Volvo S90 redefines sublime in sedan form
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The Volvo S90 is an enthusiasts choice, and an educated one at that
Volvo doesn't expect to sell many S90 luxury sedans in New Zealand. That's fine; the exclusive number of owners will be happy to stand out. I know I would.
It might not be the catch-all SUV current buyer demand desires, but the fashionably draped S90 AWD Inscription's decidedly unfashionable body type -- that of a large sedan -- expertly hides the fact it's basically a Volvo XC90 underneath.
The last large Volvo sedan -- the S80 -- became that oddest of automotive consumables; a cult car. The notion of a large Volvo sedan didn't hold as much weight as that of a large Volvo wagon. The S80 was lovely. It boasted acres of space and top-shelf comfort. It also featured a quietly impressive engine; a sweetly singing V8, built by Yamaha, of all companies.
These days Volvo has dispensed with such frivolities. Its entire line of executive fare is four-cylinder based, but with super and turbo charging taking the strain. Powerful? Oh yes.
In effect, Volvo has achieved something absolutely brilliant with its modern engineering, ensuring big output with fewer emissions. The S90 T6 AWD I drove pushes out 235kW maximum power when required, and feels suitably sprightly as well. Four hundred Newton metres of torque also means there is plenty of oomph from standstill, helped immeasurably by this sedan's all-wheel drive underpinnings.
We loved the XC90 SUV. Everyone did. It's an impressively practical, yet peerlessly premium machine. I'm pleased to report the S90 sedan is basically the same all over again, just in sedan format. And you still get plenty of room for your effort. The boot is massive and, even with the driver's seat ratcheted back to allow for my six-foot frame, the rear seat is still a comfortable place to be.
In the driver's seat, all you can see ahead is the Scandinavian firm's pedigree when it comes to exceptional interior design. This is one seriously lovely place to be. More than the Germans or (increasingly) the Koreans, the Volvo S90 driver's seat -- with its view of crystal clear instruments and that massive touchscreen display, which looks and acts like an upended iPad -- makes you feel like you've rewarded yourself for opting for this car.
If you want a Volvo; you want a Volvo. I don't think anyone looking for a German sedan considers the Swedish entry in the segment. That's unfortunate for the distributor, but a boon for Volvo fans. If you're after a point of difference, this is an effective one.
There are more practical Volvos that appeal to the mainstream than the S90. But you wouldn't regret opting for this. It's spacious and stylishly put together. I love everything about the exterior, from the Hammer of Thor headlights to the way the Volvo script stands proud from the boot-lid (like it's still 1977) at the rear.
The only issue might be if, a few months into ownership, you decide more room in a svelte body-style might be preferable; in that case, look towards the V90 Cross Country station wagon with envy. It's a truly exceptional car; everything the S90 is, but with more room and more Labrador-and-antique-chest-of-drawers compatibility in the rear.
Anyway, the S90 is essentially as good as Volvo's XC90, which is very, very good indeed.
And that's probably the main issue here. When you have an SUV as competent as the XC90, what do you do with the S90 sedan? Well, again looking to the distributor, this particular conundrum isn't a bad one to have, is it?
VOLVO S90 T6 AWD INSCRIPTION
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol super and turbo charged (235kW/400Nm)
Pro: Swedish style, exterior looks, advanced feature set, point of difference among the Euros
Con: You might end up looking upon the Volvo V90 Cross Country