Review: sleek and stylish Volvo S90 saloon and V90 estate

Volvo's biggest SUV, the XC90, has been on UK roads for more than a year and is a familiar sight. It has had plenty of coverage in these pages, a handsome way of getting about for the people who need the capacity and assurance of a hefty all-roader and have decided against something German. Just don't choose the massive wheels unless you value looks over ride refinement.
The Volvo V90 estateThe Volvo V90 estate
The Volvo V90 estate

The XC has been joined by an urbane pair of siblings, the S90 saloon and the V90 estate. They are very good cars.

The saloon is arguably – a slick way of hedging one’s bets – as good-looking as anything in its class. At 195 inches long with a 116 inch wheelbase and 57 inches high, it has the grace that long and low bring to some stylish design. It has all the impact of an Audi A8 or Jaguar XJ – actually both are longer than the Volvo. It is that wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear axles – which elevates the Volvo. It graces the V90 estate – a couple of thousand quid more the saloon for which you get a huge load area. If voluminous loads are not likely you may as well have the saloon, but check the rather tight aperture into the boot due to the position of the rear window.

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This was my only real grumble about the saloon, after I had to crawl in to find some fruit which had got lost in its depths. With hindsight, I should have dropped the rear seats and retrieved it that way. Oh, and there was a puncture which found Volvo’s tyre-rescue partner wanting. Fortunately the S90 was supplied with a space-saver spare wheel which got me moving. The main tyre was punctured in the sidewall and unrepairable. One (or even several) of the sealant cans which familiarly replace a spare wheel, would have been useless – proof that if you want to keep moving a spare wheel of some type is a must.

The Volvo S90 saloonThe Volvo S90 saloon
The Volvo S90 saloon

The S90 caused more comment than the estate. It was painted osmium grey, a shade which is more stunning than the “bright silver” used on the V90. The saloon was in pukka D4 Inscription trim, which at £35,555 is £3,000 more than the still very good Momentum entry grade. D4 signifies the 190hp 2-litre four cylinder turbo diesel, with an eight speed automatic gearbox. A cream leather interior and toned fascia gave it a light feel, with my vox pop jury undecided about the ersatz wood additions. The “grain” and beige colour reminded me of 1960s table-top laminate.

The V90 estate was in the base Momentum spec, from £34,555. My test car had the 235hp D5 Powerplus engine upgrade, standard with automatic gears and all wheel drive, from £41,555. The leather was black, the trim silver, making the cabin mood more German than Swede – Scandi Noir I’ll call it. The acceleration was transformed, posting 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds, a second faster than the D4 saloon. It’s only a second difference but you can feel it immediately in the response to the pedal.

The Momentum entry trim includes everything you need for safe and happy Volvo driving. There is internet access, full EU navigation with a lifetime map update on a nine-inch touch screen with voice control (eventually it understood my voice), power folding rear seats and tailgate/boot. Safety kit has city safety – detection of cyclists, people and large animals, front collision warning and automatic emergency braking. On the open road you can select pilot assist and active speed control which, up to 80mph steer the car in the chosen marked lane and maintains a selectable gap with the vehicle in front. Options are numerous. For £1,525 Winter Plus adds a heated steering wheel, heated washer nozzles, headlamp cleaning, LED fog lights which bend round corners, head up display, and active headlamps which allow you to keep the headlights on full beam continuously. Volvo says: “When another car approaches the system helps to prevent dazzling oncoming driver by shading out only as much of the beam as necessary. The same functionality applies to drivers in front. The side of the road is still illuminated, which makes it easier to detect unprotected road users.”

You can find a video link on the internet. A few times oncoming cars flashed me, perhaps a consequence of the way the beam moves to adjust and eerily darkens parts of the road. It can be deactivated. The conversion readings for France etc are welcome.

The Volvo S90 saloonThe Volvo S90 saloon
The Volvo S90 saloon

Critical comment? The door pockets are too shallow, so your gloves, a pocket book etc could fall out. The door-mounted mirrors are visually intrusive. The jack needs a more ergonomic winding handle. The S90 radio and navigation went off and lost the settings. Another time, it took an illogical triangular route. Voice recognition for navigation was frustrating.

It rides undulations nicely and handles well in most areas but once again the larger wheels can bring tyre roar and some pattering on poorer surfaces.

Verdict: Two beauties from Sweden join the butch XC90. Connoisseur’s choice.

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