2022 Volvo S90 B6 AWD R-Design – Review by David Colman
Strong on aesthetics but a bit light on the bite
Photos and Story By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Go to Crate and Barrel, Macy's, Design Within Reach and IKEA. Spend a month looking in all those stores, and you still won't find a better chair than the driver's seat fitted to this Volvo sedan. Supportive and micro-manageable in every way, the Nappa Leather covered R-Design throne has the sport seat market covered. It's not only great to look at, but even better when you sink into it.
But the seat promises more performance than the S90 can deliver. With just 295hp on tap to motivate 4,246 pounds of curb weight, the big Volvo falls a bit short in the performance department. For 2022, Volvo has added a 13hp "Mild Hybrid System" to the mix which brings with it regenerative braking. Under the hood, hidden by a plastic modesty panel, lies a 2.0 liter inline 4 which benefits from both supercharging and turbocharging. Peak torque of 310lb.-ft. occurs at just 2,100rpm. But when you flatten the accelerator, that dose of low speed thrust is lost as the 8-speed automatic transmission shuffles its deck trying to find an appropriate passing gear. By then, your need for speed has evaporated.
Volvo does not stint on equipping the S90 with premium tires. At each road contact point sits an impressive looking Pirelli P7 radial (255/35R20) mounted on an equally high performance R-Design alloy rim. But look closely at those all-season tires and you will discover that with a treadwear rating of TW 500, they are designed more for long tread life than short term high grip. The R-Design steering wheel and gear shift knob both look race inspired. But the steering feels overly light, and no sport mode is available to remedy the issue.
R-Design provides high gloss black mesh to cover the front grill and lower openings. This treatment imparts a purposeful look which is matched by the gloss black window trim and mirror caps. But racy looks can be deceiving, and you won't be chucking this Volvo into corners with the kind of abandon reserved for a BMW M5 or an Audi S5. Still, the big Volvo does acquit itself reasonably well on back roads. Minimal cornering lean is the product of stiff spring rates. In fact the ride of the S90 borders on being harsh over irregular pavement. But this comfort trade-off is worth the gain in stability. The all-wheel-drive system adds another dimension of stability to the handling equation.
Volvo ads boast that their latest vehicles are "Like Your Smartphone, But Bigger." They claim to have "More Brains Inside and Out," plus "Smarter Alerts and Sensors." But have you driven your smartphone lately? We never got to grips with the professed logic of Volvo's new control system, which funnels most functions into a smartphone-style 9 inch "Integrated Touchscreen." Volvo has adopted an Android-based operating system for 2022. This technology continued to baffle us with its unintuitive responses throughout our week behind the wheel. Here's a quick list of bafflements: seat/steering wheel heater failed to shut off; SiriusXM satellite failed to respond to commands; emergency braking system slammed on during back-up move for no reason.
Built-ins were a big deal back in the 1950s. The idea was to hide as much of the componentry as possible behind an implacable facade that minimized clutter in favor of clean design. Volvo has taken this mind set to the next level with the S90. From the outside, the S90 R-Design gives every indication that it's a sports sedan. But its middling performance belies the visual claim. Inside, Volvo designers have gone beyond the pale to hide every control behind a bewildering maze of screen icons. Yes, they've eliminated visual clutter, but at the expense of operational facility. The S90 is a beautifully crafted piece of mobile artwork, with the best seats in the business both up front, and in the spacious rear compartment. If you can live with its multiple idiosyncrasies, it will give you a very plush ride.
2022 VOLVO S90 B6 AWD R-DESIGN
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, turbocharged and supercharged; 13hp electric hybrid motor
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 23MPG City/31MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $64,540
HYPES: Superlative Seats
GRIPES: Indecisive Gearbox, Unintuitive Controls
STAR RATING: 7 Stars out of 10