Volvo S90 Review

Stylish, smooth and hi-tech: the Volvo S90 gives German saloons a run for their money.

Strengths & weaknesses

  • Stylish, relaxing interior
  • Comfortable and smooth ride
  • Very good value PCP finance
  • Small choice of engines
  • No manual gearbox option
  • Costly optional extras
Volvo S90 prices from £14,400.
Finance from £258.52 / month.

Volvo isn’t selling its latest large family car with the promise of driving excitement or tyre-squealing acceleration. Instead, the Volvo S90 claims to offer its drivers “relaxed confidence”.

The calming starts with the minimalist interior. There's a nine-inch portrait touchscreen - and very little else - on the wood or metal-panelled dashboard. It feels light and airy, particularly when fitted with the optional panoramic sunroof.

The car isn’t set up to compete with the BMW 5 Series or Jaguar XF, which feel more agile in corners and responsive when accelerating, but is focused on comfort: a smooth ride and a solid, stable feel in corners.

That’s all very well coming from the sales brochure, but in the the real world, the S90 is up against the impressive Mercedes E-Class, which is aiming for the same market.

Both cars do an impressive job of cushioning potholed roads, both will coast up motorways with just a whisper of wind noise and both have quiet, economical engines that provide a steady surge of power. In each respect, the Mercedes is just that little bit better, even when the Volvo is fitted with the optional air suspension that further improves its ride comfort. The Volvo is by far the better value option, however, with fantastic value new PCP finance offers.

That's not the only reason to go for the S90, either. It's much more distinctive than the E-Class, both inside and out, with plenty of light and dark colour options for the interior and a number of quirky exterior design details to help it stand out.

Both the Mercedes and Volvo have cutting edge driver assistance systems that make the vehicles part-time driverless cars. Volvo’s system, called Pilot Assist, will control the accelerator, braking and steering on motorways or A-roads at speeds of up to 80mph, as well as at slower speeds in traffic jams. It works smoothly, without the jerky movements of earlier systems, but you do have to keep your hands on the steering wheel.

There’s a lengthy list of other safety equipment, including an emergency braking system that can detect large animals - like moose or horses - as well as people and cars, then slow or stop the car automatically to avoid a crash. It can also prevent you from turning into the path of an oncoming car.

In 2017 the S90 was awarded the maximum five stars by independent crash testing body, Euro NCAP. Its scores were stellar, with high protection for adult and child occupants, as well as pedestrians. The car's safety systems were also found to perform effectively.

For a car that’s almost 5m - more than 16ft - long, it’s unsurprising that there’s plenty of room for passengers in the front and back, even if they’re all over 6ft, although three in the back will feel cramped. The 500-litre boot is fairly average for its class, but can be extended by folding the seats down.

As a saloon, with a small boot opening and a fixed rear screen, folding down the seats only creates a letterbox-shaped space for luggage, so unless the only large items you need to load are the occasional floorboard or skis, you might be better off opting for Volvo’s V90 estate, which is £2,000 more expensive, but has a far more versatile boot with much greater access.

Key facts

Warranty 3 years / 60,000 miles
Boot size 500-litres
Width
Length 4,963mm
Height 1,443mm
Tax £160 in first year, £145 or £455 thereafter / Pre April 2017 cars: £30 to £110

Best Volvo S90 for...

Best for Economy – Volvo S90 2.0 D4 Momentum

The lower-powered diesel unit returns 64.2mpg according to the official figures. The T8 plug-in hybrid is far more economical - provided you religiously plug it in to top up the batteries that can only realistically power it for around 20 miles or so - but its high purchase cost is likely to cancel out the benefits for most drivers.

Best for Families – Volvo S90 2.0 D5 AWD PowerPulse Momentum

The more powerful diesel engine delivers punchy performance. Stick with the cheapest Momentum trim but add the Xenium pack for an all-round parking camera and panoramic sunroof.

Best for Performance – Volvo S90 T8 R-Design plug-in hybrid

This fastest S90 offers a substantial 408hp thanks to petrol and electric power. Racier R-Design trim features sportier suspension. The 0-62mph dash takes just 5.2 seconds.

One to Avoid – Volvo S90 2.0 D4 R-Design

None of the S90 models feel underpowered, but you won’t be able to make the most of the R-Design’s sportier tuning with the slowest D4 model.

