Safety is high on the agenda for all car makers, but Volvo is still out in front with safety etched deep in its cars’ DNA.
Volvo is on a roll, which is appropriate for a company whose name means “I roll”. Its XC90 has won more awards than any previous model from the Swedish company, and has the distinction of being acclaimed as the safest car ever tested under the Euro NCAP crash test programme. Now its saloon sibling the S90 is freshly arrived on UK roads.
So what is the S90 all about? It’s a classy executive saloon that is Volvo’s alternative to a Mercedes E-Class or BMW 5-Series, for those who fancy a change from the dominant Germans in the company car park, and want something with similar performance and a large dose of cool Scandinavian style.
It’s a big car at almost five metres long, 40 mm longer than the Mercedes and almost 60 mm more than the BMW, 30 mm longer than its other German rival the Audi A6, and closest in size to a Jaguar XF that is just 10 mm shorter than the Volvo.
New flagship model
There are two models in the S90 range for the UK, the D4 with front-wheel-drive and a two-litre, four-cylinder, 188 bhp twin-turbo diesel engine, and the D5 with all-wheel-drive and a 232 bhp version of the same engine, each with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed auto gearbox.
Although the XC90, with its taller SUV presence, is Volvo’s biggest car, the S90 is effectively its new flagship. This sleek Swede shares much in common with the XC90 under the skin, but aims to woo a different group of customers who prefer the svelte elegance of a saloon to the pumped-up muscularity of a sports utility vehicle.
Pricing for the S90 starts with a D4 Momentum auto at £32,555, and goes up to £42,055 for a D5 Inscription all-wheel-drive auto. A petrol-electric plug-in hybrid version of the S90 is expected next year.
Classy driving manners
So what do you get for the money? An elegantly styled saloon with a sassy cabin and some fine detailing. Such as, the crystal-cut engine start controller on the centre console, that you twist to switch on, and the little Swedish flag stitched into the sides of the seats as a reminder of the car’s Scandinavian origin.
It’s a five-seater with a big boot at 500 litres, although that’s pipped by all its rivals: the BMW 5-Series with an extra 20 litres, the Audi A6 with 30 litres more and both the Mercedes E and Jaguar XF with an additional 40 litres.
The S90 is a smooth operator that impresses for its classy driving manners and strong performance. There is ample power from the D4’s 188 bhp diesel engine to energise a car weighing a bit over one and a half tonnes.
Better with air
It’s mostly quite refined, with an engine that is one of the quietest amongst its group of rivals, but which becomes a bit more vocal when you work it hard. There’s almost no wind noise over that sculpted bodywork, and just a bit of tyre noise over coarser surfaces.
The optional air suspension is well worth having if you are prepared to stump up an extra £950, because it gives the car a much more silken ride than the rather firmly-set standard suspension.
Volvo S90 Review
Model tested: S90 D4 Momentum
Top speed: 140 mph
0-62 mph: 8.2 secs
Economy: 64.2 mpg
CO2: 116 g/km
Images: Sue Baker