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New Car Review

1998 Volvo S90

by The Car Chick (Laura Heilig)


SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide

One of the first things you should do after you purchase a car is to read the owner's manual. A car is just like a major appliance--in order for it to run properly, you have to read the instructions. By doing so, you can guarantee that driving you car will be more economical and much more enjoyable.

I, of course, don't practice what I preach when it comes to the cars I test drive. One reason is because I drive so many cars during the week, I just don't have time to read each manual. The main reason I don't is because I feel that a car should be "user friendly," or every object and button on the car should have an obvious use and a practical location, and the car's engine and accessories should run error-free. I feel if I have no difficulty and enjoy my driving experience without reading the manual, then those of you who do will definitely appreciate your car and cherish it for a long time.

I have been very pleased so far with the automobiles I have driven, because the manual could stay in the glove compartment. Unfortunately when it came to using the accessories for the Volvo S 90, I had to get it out.

The Dress

Normally I do not like Volvos because they have a boxy shape. I go for the nineties, aerodynamic, round cars. Volvo has made their trademark rectangle look better on this car than any they have previously made. The high-gloss shiny paint helps enhance its appearance, especially in red, the color of this car.

When I stepped inside this car, my visual appreciation for it continued. The tan leather interior is accented tastefully with beautiful dark wood accents which even extend to the shifter. The interior of this car makes you think you are driving a grand luxury car instead of a compact automobile.

The seats are quite comfortable and had automatic adjusting buttons with three memory possibilities. All of the various buttons were within easy reach of the driver. The back seats could accommodate three people of any size quite well and are misleading to this car's compact classification. These seats also fold down to extend the already large trunk.

The Accessories

Volvo provided plenty of accessories for this car, as they should, but some of them are placed in impractical locations. Most of the accessory buttons are set along the dash on either side of the steering wheel. This does avoid the danger of looking away from the road while driving, but I think some of them should have been placed elsewhere. Take, for example, the automatic door lock button. Volvo engineers put this button to the right of the driver near the radio, whereas most designers decide to go with more obvious choice--put it on the door. I was not sure what three of the other buttons were, which of course led me to reading the owner's manual. It turns out these are the rear and front fog light buttons and the antenna button.

I also didn't understand their decision to combine the panic and lock button on the keyless remote. The first thing I did when I got this car was try to figure out how to turn off the alarm after I accidentally hit it.

Some of these "conveniences" also did not work properly. First of all, the automatic driver's side window switch was not as automatic as it was designed to be. I still do not know how to get it to work. Their antenna button allows you to bring the antenna down if you are going into a car wash, but sometimes I would start the car, and the antenna would be down, and sometimes it would be up without me even touching this button.

Another problem I had was with the drink holders. I was excited about the concept of these holders, because they pulled out from the compartment between the seats--very accessible for both passenger and driver. I usually drive with a drink, but this pocket was not deep enough to keep my standard-sized cup stable. Volvo needs to look into making this holder more universal.

While it may sound as if the accessories may not fit the dress, there were a lot that really were nice. This car does come with a nice CD and tape player, a two-position sunroof, an outside temperature gauge, automatic side mirror adjusting knobs, and large mirrors on the sun visors for both the driver and the passenger. I also really like the climate controls because they have an automatic position which adjusts the temperature to your desired degree without you constantly having to adjust them.

The Shoes

This is a really solid driving car. With its power steering and tight suspension, it was able to keep up with my break-neck speeds on the highways and the back roads. You have the option of switching the transmission mode to fit your desired driving style. Unfortunately I was not aware of this choice until after I read the manual, because the buttons are only marked W, S, and E- W for winter/wet, S for sporty, and E for Economy. I drove the car in the sporty mode and was very pleased with my fuel comsumption, shifting time, and handling.

The Price

This car is definitely worth the price you pay for it. The $36, 500 price tag may shock some people, but you must remember that you are paying for quality Swedish engineering. Despite a few impracticle accessories, the Volvo S 90 would make a terrific, safe, and sporty family automobile.