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2017 VOLVO S90 Review By Steve Purdy

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2017 VOLVO S90
Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Does anyone think Chinese ownership of Volvo is a troublesome thing?

I think not. At least not many will.


Because that has allowed this maker of classically Swedish cars to retrench, rethink and redesign its entire model lineup bringing it fully into the modern age while maintaining its traditional place in the market as a sturdy, safe and innovative near-luxury brand. And, as an added bonus of their survival, Volvo is poised to begin construction of their first-ever manufacturing facility in the U.S.

In addition to reflecting an eclectic Swedish sense of design one distinction of the Volvo brand has always been a structural strength second to none. While other manufacturers designed vehicles to withstand hitting a deer, Volvos were designed to survive a moose strike. The company also led in a variety of now-common safety systems like seatbelts.

After some years of Ford ownership where the brand barely kept up with its potential it is now time for an evolutionary advance for Volvo. As new Chinese owner Geeley was getting its head around a Volvo long-term plan they committed to making only 4-cylider engines among other forward-thinking ideas. They also wisely committed to allowing the Swedish engineers and product planners free rein so that the character of the brand could remain.

This new S90 mid- to full-size, 5-passenger sporty sedan looks most like the Jaguar XF on the outside – sleek, graceful and understated with beautiful proportions and elegant lines. No garish details on this one but the styling will pique the interest of anyone paying attention. Dramatic LED DRLs and a quiet but stylishly sleek grille compliment an expressive front fascia. The rear view is massive and high-tailed with large LED taillights and the low roofline providing a coupe-like shape.

Inside, too, the theme seems to be functional elegance with materials and design suggesting luxury and refinement. The extra large, vertically oriented touch screen just about fills the center stack with only one knob below it to control audio off/on and volume. The electroluminescent instrument cluster provides essential information in a number of formats partially controlled from the steering wheel. I found the learning curve for all these features a bit overwhelming and went to the electronic owners manual on the touch screen for help. That, too, was too much for my old brain to handle for this short, week-long review period.

The Volvo’s seats fit me well but limited vertical adjustment range meant I scruffed my head getting in and out. I’ll note, I’m way bigger and less flexible than I ought to be and that will not be a problem for normal sized people. The copious rear seats will easily accommodate two full-size people but a third in the center will be sitting on a hump and probably be a bit cramped.

The S90 comes in three models, or trim levels, from the T5 Momentum starting at $46,950, to the T5 Inscription at $49,650, and top-of-the-line T6 Momentum with more powerful engine beginning at $52,950. Equipment levels vary among these models but they are all quite well equipped.

T5 models come with a 2.0-liter four cylinder turbocharged engine making a modest 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The T6 engine adds a supercharger to bring horsepower up to 316 and torque to 295. Both get a smooth and sophisticated 8-speed transmission. The EPA estimates fuel mileage at an impressive 23 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway for this 2-ton sedan.

So, here we are with the new S90 front-wheel drive, four-cylinder, full-size luxury sedan in our driveway begging to be driven enthusiastically. We will accommodate.

The responsive S90 powertrain moves the car efficiently and with aplomb, though with less sophistication than some of the German competitors. On full throttle the 4-cylinder turbo noises, not pleasant ones, get into the cabin more than we might expect. The 8-speed automatic transmission pauses between shifts for a manual-like feel. I liked that. Steering was considerably heavier than most but that is not a bad thing. The ride was smooth and controlled offering no drama even when being pushed hard.

My only criticism of the driving dynamics has to do with the Stop/Start feature that became a bit annoying during city driving. I take pride in my ability to get a perfectly smooth stop with most cars but it was nearly impossible with the S90 because the engine’s stopping and starting happens with a shudder and a jerk. Bumping in in and out of gear as we roll to a stop did not help.

Volvo’s new car warranty covers the whole car, including powertrain, for 4 years or 50,000 miles, and routine maintenance is included for 3 years or 36,000 miles.

Volvo is competing in a market segment filled with fine products – Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, Jaguar XF, Lexus GS and the like. Size, power and prices among these compare fairly evenly. So, how do you make a decision among these? Good question.

From this plethora of great products it will be hard to make a choice, but if you are in the market for a nice, safe, good-size luxury sedan, the Volvo S90 might be for you - particularly if your criteria involves surviving a moose strike.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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