The Volvo S90 couldn't have come at a better time for Volvo. The XC90 was extremely popular for the Swedish brand and expanding on the 90 Series is a good opportunity to take advantage of all of that good press. The S90 is up against some extremely tough competition from the Audi A6, the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The S90 is well timed too because it's brand new and BMW and Audi's similar marques have been around for a while. The E-Class, however, is very much at the races because it is fresh.
I've been having this argument with myself for a couple of months now. I've driven the main competitors in this segment, and all of the aforementioned cars are excellent, but I'm still trying to figure out if I prefer the S90 or the E-Class. I do think that the new E-Class is a better car, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I prefer it. Let me forget the driver stats for a moment and explain what I'm talking about.
The new E-Class is wonderful. It really is the best E-Class yet, but the S90 is brand spanking new. Everything about it has never been seen before. The long bonnet, the perfect grille, the long lines and the boot-shape that everyone seems to be arguing with me over (I like it!). The cabins in both are completely different. One is like sitting in a Victorian living room, and the other is like sitting in a Swedish sauna. The Volvo feels really fresh and clean, whereas sitting in the E-Class is like sitting at Obama's table in the White House. The freshness of the Volvo makes me want it, yet the absolute class of the E-Class is still calling to me. For the moment, I can't decide which I prefer.
A couple of weeks ago we got the new Volvo S90 housing their D4 engine. This is the first time I’ve driven this engine in the S90, and while I do love the PowerPulse system of the D5 engine, I can’t say that the turbo lag in the D4 is terrible. It’s not. Sure the D5 gives a little more of everything, but the D4 is certainly adequate.
On-paper, this car gives some okay figures. It offers 190 hp instead of the D5’s 235 hp, but when your cruising in one of these, does it make that much of a difference? Okay, it kind of does, but the Volvo’s 190 hp compares well with the E220d’s 190 hp. The Mercedes will bring you from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds, the Volvo does the same in 8.2 – yep Mercedes takes that one.
The S90 with the D4 engine does well though and it’s coupled to an 8-speed auto gearbox. Thankfully, there’s no manual option – I mean why would anyone want one of these cars with a manual? It cruises nicely on the motorway and the standard suspension set-up is not distressing, even on bumpier terrain. We brought this vehicle to the beaches to get some photos, and even on the beach road terrain and on sand, it wasn’t the bumpiest ride in the world.
The interior comfort is beautiful and the iPad-like infotainment system is very intuitive. That same system takes a while to get used to though. Our test model also had the Bowers & Wilkins sound system. Now, I usually overlook reviewing sound systems in cars, but this one deserves a very special mention. It’s friggin’ amazing. Pump up the volume and there is zero distortion – apparently this is because they use Kevlar to hold everything together. If you don’t know what Kevlar is... it’s what bulletproof vests are made from.
Apart from the D4 and the D5, Volvo tells us that we will also be able to purchase a T8 Twin Engine hybrid version. It’s not available yet, and when we went to the international test drive a couple of months ago the engine wasn’t ready. We’ve driven the T8 in the XC90 before and it’s good, but until Ireland gets some laws in place regarding non-EV cars parking at the public charge points, I don’t think you’ll get as much joy out of it. Of course, it can be charged at home, but if you’re out and about, you’re going to have to pay for petrol. Of course, you will get some regenerative charge into the car. We’ve driven the T6 engine (which won’t be available in Ireland), and it’s this engine coupled with the electric battery that makes up the T8.
The S90 offers a 500 litre boot, which is smaller than the E-Class. The space to the rear is excellent, as is the front. All models get leather interiors, and the inside of these cars are sweet.
On paper, the Volvo S90 returns a fuel economy of 4.4 l/100km. The D4 has a 55 litre fuel tank, which means that if you drive really economically, you should manage to cover 1,250 km. We didn’t get that.
This segment is going to be a joy to watch over the coming months. I expect that January 2017 car registration figures will be very interesting. I wonder, will Volvo take some sales off BMW and Audi? It appears that the XC90 has dented their Q7 and X5 figures, can the S90 do the same to the A6 and the 5 Series? We believe that the new 5 Series will be out during mid-2017, so will possible BMW buyers go for the S90 in the interim? Answers on a postcard…