2017 Volvo S90Posted on February 27th, 2017
Luxury sedan is the future of automotive performance
By Nina Russin
Although the Volvo S90 luxury sedan is not an inexpensive car, its performance and leading-edge safety technology make it a tremendous value. Imagine an all-wheel drive sedan that averages 31 miles-per-gallon on the highway, thanks to its supercharged and turbocharged two-liter direct injection engine: a block that also puts out 316-horsepower and 295 pound-feet of peak torque. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is under six seconds: a lot of wow for an engine block the size of two milk jugs.
An eight-speed automatic transmission provides large overdrive gears to extend fuel economy on the highway, with low gears tuned for optimum power off the line.
The sedan comes standard with City Safety, the original autonomous braking technology since copied by many competitors. Unlike those competitors, the Volvo system recognizes cyclists and small animals in addition to other vehicles and pedestrians. That’s important, since each requires separate software.
Base MSRP is $52,950 excluding delivery. Options include a vision package adding a 360-degree view camera and blind spot monitoring, climate package including heated washer nozzles, heads-up display, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel, and a convenience package with power trunk lid, front park assist and pilot park assist. Final MSRP is $66,105.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
Over the past week I drove the S90 around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley, sections of the Gila River Indian Community to the Southeast and along Bush Highway in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains east of town. The test drive included time in rush-hour traffic as well as rural two lane roads with 1000 feet of elevation change.
As the brand’s new flagship, the S90 brings together Volvo’s current design philosophy and performance on par with German sport sedans. The four-cylinder engine utilizes a supercharger to boost power at lower engine speeds. At higher rpms, the supercharger disengages and a turbocharger kicks in. The result is remarkable power output from a small block. The engine is aluminum: a material that minimizes weight gain in the front of the vehicle.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is the perfect mate, progressing smoothly through the gears for linear acceleration.
The test car does not come with the optional air suspension, but the four-wheel independent setup works perfectly, consisting of compact wishbone with coil springs in front and composite leaf springs in the back. Stabilizer bars keep the chassis flat in the corners.
All-wheel drive automatically sends engine power to the wheel or wheels with the best traction, enhancing performance on wet roads, but also giving the driver better control while cornering.
An electric power rack and pinion steering system is well tuned to the chassis, providing plenty of assist at low speeds for maneuverability with good on-center response on the highway.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in smooth, linear fashion.
Active safety technology is some of the best in the industry because of its unobtrusive nature. While many lane departure assist systems buzz and rattle the car, the Volvo system gently steers the vehicle back towards center in a manner that is almost imperceptible. The blind spot information system illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. It is notable for its lack of false alerts, while protecting the driver from dangerous lane changes.
City Safety automatically applies the brakes if the vehicle senses that the driver has failed to recognize an obstacle in the vehicle’s path. It can bring the vehicle to a complete stop at slower speeds and significantly reduce the severity of collisions when moving faster.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing engine, wind and noise intrusion to the interior so occupants can converse or enjoy the premium sound system.
Volvo has always made the human body the focus of its design. The S90 exterior has shoulders and haunches, reflecting this humanistic focus. Inside the car, everything from step-in height to seat and steering wheel design is carefully orchestrated to provide a wide variety of body types with a comfortable environment.
Driver controls are minimally distracting. The optional heads up display projects speed and posted speed limits in the bottom of the windshield. I did notice quite a few errors in the speed limit information, but could not determine whether the problem was due to an outdated database or another technical problem.
Controls for the audio, navigation and climate systems in the center stack screen work in similar fashion to touchscreens on tablet computers.
The optional 360-degree camera projects an overhead view of the vehicle when the driver shifts into reverse, enabling him to see obstacles around the vehicle’s perimeter.
I found the driver’s seat controls easy to use, providing plenty of thigh and lower lumbar support for longer trips. The keyless start is also noteworthy. Instead of using a simple start button, the driver turns a switch in the center console, mimicking the motion of an ignition key. When the driver locks the car, side mirrors fold flat to prevent parking lot mishaps.
The key fob, while attractive, is very difficult to read. Icons for lock, unlock and the trunk are on the side edge of the fob, so as not to interfere with the fob’s wood veneer surface. I’d prefer larger, easy-to-read icons on the fob’s flat surface.
The Volvo S90 comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and whiplash resistant front seats.
Volvo builds the S90 at its Gothenburg, Sweden assembly plant.
Like: A beautifully styled and engineered luxury sedan with exceptional power, good fuel economy and segment leading active safety features.
Dislike: Control icons on key fob are difficult to read.
Model: S90 AWD Inscription
Base price: $52,950
As tested: $66,105
Horsepower: 316 HP @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 295 lbs.-ft. @ 2200 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.9 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 22/31 mpg city/highway