Mountain Wheels: The future arrives in Volvo’s fast and classy S90 (review)
2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription
MSRP: $52,950; As tested, $66,105
Powertrain: 316-HP 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; eight-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: 25 combined (22 city, 31 highway)
As a piece of critical advice to anyone in a similar situation, concoct a good excuse — like, a really good excuse — to get out of a week’s work, when given an opportunity to go to Sweden to drive Volvos. You will be kicking yourself if you do not do so. It’s better to regret something you have done, than something you haven’t.
And, as a more universal piece of advice, anyone in the market for an upscale, large-format European automotive sedan experience that demonstrates how earnest Volvo is about competing with its German brethren, should certainly take a close look at the 2017 S90.
A more full-scale Colorado practicality test for the impressive and not-at-all-small Volvo sedan flagship revealed that the new car’s scale, its marvelous design and its impressive blend of next-generation technology certainly puts it in Mercedes, BMW or Audi territory — for a loaded-to-the-eyeballs price that’s pretty appealing, considering how spendy things get when requesting a comparable load of goods and services from the Germans.
My high-end tester was the Inscription model of the S90, with the T6 engine and AWD, stickering at $52,950 and ringing in at $66,105 with nearly every option you can get. A base S90 starts at $46,950; mine was slathered with goodness including walnut wood inlays, ventilated leather seats and leather dashboard and door panels, 20-inch alloy wheels, surround-view (and sometimes funhouse mirror-styled) camera and traffic alert systems, and a devastating $2,650 Bowers and Wilkins premium audio setup.
The slightly misnamed engine choices seem like they might be a bit underwhelming considering the S90’s grand size (195.4 inches of length, a 115.8-inch wheelbase, and 4,012 to 4,222 pounds of total weight) — both the base T5 and the premium T6 are each actually four-cylinder 2.0-liter motors, but turbocharging pumps them to 250 and 316 horsepower, respectively.
And considering that the car now feels like an extremely classy and futuristic European machine that’s about the size of an old Crown Victoria cop car, is 316 horsepower way too little to do the job? No, categorically; the S90 spools up and goes like hell, pretty much all of the time, with a smoothness and solidity that’s downright scary, especially when you look down and see how fast you’re traveling. It corners flat and true, and does not float at all, flying along.
Car and Driver may whine for a V-6 or some obscene AMG-styled arrangement boosting those numbers into the stratosphere; Volvo’s very content with the setup as is, and with the exception of some fantasy future Polestar product (Volvo’s race shop editions), I think Colorado owners will be quite pleased with either turbo 2.0-liter. Even the bigger engine gets at least 31 MPG on the highway, with AWD; not too shabby.
It’s certainly a very striking vehicle, with a breadth and some serious size and scope in its flanks. From the punchy appeal of the “Thor’s Hammer” LED daylight running lamps (yes, the Swedes are funny) to the wheel well-filling glow of those giant rims, S90 is quite the looker.
The interior is about as lush as they come, and with the exception of the slightly overdone aluminum grates and dash-top speaker (and logo) for the ear-pounding stereo system, the wood, the long line of wood trim on the dash, the large and pillowy leather-topped center console and even the curiously complex but quickly learnable iPad-sized vertical touchscreen are all elegant touches.
It’s also got lots of surprising touches, such as a twist-knob starter and vent controls, a jewelry-quality rotating bar switching between drive modes, even a lazy river-styled cupholder arrangement (it all kind of flows forward, ending with a perch big enough for an iPhone).
And seating is marvelous. Not quite as deep and orthopedically pure as the seats in the S60 or the XC60; more upright but still fantastic.
Volvo’s always been two or three steps ahead of the pack in terms of safety and general motoring technology and its newest innovation, Pilot Assist, is both the most remarkable and potentially scariest system I’ve yet experienced.
An honest-to-goodness semi-autonomous driving aid, Pilot Assist really will fully drive for you at speeds up to 80 mph — thankfully the system still requires you to actually provide small steering inputs every few seconds to prove that you’re still in the front seat, but otherwise, it will do a very impressive job of steering and speed and distance control. I found this especially helpful for a long jaunt up I-25, in light traffic.
Using road lines as its guide, the system also rather precipitously attempted to merge me off of said Interstate at Interstate speeds as I passed several exit ramps; the system, like all you’ve heard about in the brave new world of robotic driving aids, is not perfect.
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