REVIEW | 2020 Volvo S90 is a quirky alternative to the German mainstream

13 March 2020 - 07:42 By Phuti Mpyane
Clean surfaces and hints of Volvo’s block design and blunt angles leave the S90 looking individualistic and regal. Picture: SUPPLIED
Clean surfaces and hints of Volvo’s block design and blunt angles leave the S90 looking individualistic and regal. Picture: SUPPLIED

Left-field choices have certainly become the new normal and Volvo is now a certified challenger in the premium segment.

The Volvo S90 on test here goes against the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class in a dwindling but still popular niche. Though dynamically off pace to the Germans, on paper at least, it’s a juicy steak on a schnitzel night.

Measuring 4,963mm from the grille to the rear, it’s also the longest sedan in the segment and it’s a very spacious and nice place to sit in for four to five passengers. There’s 500l of boot space, and in the high-spec D5 Inscription it opens or closes remotely using the key fob. 

Being the nonconformist, Volvo’s interiors have persistently fused practicality, Swedish minimalism and occupant safety very well. Any exec obsessed with NCAP crash ratings will not be disappointed with Volvo’s fixations with protecting passengers too.

It features a tablet-like touchscreen interface with a menu designed to be operated much like you would your latest smartphone devices. It boasts extensive and up-to-date features including smartphone mirroring but it hasn’t got the fancier stuff like gesture control or head-up display which the German triumvirate counters with.    

The cabin is minimalistic, spacious and serene with a comprehensive digital outlay. Picture: SUPPLIED
The cabin is minimalistic, spacious and serene with a comprehensive digital outlay. Picture: SUPPLIED

The D5 badge pasted to its rump signals a turbocharged diesel heart, and a fine one at that, which provides competitive refinement, performance and respectable fuel consumption. At 173kW and 480Nm it bests its direct competitors, the A6 40 TDI, Mercedes-Benz E220d Exclusive and BMW 520d, and transmits its power onto the roads using all-wheel drive underpinnings versus the Audi’s front wheel drive, and the BMW’s and Mercedes’ rear-wheel drive.

This means good traction in all conditions and it’s driven by an eight-speed automatic, which is to be the only transmission of choice.

Its 1,763kg kerb weight marks it as one of the segment heavies and this is evident when stretching its legs. It’s not rapid but its rating of 7.0 sec to 100km/h and a 240km/h top speed is on par with sector standards.

Though not entirely energetic, it does lend itself to being hustled fast and hard but it wallows a little in the corners and gives off acceptable rather than exceptional sure-footedness. You can easily tell that this all-wheel drive and an army of stability systems are primarily tweaked for keeping it upright instead of a sporting ability, and that’s okay.

Much of early century Bauhaus design language still influences how Volvo sculpts its cars like this S90. There’s also 500l of boot to swallow a golf bag. Picture: SUPPLIED
Much of early century Bauhaus design language still influences how Volvo sculpts its cars like this S90. There’s also 500l of boot to swallow a golf bag. Picture: SUPPLIED

Wafting is its best attribute, especially when you deploy the excellent autonomous driving aid in peak traffic conditions. The damping absorbs everything wellI’d say it’s the perfect tonic against SA’s dilapidated roads.

My only gripes are with climate control adjustments being integrated into the digital menu screen, or you can use the voice-activated artificial assistant who requires a long conversation just to warm up or cool the cabin. Physical buttons would give much quicker access.

Also, rival brands offer a variety of mechanicals under the bonnet, from plucky six-cylinders to thundering V8s. The S90 is exclusively powered by a range of 2.0l four-cylinder engines with disparate power outputs and methods of aspiration. Not everyone will like the sound and character of downsized four-cylinder engines, as perky as they may be.

The car is brilliant in its Volvo quirkiness and exudes equal if not higher levels of class, space and grace than the opposition. The novelty of its rarity at management forums should also count for something.


Volvo S90 D5 AWD Inscription

WE LIKE: Looks, comfy drive, space

WE DISLIKE: Digital climate control

VERDICT: Large saloon for vibey managers

Motor News star rating

Design * * * * *

Performance * * * *

Economy * * * * *

Ride/handling * * * *

Safety * * * * *

Value For Money * * * *

Overall * * * * *

Competition

BMW 520d, 140kW/400Nm – R873,506

Audi A6 40 TDI, 140kW/400Nm - R885,000

Mercedes-Benz E220d Exclusive, 143kW/400Nm - R877,434

Tech Specs

Engine

Type: Four-cylinder turbodiesel

Capacity: 1,969cc

Power: 173kW

Torque: 480Nm

Transmission

Type: Eight-speed auto

Drivetrain

Type: All-wheel drive

Performance

Top speed: 240km/h

0-100km/h: 7.0 sec (as claimed)

Fuel Consumption: 4.8l/100km (as claimed) 7.9l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 127g/km

Standard featues

ABS brakes, stability control, LED daytime driving running lights, rain sensor wipers, climate control, USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, auto on/off xenon head lights, six airbags, multi-function steering wheel controls, park distance control rear, high beam assist, LED Xenon headlights, navigation, adaptive cruise control, leather upholstery.

Cost of ownership

Warranty: Five year/100,000km

Price: R909,806

Maintenance plan: Five years/unlimited km

Lease*: R19,425 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

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