There are cars that make little changes and improvements as they move up through their model years. Sometimes, entirely new cars leave you wondering what all the ruckus that manufacturers claim regarding evolution was all about.
But, on some occasions, certain cars come along that make you think whether they are related at all to their predecessors or the vehicles they are set to replace, because of them being light years ahead. Case in point being the new Volvo S90.
This is the car that Volvo has brought in to replace the aging S80. The S80, although a capable vehicle, did not exactly deliver a mind-blowing sales performance. It was a typical Volvo as well, with its understated and highly restrained looks. The new S90, on the other hand, is a whole new kettle of fish. You could walk around the car taking in the design for quite a sizeable amount of time and little things stand out.
The front grille has concave segments that seem to hover in space, there is subtle highlighting in chrome in places like the fog light bezels, window perimeter, tailpipe surrounds and the door protector beading. The Thor`s hammer LED daytime running lamps look especially fantastic. The style of the vehicle is still definitely on the understated side, but not excessively so. It was as crisp and fresh as was the winter morning when I saw the car for the first time.
If you thought the exterior of the S90 looked good, step inside and you will be blown away. We have come to be familiar with car interiors being fundamentally the same across different models. They all have the same trimmings, buttons and switches, but arranged in different ways. Volvo has given the S90 essentially the same interior of the XC90 SUV, which is an excellent thing. This means that the S90 also gets the large, portrait-oriented 9 inch touchscreen infotainment system that looks similar to a modern tablet; and a passenger cabin appointed in typical Scandinavian beauty. The touchscreen itself is reasonably easy to learn and operate.
Another feature that I simply must talk about is the sound system of the S90. It is a Bowers & Wilkins unit that pummels out 1400 watts and it is an absolute gem. At high volume, it is powerful enough to vibrate your eyeballs but every note is rendered in crystal clear clarity. Playing the concert version of the iconic song, Hotel California, gave me the feeling as if I were listening to it in an actual concert! Also, with air pollution in many Indian cities been scarily high (and other cities following close behind), the CleanZone air filtration system might actually extend your life by a good amount, thanks to it filtering out toxic materials and particulates.
The interior is done up in a amalgamation of dark and light grey leather, off white leather, piano black plastics, unvarnished walnut wood and metal that is buffed to a mirror shine. The wood being left un-lacquered has a charm of its own, as you can feel every little crack and ridge in the grain if you run your finger over it. There are a couple of plastic panels that feel flimsy to the touch but apart from those, the interior of the S90 is stunningly built and appointed. The features list does not leave you wanting for more, for the most part. Included in it are a 4 zone automatic climate control system, a powered boot lid, Apple CarPlay, a sunroof, voice recognition and much, much more.
The knobs that open or shut the air vents resemble wristwatch crowns and the whole dashboard has a free, uncluttered look about it as there are very few buttons on it (since a considerable number of functions are controlled using the touchscreen). But, the best parts are the engine ignition switch and the drive mode roller; simply put, they are pieces of art. The seats feel superbly comfortable, thanks in part to the Nappa leather upholstery and also due to the many ways in which you can adjust them. They can be heated or cooled, and have extendable thigh support as well. Space is in plenty and the all important rear seat scores top marks from us in terms of legroom and overall comfort.
As of now, the S90 will be put on sale in its D4 trim level only, meaning that you will get a 2.0 litre, 4 cylinder diesel engine that is helped along by a turbocharger. Fire it up using the beautifully crafted engine ignition switch (did I already mention that?) and it settles down quietly. Then, when you do find an empty stretch of road, it does know how to deliver a satisfyingly punchy performance too.
The 190 hp of power is sent to the wheels in a very linear fashion yet when you mash the accelerator it responds very well. You might come to think that, this is a Volvo; it focusses more on safety and comfort than outright sportiness yet the enthusiastic power delivery will surprise you. The 8 speed automatic gearbox is very smooth in shifting up and down through the cogs as well. Not that it has to do this very often, thanks to the vast reserves of torque the S90 has (400Nm, if you must know). The company does plan to introduce the more powerful, 235 hp version of the S90, called the D5, in India some time next year but as of now among its direct rivals, this engine sits at the top of the class .
Volvo has given the S90 air suspension at the back, and coupled with the fat rubber shod on 18 inch rims, the ride quality is exceptional even on lousy road surfaces. Despite the large wheels, it soaks up the bad roads very well while filtering in next to nothing- coupled with the refinement on offer and here you have to say Volvo has moved up the stakes in this class. In terms of handling, under hard cornering, the S90 does roll a bit and the steering is a bit light but then again the S90 is not about throwing it around corners.
I liked the head-up display that eliminated the need to take my eyes off the road but, what I liked even more was the run-off road mitigation system. At up to 130 kph, this system keeps an eye out for the white lines that mark the borders of the road and if it sees that the car is beginning to peel away from the road, it automatically twiddles the steering wheel so that you stay on the road. Of course, for it to work, it needs the white lines to be clearly marked (which is usually not the case on Indian roads, unfortunately) but, the concept clearly shows why Volvo has always been the embodiment of automotive safety.
With this car, the Volvo Auto India fleet is now definitely worthy of your consideration if you are looking out for a new luxury car. This segment has been ruled by the Germans unhindered now for years, but the S90 is more than capable to change that. What we like is the concept of luxury by Volvo which is what makes it stand out from the crowd. It looks terrific- inside out, is lavishly equipped, supremely comfortable and also offers more than enough performance with excellent ride quality-things luxury car buyers look out for. Yep, at the moment, the S90 is the new king.
Photography: Pranav Divakar
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