Volvo S90 new car review

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Front view of the Volvo D90 D5

The large sedan may well be disappearing from the lower end of the market as SUVs continue to dominate, but the effort and technology that Volvo has put into its new S90 proves that roomy, luxurious sedans can still cater to the needs of the premium buyer. The S90 carries Volvo’s well-earned reputation for high safety levels and adds a dash of Swedish individuality.

The S90 is the second model in a new generation of Volvos (the first being the award-winning XC90) to be built on its Scalable Product Architecture platform. It has a similar engine line-up to the XC90, and there are plenty of other technical similarities.

Competitively priced against Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Lexus GS, the S90 has a four-model line-up: two Momentum front-wheel-drive models and two higher-spec Inscription all-wheel-drive versions. Each has a 2.0-litre turbo engine from Volvo’s Drive-E family but the technology and performance outputs are different. In Momentum the T5 is a 187kW/350Nm petrol unit and the D4 diesel produces 140kW and 400Nm. In the D5 Inscription you get a 173kW diesel with a strong 480Nm of torque, while the T6 petrol engine employs a supercharger plus a turbocharger for an impressive 235kW and 400Nm. Each delivers its drive via a smooth-changing eight-speed automatic transmission.

Strong on safety

The S90 is well kitted out with a long list of safety features. These include sophisticated versions of Volvo City Safe with advanced detection and autonomous emergency braking, Volvo’s second-generation Pilot Assist combining lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and queue assist, plus run-off-road mitigation, blind-spot warning and cross-traffic alert. The Road Sign Information system, which displays speed limits, was not always reliable.

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On top of all that, of course, you can pile on a host of options. Our test car, the D5 Inscription, has a list price of $96,900 but with a few desirable extras fitted – e.g. a head-up display, 360-degree camera, premium sound system, Apple CarPlay and heated front seats – its price climbed to a hefty $118,555 plus on-road costs.

The D5’s cabin is roomy, conservatively elegant and inviting, with excellent attention to detail in the fit and finish. Well-shaped, comfortable Nappa leather seats in the Inscription have a multitude of adjustments, and the tablet-style touch-screen provides a suite of connectivity features. While there is enough width across to squeeze in three adults in the back seats, it’s more about accommodating two in comfort. Built-in fold-out rear booster seats add a family-friendly dimension. Boot space is cavernous, but for lengthy items Volvo only provides a ski-hatch rather than split-folding rear seats.

Volvo D90 D5 interior

Luxury drive

The luxury aspect of the S90 also flows through to the driving experience, with a comfortably compliant ride, light steering and all-wheel-drive handling that is reassuringly secure rather than sportingly sharp. There’s some body roll through corners and the big wheels shod with low-profile tyres mean there’s an occasional suspension thump but otherwise it’s quiet and well-mannered. The S90 disguises its size and weight well, and it’s not until you have to squeeze into a tight parking space that its bulk really becomes apparent.

The performance of the D5’s 2.0-litre diesel is strong, responsive from low revs and quite linear in its delivery, thanks to Volvo’s innovative new PowerPulse system. Compressed air initially gets the turbo spinning until exhaust gases build up, thereby minimising turbo-lag. As our acceleration figures show, the D5 is no slouch, but its real charm is its smooth driveability around town and easy open-road cruising with
plenty in reserve for passing. Over a broad cross-section of city and country driving, our test car averaged 8.6L/100km which, although nowhere near the official figure of 5.1L/100km, is still respectable for a car of its size. It’s not the quietest diesel engine but this only becomes apparent outside the car.

The verdict

Volvo has lifted its game in the large luxury sedan market. Although not setting a new standard, it’s up with the leaders and has a refreshing Scandinavian style and character.

Volvo S90 D5 inscription


$96,900 + $10,004 (est.) ORC. Model range $79,900-$98,900.


ESC. ABS. 7 airbags. Autonomous emergency braking. Reversing camera. Adaptive cruise control. Lane-keeping assist. Blind-spot information. Cross-traffic alert. Tyre pressure warning. Auto lights/wipers. ISOFIX. Not yet ANCAP rated.

Vehicle features

Four-zone climate-control. Sat-nav. 12.3-inch touch screen. Electric front seats. Leather upholstery. LED headlights with auto bending. Premium audio with 1 USB/AUX.

Driver features

Keyless entry/start. Park assist. Auto boot opening. Driver’s seat memory.


Drivetrain: 1969cc 4cyl turbo-diesel engine. AWD. 173kW@4000rpm, 480Nm@1750-2250rpm. 8spd auto. 60L tank. 8.6L/100km (RACV test figure), 5.1L/100km (govt figure).
19” alloy, 255/40 R19 tyres. Space-saver spare wheel.
0-60km/h, 3.5 sec. 0-80km/h, 5.5 sec. 0-100km/h, 7.9 sec. 50-80kmh, 3.7 sec; 60-100km/h, 5.6 sec. 0-400m, 15.6 sec.
22.2m from 80km/h.
2200kg braked trailer capacity. Tow ball load: 220kg.
135g/km CO2.


12-month/15,000km services.
3yr/unlimited km warranty.

RACV overall rating

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