REVIEW | Swede clichés abound in the cushy 2019 Volvo S90

02 October 2019 - 08:48
The 2019 Volvo S90.
The 2019 Volvo S90.
Image: Supplied

A colleague and I were chatting about headlines in the beloved but antiquated medium of print. Originality in particular – when it comes to titles pertaining to all things automotive. We took pity on ourselves and others.

Because the chances are any clever witticism we think of could probably be found in the archives, already used, on yellowed newsprint. And there are some cringe-inducing go-to clichés in the realm of motoring journalism.

At some point you would have read about a Mercedes-Benz being referred to as “a class act” or an Audi that “rings in” technological innovations. Haul out the equestrian references when talking about a Ferrari. Or a Ford Mustang, obviously. And what about a “Swede deal” if the subject matter hails from one of the Scandinavian manufacturers?

Which can only be Volvo nowadays, after Saab met its demise almost a decade ago. And while hypercar manufacturer Koenigsegg also hails from the country, the first automaker that comes to mind wears a symbol that closely resembles the Mars pictogram. Volvo calls it the Iron Mark.

Their S90 flagship sedan found itself in our custodianship recently. And since we began by discussing clichés, we should talk about that long-standing battle against the German triumvirate.

Quite frankly, I think Volvo has given up on that fight in the SA market. That is not to say they have thrown in the towel – far from it. Rather, they know their audience well and seem to nurture the client base returning for repeat business, instead of trying to surmount that challenge of swaying deep-rooted allegiances.

2019 Volvo S90.
2019 Volvo S90.
Image: Supplied

You already know how the story unfolded in the case of the S90, first launched locally nearly three years back. It was never going to supplant the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. But it does represent an endearing alternative, in the same vein as the outlying Jaguar XF.

This is a category that is in decline, overall, it must be said. Volvo has looked to – and is enjoying relative success with its sport-utility vehicle contributions, in the form of the XC40, XC60 and XC90. So, what can you expect should you decide to go against the grain, in favour of the charms wielded by this Nordic saloon?

For starters, the distinctively enveloping feel that appears consistent across the current Volvo range. Settling into one of those amply bolstered front seats is akin to getting a soothing hug. Whether this sensation is psychosomatic is up for debate: the warm and fuzzy campaigns around safety, cheerful families and dogs with shiny coats could play a role.

But there is just a true sense of wellbeing as a driver or a passenger in a new Volvo. There are no significant changes to note versus the initial 2017 introduction. Inside, the fascia remains dominated by a sizable, tablet-like infotainment screen, with less than a handful of buttons on the lower panel. Volvo pioneered this minimalistic approach with the XC90. And the touch-display, while a nuisance with its fondness for holding fingerprints, works well once you get the gist of things.

Cabin ooze Scandinavian class.
Cabin ooze Scandinavian class.
Image: Supplied

On the road, it delivers on the expectations of cushiness and refinement. Refreshingly, as we noted before, the brand forwent an attempt to emulate the dynamic qualities of a certain Teutonic peer held in high regard.

The S90 D5 Inscription we tested, with all-wheel drive, made no pretence about being sporty: supple, smooth progress all the way with an abundance of torque to navigate the city and freeways confidently. The output of this 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged-diesel unit is 173kW and 480Nm.

Avoid the petrol versions if you can, which are poorly suited to the application of propelling such a substantial car with appreciable conviction and can be quite thirsty, in addition. The S90 starts off at R754 ,00, undercutting its heftier XC90 counterpart by a notable margin of R275,200. For the sake of research, I logged onto a leading pre-owned classifieds website to see what a used example of the model could be had for.

Cheapest I found was a 2017 D5 AWD Momentum, from the certified Volvo Selekt programme, going for R419,950 with 25,034km on the odometer. A Swede deal indeed.


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