Road-test review of Volvo S90:
✅This car being a crowd magnet is an understatement. Literally lost the count of eyeballs that gazed at its pristine beauty
✅Built like a rocket. Tank is too underwhelming. The fit and finish, the door thud, the craftsmanship, everything is just top notch
✅ Barring the C5, this has got the best seats this side of a crore. Drive it all day and night, it wont throw any signs of fatigue
✅Surprisingly, the steering weighs up well with speed unlike the earlier Volvos which felt kinda lifeless in the cockpit (read, before S60)
✅Hands down, the best rear design in the family of sedans in its segment. Absolute stunner!
✅ The 1400W Bowers and Wilkins deserves a standing ovation. Not kidding, it offers better experience than some of the multiplexes. Experience it to believe it
✅Phenomenal illumination from the LED headlights. Extra illumination provided at the extreme left and right edges is very helpful
✅In terms of safety, it gets the Lane Keeping Aid, Emergency Brake Assist, Seatbelt Pretensioners for all seats, Child Booster Cushion, Whiplash Protection and Side Impact Protection alongside autonomous braking, ABS, EBD as well as airbags
✅500L of carnivorous boot is enough to stuff in your luggage for the long weekend trips
✅ Lovely handler. Revv it hard on a curve and it won’t show any signs of nervousness
❌The rear seat isn’t the best. Especially considering that it will cater to the chauffeur driven segment
❌Absence of a diesel mill might not be felt until you visit a fuel station for refuelling of petrol that delivers an abysmal 6.25 kmpl
❌Android auto/carplay integration is damn neat. However, it needs inbuilt internet connectivity which could be a bummer in needy situations
❌The otherwise-great touchscreen infotainment still remains a fingerprint magnet
❌The 152 mm of GC could be a concern in broken roads, more so on large speed breakers
Special thanks to our hospitality partner @coorgwildernessresort for the lovely hospitality and letting us take this gorgeous car to some otherwise-inaccessible locations in the beautiful property
The current Volvo S90, being the flagship is carefully crafted to perfection, with this mid-life update, Volvo seems to have doubled down on that niche with a switch from diesel to a petrol-only engine choice for its top-tier sedan. This also syncs with the brand’s ambitions in India where it wants to go almost entirely electric over the next five years. The transition to this began with a switch to petrol-only engines with the S60 earlier in the year, the S90 and the popular XC60 following now. The XC90 petrol coming later this year will complete this phase of change for the brand.
Hospitality Partner – Coorg Wilderness resort
To do some justice to the flagship sedan, we decided to drive it to the Scotland of India – Coorg! Our hospitality partner – Coorg wilderness resort ensured that we had a very pleasant stay during the course of the review. The lip-smacking food served by the restaurant overlooking the majestic Western ghats and coffee estates is something to look out for! However, we urge you to reach there early in the morning to take a stroll along this beautiful property. Nestled amid the deep valleys and majestic hills of Coorg is Coorg Wilderness Resort, the fourth luxury offering from Paul John Resorts & Hotels. With plush European styled stately rooms and palatial suites spread across the innumerable nooks and corners of sprawling hills and glorious valleys. What makes it further enticing is that each room is cozily warmed with traditionally designed electric fireplaces and thoughtfully heated bathroom floors. Thus ensuring that extra bit of comfort and luxury while offering a unique experience of opulent eco-friendliness.
What clearly syncs with the Volvo S90 is exquisitely European in style with plush spacious interiors, these suites are reminiscent of elegant chalets tucked away in the midst of dense woods while offering rare views of untamed wilderness. With large bay windows and private balconies that bring nature right to you, each suite is non air-conditioned, and cozily warmed with traditionally designed electric fireplaces and stylish bathrooms with thoughtfully heated floors. Thus ensuring that lingering touch of comfort and luxury while offering a memorable holiday experience of opulent eco-friendliness.
This car looks identical to the outgoing one. Compare the earlier car and this one back to back, however, and you can tell the difference. The biggest change is to the front lower-end of the car. Whereas the earlier car had sharp surfaces and cuts and creases, this one is both simpler and cleaner. Apart from these small changes, the S90 remains faithful to the original. Long, and built on a long wheelbase that we have seen in Volvos, with an elongated bonnet, a pushed back cabin and square shoulders. While the front actually looks great in the S90, things at the rear are a notch above with the stellar, where the ‘squared off’ boot and C-shaped tail-lights also look distinctive. There are minor changes at the rear, but these are even more difficult to identify. A sure-fire way to tell the two S90s apart, however, is that the previous generation gets a rectangular exhaust that’s altogether missing on this new petrol car.The large infamous logo of the Volvo occupies the centre stage in the myriad of real estate.
The new engine aside, the Volvo S90 has also been given a fairly significant tech overhaul. This centres around the new Android-based infotainment co-developed with Google. The hardware and general layout remain the same as the previous infotainment system but now comes integrated with features like Maps and Assistant, as well as access to a range of apps like Spotify and Google Books on the Play Store. The functionality this offers isn’t all that much more than say a wireless Android Auto feature, but the deeper integration with the map display in the instrumentation and quick voice recognition is a genuine step up from Android Auto-based systems. Other than this the largely touch-based interface remains as before with a slight learning curve thanks to the deep sub-menus.
