New Volvo S90 is high-tech, statuesque and a very Swede ride

The Volvo S90 has a refreshing design - the long and low profile gives the car a regal stance on the road.
The Volvo S90 has a refreshing design - the long and low profile gives the car a regal stance on the road.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Volvo S90 has a refreshing design - the long and low profile gives the car a regal stance on the road.
The Volvo S90 has a refreshing design - the long and low profile gives the car a regal stance on the road.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG

Volvo's new S90 delivers class, performance and driveability in a statuesque, high-tech package

The new Volvo S90 is amazing on many levels. It is the biggest sedan Volvo has ever made. It offers more comfort than a Mercedes-Benz E-class and more power per litre than a BMW M5.

It packs an ensemble of high-tech gadgetry, which hints of Volvo's readiness for the autonomous highway. And it looks the part of a premium executive sedan.

But the thing which impresses me most is its absolute absence of sharp edges. Run your fingers over any part of the cabin and you will not come across anything remotely jagged.

That speaks volumes about Volvo's attention to detail, which is evident throughout the new car.

You might think this is an odd way of accessing a car, but it is not. In the premium segment, where competition is keen, what separates a good car from a great car is often a line as fine as a knife's edge.

And you would be surprised how many luxury models betray serrated edges that threaten to split your skin.

  • SPECS / VOLVO S90 T6 AWD

    Price: $239,999 with COE

    Engine: 1,969cc inline-4 supercharged and turbocharged

    Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual select

    Power: 320bhp at 5,700rpm

    Torque: 400Nm at 2,200-5,400rpm

    0-100kmh: 5.9 seconds

    Top speed: 250kmh

    Fuel consumption: 7.5 litres/100km

    Agent: Wearnes Automotive

The S90's failing, if you can call it that, lies in its wood inlay. It appears too "stick on", missing a fine touch which the preceding S80 had no problem nailing.

Other than that, the new model is a winner. It is a big and spacious carrier - longer, wider and with a slightly more generous wheelbase than the E-class.

But in real life, its rear legroom seems to rival that of a standard wheelbase BMW 7-series or Mercedes S-class, even if its headroom and hip room are far less extravagant. Its boot is enormous, with a lid that can open and close with a foot sensor.

Its design is refreshing, with a long and low profile (hence the lower ceiling) that gives the car a regal stance on the road and points to a dynamic spirit.

At the helm, few driving enthusiasts will be disappointed. Equipped with a 2-litre engine that is supercharged as well as turbocharged, the S90 has 320bhp and 400Nm to its name.

It goes from zero to 100kmh in 5.9 seconds and on to a top velocity of 250kmh. Acceleration is delivered with certainty and predictability, with a meaty mid-range that is more adequate than anything you will find on this side of an M5.

Throttle response is super light and linear. The car cruises with hardly any effort on the part of your right foot, rendering its adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping function largely redundant.

A mechanical all-wheel-drive system takes the edge off this potentially beastly machine. Power launches, quick overtaking, high-speed cornering and sharp bends are delivered with a level of stability and refinement few other cars of its size can match. All-wheel-drive, however, has contributed to the S90's higher-than-average curb weight of 2.1 tonnes.

But the punchy engine masks its heft. When extended, this power plant sounds convincingly sporty, with notes that are more pleasing to the ear than the E-class'.

Its ride quality is superb too, despite the test-car wearing 21-inch wheels. Even in sport mode - which is mostly unnecessary - the car is cushier than its rivals. This has to do with rear air suspension which, alas, is an optional feature.

Like the Volvo XC90 that it shares its platform with (but not its driving characteristics), the S90 has a slew of high-tech wizardry. These include Intersection Auto Brake, which is useful if you are turning in the path of a vehicle that is emerging from a blind spot and coming straight.

It also has Run-off Road Protection, which braces occupants if the car should go off the road by tightening seatbelts and repositioning the seats. There is little chance of that because the S90 has a lane-keeping function. With this, you can activate cruise control and the car will drive autonomously - although you are still required to hold onto the steering wheel lightly.

With a car that drives as well as this Volvo sedan, this function is superfluous, if not downright unnerving.

Its less-than-polished wood inlay notwithstanding, the cockpit is aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly. Vertical aero-style air-conditioner vents are a nice touch. Volvo's iPad-like infotainment console is still unbeatable in terms of simplicity and comprehensiveness.

So, you can go with the flow and buy a German car with more brand appeal or you can mull over this Swede ride which offers a lot more bang for the buck. You have 10 days, as the car will launch on Sept 27.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2016, with the headline 'Swede and peachy'. Print Edition | Subscribe