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2017 Volvo S90 Review By Larry Nutson

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2017 Volvo S90
Scandinavian Elegance

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau

“This is a beautiful car,” said my wife after a brief twenty-minute ride in the 2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription.

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She was echoing my words spoken at the start of our short drive as I explained what she was riding in this time, in my world of ever-different media-loan vehicles.

I first set eyes on the all-new S90 in person at the 2016 Chicago Show back in February. In late September at the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Fall Rally I had my first on-road driving experience with the S90 for about twenty minutes. I knew then this was a car that I needed and wanted to get to know better.

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Now I had Volvo’s top-of-the-line sedan at my disposal for a week of early December cruising around with no serious winter weather in the forecast.

Many auto critics have driven the new S90 and many really like it. So much so that the S90 is a finalist candidate for North American Car of the Year. This awards honors excellence in innovation, design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value in a particular vehicle’s class. That is, how it compares to its competition in the marketplace.

Worthy of note is that its sibling, the Volvo XC90 SUV, was named the 2016 North American Truck/Utility of the Year and also 2016 Family Vehicle of the Year by the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), of which I am a voting member. I drove the XC90 just recently and you can read that review right here, just click.

The five-passenger, luxury mid-size S90 is offered in T5 and T6 models, and each in Momentum and Inscription trim levels. Base prices start at $46,950 and run up to $56,250, plus a $995 destination charge.

Both T5 trims are front-wheel drive and powered by a 250HP turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. The T6s are all-wheel drive and use a 316 HP turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic.

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Volvo says the T5 will hit 60 mph from stop in 6.5 seconds and the T6 in 5.7 seconds, in spite of its slightly heavier weight for the AWD that is balanced with more engine output.

EPA test-cycle fuel economy ratings are somewhat close between the two, so the choice becomes do you really need AWD and/or want more power with the tradeoff being higher fuel consumption all the time. The T5 is rated 27 mpg combined, with 23 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. The T6 is rated 25 mpg combined, with 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. One item I really like is the 17.7 gallon fuel tank that should make for a non-stop all day road trip.

My media-loan S90 T6 AWD Inscription had a bottom-line sticker price of $66,105, the result of lots of added options. Many of the individual features included in option packages are really good to have. And, as the automaker product planners do, they get packaged with lots of other stuff, some of which you may not need. The $3,300 Inscription trim package adds lots of comfort and convenience features as well as things like active bending headlights that help to see in turns and front seat power side support as well as lower cushion extensions for thigh support—great for road trips.

A $1,950 Vision Package adds a 360-degree camera, power retractable outside mirrors (almost a must-have in a crowded city), and blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert – also handy in a crowded city.

A heated steering wheel gets buried in the $1,950 Climate Package but you also get a HUD, a head-up display that is great for long road trips all but eliminating the frequent looking down to check your speed.

For $1,000 the Convenience Package gives you a power trunk lid and Volvo’s parking system that steers the car for you into a parking spot, Park Assist Pilot. If you are parallel-parking challenged this is a great tool.

The Bowers & Wilkins sound system is a must-have, to me anyway, even though it costs $2,650. The sound is wonderful and can be changed to simulate a studio or the Gothenburg Concert Hall.

I might have forgone the 20-inch optional alloys ($750) with the 35-series tires and stuck with the 19-inchers to stay with taller profile tire for better road comfort. A choice to consider in snow-belt areas is to mount four winter tires that are better all around in temperatures below 45-degrees Fahrenheit.

What is commendable for Volvo is S90’s standard (not optional) driver-assistance safety features that includes automatic braking, pilot assist lane-keep steering assist, and pedestrian, cycle and large animal detection. All of this semi-autonomous safety technology is really beneficial and can help save from injury, collision repairs and lots of expense and inconvenience. Volvo has done a better job than some others in integrating these systems into the S90 and having them provide smooth and rewarding operation.

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The S90’s cabin is light and airy and particularly elegant. It’s also roomy. The huge iPad-like Sensus Connect touch screen really keeps things clean and uncluttered instead of having rows and rows of buttons and switches. It’s quite intuitive to use too, and there’s a radio volume knob. A nicety I noted was the choice of three temperature settings for the heated seats and steering wheel.

There’s a lot to like about the S90 and very little that the average European sedan driver would dislike. I thought the ride a little rough on the pock-marked Chicago streets, but perhaps the 35-series tires contributed to some of that. Overall, handling was good although I didn’t do any flinging of the S90 hard through turns.

The 316 HP engine delivers plenty of punch enabling good acceleration from stop and highway merging as well as passing. Some folks are probably still getting used to the mating of 4-cylinder engines with high-end luxury cars. But, that’s the future. Active noise cancellation keeps things refined inside the cabin.

My one nit-pick on the S90 is that I thought at $60K it should have a power feature on the tilt and telescopic steering wheel. With multiple drivers in a household, adding this to the driver-memory along with seat and mirror settings is really a plus.

Take a look at for more information and specifications on the S90. Look here at for comparative information on other luxury sedans.

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Volvo is rolling out a new program for those who are not fans of going to the gasoline station, the car wash or taking your car in for service. A new concierge service will become an integrated part of the Volvo On Call mobile platform. Volvo announced a pilot program targeting San Francisco S90 and XC90 SUV owners. (Learn About It Here

Participants can use the pilot app to identify concierge services available in the immediate vicinity and order them via their smartphone. Requests are then sent to an authorized Volvo service provider, who will refuel the vehicle, perform scheduled maintenance, or whatever additional service the owner has requested. 

Although my week with the S90 was very enjoyable, I would love to road-trip the S90 across the country since I expect it would provide a very comfortable and satisfying experience.

© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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