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Culture / Cars

A Coddling Sports Sedan

This New Volvo Offers a Sanctuary on the Road

BY Jim Shi // 11.19.16

High on the heels of its immensely successful XC90 SUV — and drawing on that much-lauded model for most of its chassis, powertrain and interior — the all-new S90 positions Volvo competitively and confidently in the luxury-car sphere. 

Mind you, the S90 isn’t an all-out performance sports car. Rather, it perfectly coddles its passengers with a sense of relaxation, comfort and legendary safety the Swedish automaker has cemented its reputation on. Volvo touts its latest iteration of the “Scandinavian Sanctuary” as an ideal city-meets-country cruiser that can quicken the pulse when necessary, but not as a primary objective.

The recently-released S90 along with its V90 sport wagon sibling (due out in 2017) offer ample power and driving character while introducing a host of driver-assistance and safety systems.

Thanks to a 547-pound drop in weight that results in a bettered 5.7 zero-60 mph time, everything consumers love about the XC90 can be found in the S90 — albeit in a nimbler and sportier package that gives both the sedan and wagon a more cosmopolitan feel (we recommend the new Mussel Blue exterior paint).

At first glance, the “new Volvo” design cues are all there: strong yet sedate, its long hood, complete with unmistakable upright Volvo grille and “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights, ends with a sweeping C-pillar sail and a rounded and softened tail that projects a handsome and inviting profile while hinting at the coupe-like lines derived from the 2013 Volvo Concept Car.

It's all in the details — the Volvo S90 air blade.
It’s all in the details — the Volvo S90 air blade.

 Inside the S90 is one of the best interiors currently available on the market. Premium at every touch, the ultra-supportive stitched seats provide a superb driving position while low-gloss wood and satin trim elements are offset by jewel-like switchgear and the large glass of the center control screen.

A single satin metallic bar runs the width of the dashboard, providing visual and actual structural support. Unlike the XC90, the sedan incorporates simple and artistically styled “air blade” vertical vents fitted with diamond-cut knobs to direct cabin airflow.

Instruments are bright and visible while the large vertical infrared touchscreen (not capacitive, so it works with gloved fingers) provides access to all manner of onboard systems from navigation and communications to entertainment and vehicle controls.

Like the XC90, the S90 and V90 ride on Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) that establishes a fixed front axle-to-dash distance for the front-wheel-drive chassis but allows wide flexibility in other dimensions. Suspension is double-wishbone in front and transverse composite leaf spring at the rear, with rear air suspension optional. Steering is electric-assisted rack-and-pinion, while disc brakes at each wheel provide the stopping force.

Power is derived from two engines: the front-wheel drive model features 250-hp and 258-lb.-ft. of torque from a turbocharged 2.0L I-4 engine while a 316-hp, 295-lb.-ft. turbocharged and supercharged engine is standard on the all-wheel drive model. A hybrid T8, with over 400 hp, will join the stable in 2017. All are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Volvo engineers have laid on a suite of electronic safety features and driver aids, including the second generation of the automaker’s Pilot Assist that gives the new sedan semi-autonomous-driving capability.

The radar- and camera-based system provides both low- and high-speed adaptive cruise control, adds steering assistance up to 81 mph and can read lines on well-marked roads to follow the path, rather than having to follow another vehicle, thanks to a road edge mitigation that creates the world’s first “digital wall.”

Also a first: large animal detection that recognizes, warns and avoids or mitigates impacts with moose, elk and deer.

Prices starting at $46,950

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