Imagine a Swedish-built sedan trying to infiltrate the luxury market dominated by BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi? Welcome the 2017 Volvo S90.
The new flagship replaces the Volvo S80 as a slightly wider and longer offering. Its sleek exterior design features take Volvo further past its former reputation. It’s no longer a manufacturer of sturdy but stodgy vehicles only at their best Scandinavian winters.
Offered with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine, the Volvo S90 is offered in T5 and T6 models. The latter was my weekly driver, and it’s the more powerful with 316 horsepower while utilizing the turbocharger and supercharger. Both models have eight-speed automatic transmissions, with the T5 front-wheel drive and the T6 all-wheel drive.
As expected in luxury sedans, the Volvo S90 has a substantial standard features list. The upscale Inscription trim I drove added a healthy supply of upgrades, including 19-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights and headlight washers.
The Nappa leather upholstery upgrades the front seats, which have heating and cooling options. And consider the leather-wrapped dash panel, walnut trim accents, four-zone climate control, a 12-inch instrument display and Apple CarPlay integration.
My test vehicle also featured three option packages and several stand-alone upgrades. The equation further advanced the new Volvo’s chances against the mighty German trio with well-established reputations.
Volvo has always had a reputation for its secure presence on the road. The new S90 advances with confidence and corners with grace. In Volvo tradition, it’s in control and secure. The turning is tight in city driving and the Volvo is powerful and quiet advancing at highway speeds.
The interior is elegant, dominated by a heavy supply of chrome and metal accents and wood inlays. Seating is plush, with adjustments to suit any body style or driving position preferences.
Handy is the 9-inch vertical touchscreen. It controls most systems with intuitive menus. One large knob and a row of buttons work the rear defroster, stereo control and hazard lights.
Considering its legacy as a superior winter vehicle, the new Volvo has a pass-through behind the fold-down center armrest. It’s ideal for skis. Buttons on the shelf behind the backseat release each section, with the 60/40 seats folding flat. It expands the cargo area for more winter equipment, grocery bags or any other cargo needs. It’s not a cavernous area, but the 17.7 cubic feet is the best in the segment.
The Volvo S90 is a beautifully designed, ideally built winter vehicle, like all Volvo models. But it fares well as a luxury sedan in any conditions and should make its German counterparts take notice. It’s more than the trio’s equal.
Superior interior craftsmanship
Cavernous trunk space.
Technology includes too many warning “bells and whistles.”
Facts & Figures, 2017 Volvo S90 T6
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 5.9 seconds.
Fuel economy: 22 mpg (city), 31 mpg (highway), 25 mpg (combined) eight-speed automatic transmission.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $52,950.00.
Manufacturer’s Website: www.volvocars.com.
Price As Tested: $66,105.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertrain, 4 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, 12 years/unlimited mileage; Free maintenance, 3 years/36,000 miles.
What Others Say:
“The S90’s twin-charged T6 engine (the only version we’ve driven) offers a crisp and powerful response. It gets the sedan’s mass up to highway speeds in no time, and instills plenty of confidence for merging and passing.” — Edmunds.com.
“The new (Volvo) S90 goes heavy on quality-of-life aspects like interior aesthetics, infotainment and, of course, safety. What has emerged is a strikingly good-looking sedan that might well be the most complete semi-autonomous car now available.” — kbb.com.
“Inside, the S90 is gorgeous. Beautiful details swathe surfaces with matte wood and brushed metals that allow this gemstone to sparkle. The warm ambiance is almost more Jaguar than even Jaguar seems to be able to manage.” — ConsumerReports.org.
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“With a car segment full of German heavyweights, the new Volvo holds its own. It may not break the Big Three’s stronghold, but it deserves your attention if you’re in the luxury sedan market. It’s the best car Volvo has to offer — and it shines.”
Article Last Updated: December 12, 2016.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.