.
So far, none of this sounds unique to the S90 versus an S-Class or perhaps even the new Lincoln Continental.
All we can say is that the material and build quality of the S90 is beyond spectacular — bringing mundane details to life.
Then we get to the tech suite. Small car companies were at a disadvantage in touchscreens and nav systems as recently as five years ago. But now being small let Volvo leapfrog rivals with the excellence of their ‘Sensus’ control system.
It is instantly clear that the S90 has the best touchscreen of any car on the road, Tesla Model S included. This screen is legitimately an iPad in how slipe-able and precise every control is. The S90’s screen is so advanced that it honestly takes a day or two to realize it. Your default taps and prods are overkill — a soft touch, pinch or slide on any Volvo control is all it takes. All this processing power does not boot instantly, however, so there is about 5 seconds of driving before the whole thing becomes ultra-sensitive. You soon learn – and forgive this foible for how stellar the controls are in general.
Volvo makes climate, audio and nav simple with permanent shortcuts and plenty of room to show all info on the screen at once. Apple CarPlay is standard, as is Sirius XM, a wifi hotspot, on-call emergency and remote-controlled app services and of course wireless streaming and voice calls.
Around day three of driving the S90, we started to dig a bit deeper into the Sensus system’s settings and controls. Here you find the jackpot of drive modes, cabin moods and overall customization of your dreams. The S90 is not a car that makes you resent the engineers — but rather to love them for getting tiny things so right.
An A-plus grade for the interior of S90 confirms it is one of the best cabins in the history of the car business.
What do you mean ‘Love the engineers’? Really?
Yes. The reasons we loved them were discovered on day four. After playing with the drive modes, we loved the range of adjustment for the suspension firmness, steering and throttle response. Obviously, Sport won our heart but even in Eco the S90 will rocket up to speed on full throttle with no complaints.
But wait, why was the S90 so aggressively engine braking itself up to stoplights? This eight-speed automatic is a gem, and the engine a torque monster — so why this curious trait? Adjusting it is just a menu away. There is a vehicle settings screen on the S90 that basically lets you program the car yourself. Snick the engine braking off, flip steering effort up or down. Control the power delivery — it is all here! A true make-it-your-own level of tech genius in this S90.
All the S90’s default modes are great, thankfully. The first thing you need to know?
T6 is fast! This T6 badge actually references a world-first TURBO and SUPERcharged four-cylinder engine. Making 316HP and 295 pound-feet of torque from 2200-rpm, the S90 literally snaps to attention and past 80-mph in a flash. It is so, so much torque yet also a rewarding top end to rev out to redline.
Apologies this video is so brief – but you can get a sense of the S90’s crisp engine note on hard throttle via the below snippet.
So, it is very speedy. This is good.
But even better is the handling balance and feel. As an AWD model, you cannot get any sense of this car being front-drive. It is so balanced and rewarding to push hard around corners, we were shocked. The steering in any of its settings is pure and direct. The brakes are strong and accurate. The engine’s twin-charged nature means it is ultra hushed at 31-mpg highway cruise.
We credit the chassis rigidity for this. The entire S90 just feels like it is made of a single chunk of high-strength steel. Short of the Tesla Model S, we’ve never driven a car that feels this structurally strong.
The strength leads to trust. Trust lets you push the car hard.
Driving the S90 hard brings a huge smile — daily.
This is a A-grade machine for its drive manners and performance.
The S90 T6 AWD comes in with a sticker base price of $54k, with cheaper front-drive T5 models available as well. (From about $44k!)
Our test car is near the top of the charts for the T6 engine – stickering at $66,105 with everything tallied. (T6 in USA means AWD, while T5’s with 250HP are front-drive only).
The tester added the very-worthwhile Inscription pack for $3300, Vision pack for $1950 with surround-view cam and blind spot alert, and 20-inch upgraded alloys for $750. A $1950 Climate pack adds heated everything and, curiously, the heads-up display. This seems like it fits with Vision, but we digress.
Lastly, a $1000 Convenience pack brings power trunk, homelink, compass in the frameless rear-view mirror and automatic parking with sonar front/rear.
Lastly, the $2650 Bowers & Wilkins audio is the one thing we’d skip if trying to save cash. The $560 Mussel Blue Metallic paint would also be a skip for us — too shy-looking for such an incredible vehicle.
B+ for value.
We’re running out of words here to describe the S90’s brilliance. In a month where we’ve also tested a half-dozen rivals like the 540i, CT6, GS350, Continental, G80 and XF —- nothing comes close to how much we loved the 2017 Volvo S90.
Handling that is playful and fun like a BMW or Jaguar. Comfort and roominess to shade the XF. Quality that belittles Genesis G80 or Lexus GS350. Tech that is laughably better than Cadillac’s hopeless CT6. Yes to all.
The S90 earned its Best of 2017 Award.
Now it deserves to earn 30-minutes of your time for a test drive. Book one now — you’ll thank me later.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.