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What is it?
Volvo’s newest and most premium sedan that replaces the S80. It’s built on the same SPA platform as the much appreciated XC90 SUV and shares more than a few design elements, mechanicals and parts with its SUV sibling. The XC90 has proved to be very successful for Volvo globally and in India with over 550 units sold since its launch and a waiting period of five months for a new one. The XC90 impressed us with its clean design, luxurious interior, safety of course and a diesel engine that is more than sufficient for regular comfortable travel. The S90 builds on these virtues.
While the S90 is built on the same platform and shares its design elements with the XC90, the car itself is all new. Internationally, it also comes as an estate, the V90, but that’s not coming to India. The S90 due to its sedan proportions, gets a narrower grille and bumper to the XC90 but the overall design is nicely integrated into this new body style while keeping the family design cues in place. It is 4.96 metres long, 1.89 metres wide, gets a wheelbase of 2.94 metres and a 500-litre boot, which means it’s a fairly large car. It also gets a choice of five engines in its line-up – three petrols and two diesels. The petrols are the 251 horsepower turbocharged T5, 315bhp supercharged and turbocharged T6 and a 407bhp supercharged, turbocharged and petrol combined with an electric motor plug-in hybrid T8 (this combination in the XC90 is coming in October). The diesels are a 188bhp D4 and a 232bhp D5, both using two turbochargers. All engines are part of the new scalable 4-cylinder Drive-E engine family. India will get the D4 and the D5 to begin with, but going by the recent introduction of petrol engines by its competitors, should also come with the T5/T6 petrol unit. Volvo will gauge the response to the T8 XC90 before considering introduction of this motor in the S90.
Will it turn heads?
The S90 has a stately flair in its design. Crisp horizontal lines all around with a bold front end and strong shoulders culminate into signature Volvo tail lamps. None of it is boring, something you could associate with its predecessor, the S80. It always used to be all about safety but the Swedes have nailed it with their new generation of cars. The ‘thor’s hammer’ LED design element is recognisably Volvo now and the wide and low silhouette slopes well into the ‘C’ shaped tail lamps. The car doesn’t aim to be sporty, just elegant, and it does that convincingly.
The S90 is as much about pampering its occupants as it is about looking smart on the outside. The front seats get massagers, adjustable side bolstering, lumbar and extendable under-thigh support. It’s got the same vertically laid out centre console from the XC90 with a very user-friendly interface, and stuff like navigation is also relayed to the digital instrument cluster. The Inscription trim we drove gets a 1400W Bowers and Wilkins music system. You get drive modes that alter the stiffness of the suspension, add steering weight and increase throttle response as you go up from comfort to dynamic mode. Space for the rear seat passengers is excellent for executive sedan standards and four zone climate control air conditioning is part of the package as well.
How is it to drive?
The test car we drove in southern Spain came with 20 inch wheels shod with 255/35 R20 Pirelli P Zero optional rubber. The stock size is 18 inchers, but besides the ridiculously low sidewalls that will be prone to damage in India, the ride is surprisingly good. The Spanish countryside doesn’t have the perfect buttered smooth roads as I had expected so the suspension did get a good workout but it didn’t unsettle the car. The S90 gets steel springs up front with adaptive dampers and air suspension for the rear. Volvo thinks this set up works fine in sedans instead of the costly option of air suspension all round, and on first impressions, I think the decision might have been the right choice to price it competitively. As for the handling, in the speed limit controlled roads of Spain, it’s not easy to say how great a handler the S90 is but what’s evident is its composure. It’s not the most agile and it isn’t even trying to be a 5 Series or an XF, but the AWD system and sticky Pirellis offer good grip for a smooth and comfortable drive.
The 4-cylinder D5 diesel we drove develops 232bhp of power and 480Nm of torque. It comes with a claimed 0-100kmph time of 7 seconds and a top speed of 240kmph. Volvo has introduced a new technology in S90 diesels called Power Pulse, that aims to improve the performance of the turbochargers by providing 2-litres of pressurised air in the exhaust manifold. What it basically does is make the engine more responsive at lower revs giving you a stronger surge through the midrange. For a 4-cylinder engine as a result, acceleration is better than its competitors. The 8-speed auto box however is a bit lazy in selecting the optimum gear at constantly changing speeds.
Fun to drive?
For that you will have to wait. It’s tough to test handling on these sterile roads, but there’s one absolutely irrelevant bit of information we’d like to give to our Indian readers – the S90’s pilot assist system. It was first introduced in the XC90 and silly pedestrian speeds but it has further developed in the S90 to now work at speeds up to 130kmph. What Pilot Assist does is not only works the cruise control for you but also controls your steering function. In essence, with the system turned on, you could take your hands off the steering wheel mid-corner and trust the system to not crash the car into the barrier. It’s accurate but still needs some work as it constantly corrects itself in long sweeping bends to stay on the desired path. I’m not a fan of autonomous driving though, it just isn’t the natural thing to do at the wheel of a car, so good thing it isn’t going to be of any impact in India.
Easy on the pocket?
Now here’s the surprise. Volvo India plans to price the fully loaded Inscription trim S90 much under Rs 60 lakh. For the kind of equipment the S90 comes with and the overall package of the car, the pricing will be very competitive. Volvo India is silently confident of the success of the car and is targeting 251 pre-orders before the launch at the end of the year.
There are four executive luxury sedans in this segment, the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Jaguar XF. The options available among its competitors however will be more than the S90’s, so Volvo must consider introducing the petrol and T8 plug-in hybrid S90 soon.
evo India rating