Volvo S90 2016 Review: Big Trouble

Derryn Wong

Watch out E-Class, 5 Series: Volvo’s S90 sedan has the capability, and price, to challenge strongly in Singapore

SINGAPORE — Size and power are things the new Volvo S90 T6 has in spades, but does it have enough prestige to challenge Germany’s finest? Read on to find out…

We know what an S80 is…what’s an S90?
The S90 is really a luxury sedan, and signifies Volvo’s upward movement. It replaces the S80 sedan, which was a great metaphor for the ‘old’ Volvo: While refined, safe and bigger than a Volkswagen Passat, it wasn’t quite up to the level of the E-Class and its like, the S80, like Volvo, straddled the line between mainstream and luxury European.

In contrast the S90 straddles nothing – metaphorically speaking it jumps off the fence and plants a flag firmly in German big sedan territory while wearing a horned hat (although Vikings didn’t actually wear them) and waving an axe around menacingly. You could say Volvo did that with the impressive XC90 already, but the XC90 has always been Volvo’s hero product – the S90 is a new ground altogether.

So it’s up against the 5 Series and E-Class?
Yes, and it’s already the biggest player, literally. In the flesh, the S90 has the immediate, strong presence required of a big sedan. That’s helped by the size – it’s the biggest car in the class. At 4,963mm with a massive 2,941mm wheelbase, it just edges out the previous segment leader for size, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which lines up with 4,923mm in length and 2,939mm in wheelbase. The newly-announced 2017 BMW 5 Series measures 4,936mm, although it now has the longest wheelbase at 2,975mm. Volvo’s handsome lines sit well on the broad expanse of the S90. Visual ‘tricks’ like the wide grille, flat lights and spaced out words make the already wide car look even flatter.

Does it handle like a whale?
If it was an S80, yes. But it’s based on the new Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA), which will also provide the basis for all of the brand’s larger cars, anything above the S60 in size, while smaller cars will get the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA). Thus it’s heavier than the Germans, at 1,840kg average (an E 200 weighs around 1,600kg) but it does have all-wheel drive. But it’s also unique, as it has a 2.0-litre engine that completely belies on paper performance.

The 2.0-litre twincharged in-line four makes a plentiful 320bhp, and there are plans for the 254bhp T5 variant with the same engine, but unfortunately no 410bhp T8 plug-in hybrid for Singapore. Yet with more than 300bhp and 400Nm of torque, the T6 is already nothing to sniff at, and indeed the petrol engine is very diesel like in all respects, there’s even the far-off clattery purr from the inside, while the car rockets off the line if you mash the pedal down. The power delivery is direct, almost too direct in fact, as there’s the occasional jerk, but on the whole it’s smooth, plentiful and makes the S90 deceptively fast.

What else is nice about it?
Well as we said about the car at its international debut it’s hugely spacious, handles well and is refined. All boxes ticked on the big sedan checklist, but what surprises us is how well-equipped it is here in Singapore. While we tested options such as the Pilot Assist system ,we didn’t expect them to be offered here at all.

Yet Volvo has included that as standard on the S90, which makes it one of the few cars in Singapore to be able to drive itself, that is, to steer, accelerate and brake, at high speeds. Technically you’re required to have your hands on the wheel at all times since this is still a driver assistance system, but it really helps during traffic jams as it can bring the car from a stop all the way to 130km/h. The XC90 had a similar system, but that was called Traffic Jam Assist and didn’t operate below 60km/h. The only other car we’ve tested with this is system is the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and only on a fully-loaded E 300 variant overseas, while the local E 200 model needs some spendy optional equipment to be able to do the same.

As a Volvo it should have a very long safety list…
That too.  Other systems include the standard Adaptive Cruise Control (speed and distance control, without steering) and the Lane Departure Warning/Lane Keeping, Road Sign Information (tells you about speed limits and speed cameras). There’s also a new ‘Run Off Road Protection System’ which will steer you back from oblivion, and Intersection Auto Brake which will stop you from getting t-boned by on-coming cars if you fail to notice them during a left or right turn across a junction. Lastly, Volvo’s useful City Safety system has had its functions expanded and will now detect pedestrians as well as cyclists. All this is in addition to the usual arsenal of airbags, side-impact protection and electronic systems you’d expect from a Volvo. It’s never been easy to destroy a Volvo, but you have to try very, very hard with the S90.

All this doodad high-tech stuff sounds expensive…
That’s exactly what we thought too. But here’s the thing: Currently with all we described (and we haven’t even talked about other stuff like LED lights, infotainment, self parking) and projected, we expected a S90 with all the fancy safety/assist systems to cost nearly $400,000 with COE, based on the XC90’s pricing. The S90 is currently priced at $235,000 with COE – that’s a huge amount less than the least expensive Mercedes-Benz E 200 at $264,888 with COE, and the BMW 520i at $257,800 with COE, both of which it equals in ability and exceeds in terms of equipment, safety and advanced features.

Before its debut, it was clear the S90 had the potential to challenge the German big three at the luxury game. Here in its Singaporean form, and with its current price, it can beat them at that game.

Volvo S90 T6 Inscription
Engine 1,969cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 320bhp at 5700rpm
Torque 400Nm at 2200-5400rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 5.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.5L/100km
CO2 173g/km
Price $235,000 with COE
Availability Now

Also Consider: BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class

VIDEO: Watch the S90’s Pilot Assist self-drive system in action

Semi-autonomous tech is inching us closer to driverless cars. Check out the new S90’s Pilot Assist system from Volvo Cars. Then read our local test drive here — #volvo #s90 #driverless Volvo Cars Singapore

Posted by CarBuyer Magazine on Thursday, 13 October 2016


4-door 5 seat petrol s90 sedan T6 Inscription Volvo

About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's chief editor brings 15 years of experience in automotive journalism. Previously, he was the editor for Top Gear Singapore, and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment. He's contributed to The Business Times, Today, and many other publications, and also covered technology as editor of Stuff magazine. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he is the Chief Slave of two cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong

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