Additionally, connected car services have been added, which brings the S90 up to speed with rivals. It offers limited features currently although an upcoming update will significantly enhance this. The discreet but rich ambience of the Volvo S90’s cabin remains untouched. Now available only in the top Inscription variant, there is a new oak wood with tan characteristics and deep brown upholstery options. All the materials and surfaces feel as high quality as before, the new transparent glass shifter with its more fluid shift pattern from the Excellence versions a highlight.
And with the vast features list, passengers remain well served. Some highlights include the four-zone climate control, heated, cooled and massaging front seats while the impressive 19-speaker Bowers and Wilkins audio system now has a wider range of sound modes to choose from, including a stage setting previously unavailable. Finally, a more effective cabin air cleaner has been added. The front seats remain as supportive and adjustable as before while rear passengers continue to be pampered with easy ingress/egress through the seats’ high H-point, and comfortable angle of recline. There’s great legroom and enough headroom here, and quite an airy feel despite the smaller sunroof. We can only wish for slightly better under-thigh support here and marginally softer cushions all around. That said, the rear territory is far from being desirable in terms of the benchmark set by the rivals even a segment lower, like the all-new C class.
What’s Under the hood?
Volvo’s 2.0-litre turbo-petrol, which puts out an electrically assisted 250hp. There’s no diesel in the range now but the petrol is a mild-hybrid, and the four-cylinder engine is assisted by a 48V electrical system that takes electrical energy lost while braking and puts it back to the wheels as and when it can. starts smoothly, with no loud noise and remains unobtrusive and in the background at slower speeds. Then, because it responds smartly to a tap on the throttle, it also feels energetic and always on the ball. In fact, the S90 moves forward so effortlessly. The S90 always seems to have torque on the ready for any manoeuvre at any speed. And while most owners of the Volvo S90 may not be too interested in this, the engine is also quite an eager one when pushed hard. There is a potent howl past 3,000 rpm and revs build up to the quite high 7,000rpm redline, although the torque tapers away past 5,500rpm. The petrol S90 is a quick car, as our outright and in-gear acceleration numbers suggest, much more so than the diesel. Efficiency is par for the course for this segment too. However, the biggest downside or the only complaint we have from the otherwise-potent motor is the abysmal fuel efficiency that it offers, stagnating around 6 kmpl for the round trip to Bangalore.
The 8-speed gearbox is improved as well. While earlier it felt a bit hesitant and reticent, this one is improved. It’s nowhere near as intuitive or as quick as some of the best gearboxes around, but most of the hiccups we experienced on earlier versions have been ironed out quite nicely.
What we do miss are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Shifting gears manually isn’t always about extracting maximum performance. Often it’s more about getting better control of the car, and that’s when paddle shifters are such a joy to use. You can take manual control of the gearbox, but to do this you need to slot the gear lever into manual mode and then you can push left to downshift and right to upshift; not nice. The system is fiddly to use and that’s probably why Mercedes dropped it or evolved to something nicer to use or more intuitive.
How much safety is too much Safety?
The Volvo S90 has given an updated ADAS platform to go with this refresh. This technology may now be in the mainstream but even then the safety suite on offer here is impressive. An extended blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert and braking are the major new additions here. But significantly, the new system performs far more naturally in our conditions than the slightly temperamental operation of the earlier version. The adaptive cruise control picks our lane markings better and the lane-keeping assist is less abrupt in its intervention as is the emergency braking system. These assists are also easier to disable, say in heavy, erratic traffic, where its effectiveness is rather limited.
Ride and Handling
Where the S90 excels is in delivering a comfortable ride. Everything here – like the stiff chassis, the supple coil springs up front, the air suspension at the rear and the perfectly matched dampers – works towards one goal. The chassis comfort you from the road below effectively. Insulation isn’t as good as on Beemers, but road noise is minimal and double-glazed windows do help keep sound out. Volvo’s land yacht rides in a supple, rubber-footed manner, with medium-sized bumps and undulations dispatched easily. And then even when you come upon some large craters, the Volvo manages to take the edge off quite effectively. You do have to take care over large speed breakers, especially if the car is fully loaded; the long wheelbase and relatively low ground clearance coming into play here.
While it rides well, what the S90 isn’t is a corner carver. The light and easy to turn steering feels slightly well proportioned at higher speeds, body control around corners isn’t confidence inspiring, and while it has a decent amount of grip, pushing the big car faster and faster isn’t particularly enjoyable. Driving it in a relaxed manner is just so much nicer. The S90 will be great to drive over long distances. Seems like driving the Swedish beauty through the rocky terrain made a lot more sense now.
Should you buy one?
If you are looking for a luxury car that is beautifully built, well equipped, refined, smooth, silent and effortless to drive, the Volvo S90 B5 with its petrol engine is a strong contender for your money. It even looks distinctive, rides beautifully and it is likely to be amongst the safest cars in its class. The rear seat however isn’t something to talk of, the S90 doesn’t have a phenomenal handling as it’s rivals and Volvo dealers aren’t as widespread as rivals. But if comfort, quality, effortless performance and buying something a bit different appeal to you, take a long hard look at Volvo’s S90 B5, which, at Rs 64.5 lakh (ex-showroom, India) is a day-light robbery, ofcourse in a nicer way! That said, incase you decide to roadtrip to the scotland of India, Coorg, we urge you to check out our hospitality partner Coorg wilderness resort for an Uber-luxurious experience amidst the serene tranquility of western ghats.