Fancy car Volvo S90 is understated no more

Updated: Nov 27, 2016, 11:39 IST | Jim Gorde

Bold new styling, Nappa leather upholstery, a resurrected badge and new power with future-proof tech — the Volvo S90 is an elegant but substantial force to be reckoned with

Style. Luxury. Beauty. Evidently, the meaning of each differs from one person to another. Some things evolve, yet some are recreated altogether. "Volvos are boxy and boring." Who said that? 'Boxy' is certainly not the first word to come to anyone’s mind when looking at the all-new S90. It’s here and it commands a closer second look; lasering the eyes of prejudice.

Cabin is airy and looks elegant; seats are comfortable. Pics/Sanjay Raikar
Cabin is airy and looks elegant; seats are comfortable. Pics/Sanjay Raikar

What Volvo has done is not given the S80 a hot-stone massage with their SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) but rather breathe new life, new chassis, and a completely new character into its erstwhile understated executive sedan.

The D4 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine in the S90 develops 190 PS and 400 Nm
The D4 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine in the S90 develops 190 PS and 400 Nm

The bold new face is similar to the XC90. Inspired by the P1800’s concave grille, the S90 sports a reminiscent chrome cage and a new iron-mark to go with it. Volvo has got the formula right one more time. Do more with less and make it outstanding. There’s a lot going on under that luxury yacht-inspired exterior.

The Volvo S90 D4 has top-notch safety and driver assistance
The Volvo S90 D4 has top-notch safety and driver assistance

Staying true to the gorgeous Concept Coupé, while adding more length and two more doors, the S90 boasts of a longer bonnet and longer roofline. It is a long car, at 4,963 mm; much more than all of its rivals. The Thor’s Hammer — ‘Mjölnir’ as we refer to them — headlamps continue on this saloon. The LED tail-lamp clusters too deviate from the flowing top-to-bottom-S design.

The Volvo S90 D4 Inscription
The Volvo S90 D4 Inscription

Large glass windows, a sunroof and an infrared reflective windscreen make for a visibly bright and airy interior. The effect was furthered with top-shelf blond Nappa leather upholstery. The all-leather dashboard, single-piece machined aluminium trim and inlays of wood around the cabin, all add to the posh feel.

The seats are ergonomic marvels: immensely comfortable, and there’s more support from the side bolsters and the extendable thigh support. They’re perforated, ventilated and heated/cooled, too. Sink the seat to its lowest, raise the cushion-base high and adjust the thigh support and your throne of conquest is at the ready, unless you prefer the back seat.

The rear gets more room and knees have their freedom. The centre tunnel is no small mound, being a provision for the prop-shaft or battery pack for other variants. The touch-panel controls for the rear air-vents also make life easier in the back.

Equipment-wise, the S90 inherits bits of big and small from the XC90. From the large centre touchscreen with a smartphone-like interface to the twist-to-start/stop knob and crafted drive-mode selector, there are familiar elements that make things easier. The new bits — the classic American grille-like air vents with more crafting on the knobs — reflect the specific focus on the saloon.

We were in Rajasthan for the drive. After getting out in the near 40°C heat, the air-conditioning was, almost literally, put through a baptism of fire. The pollen and anti-allergen filter ensured none of the unwanted elements from
the surroundings plague the inner sanctum.

The D4 engine is a 1,969-cc diesel with i-ART direct injection — modern-day convention derailed with one pump per injector for ideal pressure maintenance — and a single turbocharger. The output is 190 PS with the peak 400 Nm of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission powers the front axle.

This is a Volvo, so take every box the Euro NCAP has, tick them all, and draw a few more below with features and tests that they are yet to mandate and tick them too.

The S90 doesn’t pack adaptive cruise control or radar-assisted autonomous braking. But, our guess is the D5 AWD will have those. What it does have is cruise control, a host of braking assistance features, active lane-keeping assist, automatic parking, and park assist.

On the highway, there is no turbo-lag. Given stop-and-suddenly-go traffic, there is a hint of it when revs drop to four digits but on the move there’s none of that. The motor feels reasonably urgent and the torque is enough to waft you swiftly across highways and cities alike.

The S90 packs a hydraulically damped double wishbone front suspension and pneumatically damped multi-link rear suspension for an even more relaxing ride. The wheels are 18-inchers wrapped in 245/45 rubber, so the balance of grip, noise and ride quality isn’t teetering on either edge of the challenging triangle.

A quick detour off the highway and on to sand and the S90, with its 152 mm of ground clearance and clever damping, handled the unruly undulations with ease.

Mjölnirs on either side shining bright, the Viking-sail reflectors turned night into day. The full-LED beam spread is far, the cornering function works well, and there is even a pair of LED fog-lamps for further visual piercing.

It’s easy. It makes everything feel better. The S90 surprised us with its agility, and then some more with its responses in ‘Dynamic’ mode. It comforts, caresses, bear-hugs when needed, but keeps you safe at all time, reinforcing peace of mind, and sips responsibly too. Watch out, Germans.

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