With Volvo‘s reputation so entrenched in vehicle safety, it can be easy to forget that the Swedish luxury carmaker is also trying to build a name for itself in the green vehicle market. The Recharge series is an attempt to introduce customers to electrification gradually, and we enjoyed our last exposure to the Recharge when we had a chance to drive the XC90 Recharge. But with the XC90 sharing a platform with the S90 sedan, it was only a matter of time before it too received the electrification treatment. But will it deliver the same positive vibes that the XC90 version did?
Aging S90 Exterior Still Has Swedish Charm
The exterior styling of our Inscription grade tester hasn’t changed much since the S90 first appeared a few years ago. It’s aging (despite a light refresh), but unlike other cars that have been around for a long time, the S90 still manages to look clean and elegant. The front fascia is all about simplicity, with the chrome grille and the Thor’s Hammer style headlights all being small pieces in a broader puzzle.
The side profile is plain but still expressive, with a sweep and a curve scattered about to help the car flaunt its lines. The rear of the vehicle is still arguably its most controversial design aspect. Some will like the large taillights, and others will consider them large afterthoughts. Either way, the S90 is still a good exercise in minimalism, and it has the size to back up its claims. Unfortunately, that size sometimes hampered our tester, especially in Detroit, where narrow parking garages required patience and careful driving to get the big four-door up and down the ramps without scratching anything.
Elegant Interior Hides Technology Flaws
The interior of the S90 still retains its elegant combination of high-quality materials and design simplicity. While our complaints about the Sensus infotainment system remain firmly intact here, look past the problematic screen, and some of the cabin’s inner charms emerge into the forefront. The rich leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good in the hands, and the supportive leather seats offer miles of long-haul comfort with plenty of adjustments. Rear seat passengers also benefit from good amounts of head and legroom, and all passengers can relish the vibrant tunes generated by the Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system.
This elegant cabin may lose a step when compared to German rivals. Still, Volvo is not gunning for them with the S90, and that’s just fine with us, especially as we took in the impressive amounts of silence created by the sound deadening material splashed throughout the car. With its unique mixture of simplistic elegance and Swedish personality, look for the cabin to constantly emerge as an enduring highlight of the S90.
Twin Charging And Electrification Creates Potent S90 Driving Experience
Volvo has had hybrid-equipped models available for a while. Still, it’s also the only automaker to use a production twin-charged (turbo and supercharged) engine, with our tester being powered by a 2.0-liter twin-charged four-cylinder engine. The four-cylinder itself produces 313 hp, but the spunky four-banger is also paired with an 87 hp rear-mounted electric motor. The result not only allows the Recharge to have all-wheel drive, but it also allows the S90 Recharge to have a combined 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque.
An eight-speed Aisin sourced automatic is the lone transmission here, and it allowed our over 4,700 lb tester to make the sprint to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. But while the T8 has impressive straight-line acceleration, it’s not a sport sedan, with sharp corners revealing that this cruiser prefers to take things at its own pace versus being flung about in sharp corners.
Instead, the name of the game here is electrified driving, and the S90 Recharge T8 does this by adopting a plug-in hybrid configuration. At first, the 20 to 23 miles of all-electric range may seem paltry when compared to traditional EV vehicles. Still, Volvo is well aware of this and is instead positioning the Recharge models as a potential gateway for buyers looking to embrace electrified driving but might not be ready to take the full plunge into pure electrified driving. The range here is helpful, but it depends on what kind of roads you encounter on your daily commute. Suppose it’s the typical combination of city and freeway driving. In that case, the Recharge does well, with the electric motor providing commendable amounts of power in urban commuting and maintaining freeway speeds. Need to go to the bank, the mall, and maybe your aunt’s house? All of this is doable in pure electric mode, and you won’t waste a drop of gasoline doing it all.
However, when you encounter hills where the electric motor struggles a bit, with the amount of power on hand feeling weak at times, it forces buyers to shuffle between pure EV and traditional hybrid driving modes to achieve the maximum combination of performance and efficiency. Charging on a standard 12-volt outlet takes about 6.5 hours, but Volvo claims that hooking the car up to a 220-volt outlet slashes that time down to 4 hours. While most T8 models will spend most of their driving time in hybrid mode, the ability to occasionally go all-electric will be a welcome cushion for inner-city excursions or light highway trips.
Pricing for the 2021 S90 T8 Recharge starts at $61,095, which will get you into the Inscription package with the sportier R-Design model having the same base MSRP. In Volvo’s world, optional equipment is the most significant factor in deciding the final sticker price, and our tester followed that policy to the letter. In our case, that meant over $5,000 in optional equipment, which caused the final price to grow to a total of $70,640.
Some of these options are focused on providing more luxury, but if we had our say in creating an S90 of our own, we recommend going for the four-corner adaptive air suspension, the larger 20-inch alloy wheels, and the Lounge package, which brings massage capability to the front seats and cooled rear seats.
The 2021 Volvo S90 Recharge T8 Inscription is an exciting package. While it’s not going after the Germans in the luxury race, it’s perfectly content with delivering a unique driving experience to buyers looking for a healthy dose of Swedish minimalism and luxury. It also doesn’t hurt either that the interior does an excellent impersonation of a private jet when out on the move. When you add in the Recharge’s EV capability, it helps enhance the mood even further in this super sedan.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.