The last couple of years have been important for Volvo and they are making strides in terms of their technology, safety, powertrains and design. They are turning from being a brand which was in a league of its own just under Audi and BMW and slightly above maybe Volkswagen or even Mazda. This week we’re in Malaga having a look at the next two models of the 90 series, the Volvo S90 and the Volvo V90.
The Volvo XC90 has been proving to be a hit in Ireland. With it Volvo certainly didn’t do things by half and it sits unrecognisably beside its predecessor, which was in itself a well-designed machine. Its transformation was big and bold and it brought Volvo to the races with Audi, BMW and Mercedes. It hinted to us that Volvo was ready to take a step into the big leagues.
The XC90 was the first model from the new 90 series. Recently they unveiled the S90 and at that point I think that the competition had to sit down and take stock. Don’t get me wrong, while BMW and Audi are great brands with models that outclass and outperform many current Volvos, it’s been a while since they’ve taken massively drastic design changes. The overhaul of Volvo may push their hand to rethink their future design. The XC90 to my eye is the looker between it, the Q7 and the X5.
The S90 is going to worry the likes of the A6, the 5 Series and even the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It’s new and it has a fresh presence. A colleague asked me yesterday, “What will bring customers from BMW and Audi to Volvo? Its name just isn’t as prestigious”. Personally I think that the answer will become clear once this car hits Irish roads.
The exterior is long and the nose and grille are accentuated by the “Thor’s Hammer” headlights that can be seen on the XC90. There are also design nods to the Volvo Concept Coupé and the P1800 sports car. It’s wide and has a low and powered stance. Both cars are 64mm shy of 5 metres, which makes them very long. There is ample legroom in the rear and a pleasing amount of boot space (V90 – 560 litres / S90 – 500 litres).
From launch Ireland will be offered the D4 and D5 engines. The D4 model, which wasn’t available to test, is a two-wheel drive offering, while the D5 is all-wheel drive, which means that it’ll be thirstier in terms of fuel economy. Under the bonnet you will find that Volvo are sticking to the XC90 formula and offering 4 cylinder 2.0 diesel engines. The D5 is definitely not lacking in power and offers exactly what the car needs to bring it from 0-100km/h in 7 seconds (S90) and 7.2 (V90). Reported top speeds of both the S90 and V90 is 240km/h.
There is certainly enough oomph to let you confidently overtake, this is aided by the PowerPulse system in the D5 model, which reduces turbo lag and leaves the car feeling surer in launch situations.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard and rumour has it that there will be a manual option before the end of this year – whether or not the Irish market will get this will be completely up to the product people in Volvo Ireland. These models are all about comfort and refinement, so personally I would opt for the auto option. If I was a betting man, I’d say that Volvo Ireland won’t make the manual available.
I also drove the T6 petrol model, but this won’t be available to our markets. The reason for testing this is because we will have a T8 Twin Engine (plug-in hybrid) model available which will use the same engine mixed with a battery. The T8 is not yet available but Volvo reckon it will return a fuel economy of 2.1l/100km. I’ve tested the Twin Engine XC90 before and it offers great regenerative energy, but the petrol tank is small and unless you make sure to constantly charge it, you won’t receive anywhere near that kind of economy. The other annoyance of plug-in technology is that Ireland hasn’t copped on yet that only electric vehicles should park at public charge points (I had to get that in!).
For those of you who like to hear the 0-100km/h figure, we’re told that the T8 will breeze to that speed in just 5.2 seconds. It will offer 407hp in the V90 with 320hp coming from the engine and 87hp from the battery – which means that this family-sized estate will get you up to speed quicker than a Golf GTI (6.4 seconds) or a 308 GTI (6 seconds)– not bad for a bus!
Okay, by now a lot of you will have heard of Volvo’s vision for 2020, if you haven’t, here it is. The aim is that no deaths will occur in a new Volvo car by that year. The S90 features plenty of safety features – too many to mention here. The most noteworthy for me would be Pilot Assist. When this was first introduced in the XC90, it would only work at speeds of up to 30km/h. With the S90 and V90 it works at speeds of up to 130k/h. This programme can aid in keeping your car in lane if it feels that you may be veering. It can control the steering wheel on mild bends if it feels that the driver is not fully in control and it keeps you in the middle of your lane (provided there are clear road markings).
We tried out the Pilot Assist, and I’m always amazed at how a car can take control of breaking, accelerating and steering. The system is set to hold the steering for a short while (in and around 15 seconds). On motorways with small bends it is very impressive, however I certainly wouldn’t trust it on hairy bends – which it has definitely not been programmed for. Volvo stress very highly that this is just an aid and that drivers should never take their hands off the wheel. With your hands on the wheel you can feel it pull you into what it considers to be the right place to be on a road. It’s very easily over-ridden and is a really nice touch.
Volvo uses Sensus for their connectivity. Through its Apple iPad-like 9 inch touch screen it offers the driver and passengers control of entertainment, phone, navigation and more. A lot of this information also appears on the instrument cluster TFT display and it can be operated through the steering wheel controls. For the most part it is easy to use as it can be operated like a smartphone.
If you like your music loud and clear you can spend an extra €3,800 for a Bowers and Wilkins sound system – you’d want to really like your tunes to pay this kind of money and the ordinary system is not bad. Another option is Apple Car Play, but at €600 I’d have to think about it because the Bluetooth works well.
Fuel Economy & CO2
Our route covered 200km for both the S90 and V90, which allowed us to give the cars a good test. I also got to drive the V90 for an extra 100km on day two. Admittedly, I can’t say that I’ve lived with the vehicle – so giving you real-life costs of actually owning one is not something I can do. Volvo’s figures tell us that the average combined fuel economy is 4.8 l/100km in the D5. The claimed fuel economy for the D4 is 4.4.
Now, while we’re talking about fuel economy, I feel it might be an appropriate time to bring this up. When you’re buying a new car, never take quoted fuel economy figures as gospel. They rarely relate to the real world, but they give you an idea of what you might return if you drove like a saint... all of the time.
The D4 and D5 models will be inexpensive to tax as the engines emit 116 and 127 g/Co2, which places them in bands A4 (€200) and B1 (€270) respectively.
Both the S90 and V90 will be available to the Irish market in two trims; Momentum and Inscription. The D4 Momentum in the S90 will start from €48,400 with the D5 Momentum starting from €56,400 – which is a big jump to get the all-wheel drive. The Inscription D4 starts from €52,900 with the D5 starting from €60,400. V90 prices will not be confirmed until September, at which point it will be available to order. It doesn’t look as if the Estate will land until January 2017.
Volvo Ireland reckons that the D4 Momentum models will be the big sellers. In terms of spec, I’d go for Momentum. The difference isn’t big enough to warrant the €4,500 leap – fair enough you’ll get fog lights with a cornering function, memory seats, a bit more chrome and a nicer grade of leather under you, but the bottom trim is comfy enough.
For some perspective, it's more expensive than an entry level BMW 5 Series and Audi A6, which could maybe be seen as a sign of confidence from the Swedish manufacturer.
We hope to have a full test drive of the new S90 in August, for the moment though our response to it is positive. We drove a lot of motorways in Spain and curiosity is asking me what it would be like on Irish roads. One thing is for certain though, this will interest Irish customers who opt for higher-end saloons and estates. It will be enough to compete properly with BMW and Audi.