History

  • September 2016 The first Volvo S90s are delivered

Understanding Volvo S90 names

Engine 2.0 D5 PowerPulse

The engine size is given in litres (here, it's 2.0). Those labelled D are diesel powered. The higher the accompanying number, the more powerful they are, so D4 is less powerful than D5. The D5 engine also has technology called PowerPulse that improves acceleration. A T8 plug-in hybrid, which combines a petrol engine and an electric motor for improved performance and fuel economy is also available.

Trim Momentum

There are three standard trim levels: Momentum, Inscription and R-Design. Each trim level presents increasing amounts of standard kit, while R-Design adds a sportier exterior look and interior feel.

Driven wheels AWD

AWD stands for all-wheel drive, meaning that the engine's power is sent to all four wheels for better control when accelerating and on slippery surfaces. Only the front wheels are powered on other S90s.

Gearbox Geartronic

All S90s have an 8-speed automatic gearbox badged Geartronic.

Volvo S90 Engines

D4, D5 and T8 plug-in hybrid

The only Volvo S90 is available with two diesel engines: the D4 and D5. The D5 has more power and technology called PowerPulse, which makes the engine more responsive when you press the accelerator.

Both engines feel smooth and are quiet. You can also have a T8 plug-in hybrid model, with a petrol engine and electric motor with batteries that can power it for up to 28 miles on their own. You can plug the car in to recharge it, but for longer journeys, the petrol engine will take over, as the batteries run out of charge. Both motor and engine can combine to provide a power boost during hard acceleration.

 

Fuel

Fuel economy

Power

Acceleration

Top speed

D4

Diesel

64.2mpg

190hp

0-62mph: 8.2 secs

140mph

D5

Diesel

58.9mpg

235hp

0-62mph: 7.0 secs

145mph

T8 plug-in hybrid

Petrol/Electric

135mpg

408hp

0-62mph: 5.2 secs

140mph

Volvo S90 Trims

Momentum, Inscription and R-Design

The Volvo S90 comes well equipped, even in its cheapest Momentum trim, with dual-zone climate control that lets both front occupants set the interior temperature for their half of the car; sat-nav with European mapping; DAB radio and Bluetooth connection for your phone. All of these functions are controlled by the iPad-like nine-inch touchscreen at the centre of the dashboard, which quickly becomes easy to use. There’s also the option of using voice commands.

Leather seats, that are heated and powered at the front, are also standard, along with a screen behind the steering wheel, showing a digital speedometer. There are power sockets in the front, rear and boot. The powered bootlid can be opened and closed at the touch of a button, and the car is fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels (18-inch with the D5 engine).

Most safety equipment is fitted as standard, including Pilot Assist, which drives the car autonomously on motorways, A-roads, and in traffic jams (but you have to keep your hands on the steering wheel), and there is an automatic braking system that will slow or stop the car if the driver fails to respond to a warning that a collision is imminent.

For £3,000 more, Inscription models have better quality Nappa leather seats as standard, as well as a larger display behind the steering wheel, which has a digital rev counter alongside the speedometer. All cars have 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome highlights on the bodywork and mood lighting inside. Keyless entry allows you to open the bootlid when you’ve got your hands full by poking your foot underneath the rear bumper - as long as the key fob is within range.

Another trim level, R-Design, brings black grilles, sports seats, a special steering wheel. The car is slightly lower to the ground, which helps to give it a slightly sportier feel.

Many of the features on more expensive trim levels can be added individually to cheaper cars. Some equipment is only available as an option, including air suspension, which makes the ride even smoother, as well as seats that will massage and cool the front passengers.

A panoramic sunroof, all-round camera and automatic parking system are included in the £1,750 Xenium option pack. A head-up display is useful in helping keep your eyes on the road, but costs a steep £600. If you’ve got an iPhone and want the Apple CarPlay system, which turns the Volvo’s touchscreen into a display resembling the one on your phone, then that’s an expensive £300 option.

Volvo S90 Reliability and warranty

The car’s warranty is a fairly standard three years or 60,000 miles of cover – whichever runs out first. The paintwork has a three-year unlimited mileage warranty, and you’re covered for 12 years against rust perforation.

The expensive battery in the T8 Plug-in hybrid car is protected for longer than most other parts, with an eight-year or 100,000 mile warranty - whichever comes first.

Used Volvo S90

Petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid versions of the Volvo S90 are available. Initially only diesel models were available, however, meaning that these will be the most plentiful on the used market for some time.