Car Review: Volvo goes from boring to head-turner with the Flagship S90 luxury sedan

WASHINGTON — When I think of Volvo, I think “safe” but boxy and boring when it comes to styling. Recently, Volvo has traded that conservative style for a more modern look and it’s really paying off.

Their SUVs, sedans and even the once humble and plain wagon models have been redone for the 21st century. This week I review the large luxury sedan.

The $69,100, S90 T6 AWD Inscription is a long name, but think of it as a large luxury sedan for the price of a nicely-equipped midsize luxury car. That’s still serious coin for a car, but you are greeted with one of the nicer interiors available today.

The interior is simple yet elegant, with clean lines with a very open and airy feeling. Some of the more comfortable front seats are in this Inscription model. The seats are equipped with heat and ventilation plus power side support and cushion extension to make the seat just right. Backseat passengers are in for a treat with plenty of legroom and a generous amount of space and headroom good for most riders.

The rest of the interior boasts of leather and wood trim throughout. Even the other materials are convincingly nice and feel soft to the touch. The high-end interior also has a large 9-inch touchscreen and an easy-to-use NAV system with voice controls that work well. My car had the optional Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system for $3,200 which sounds pricey but is a must for any audiophile. With 1400W and 19 speakers, the sound is phenomenal; loud or hushed, it’s clear. The three-room mode allows you to select your sound setting, ranging from a large concert hall to a small space.

Outside, “box on wheels” no longer applies to Volvo. The S90 upgrades to soft and smooth lines and a very modern look. The sedan profile looks spot on from the side with a long hood, stretched cabin flowing into a sloping rear end meeting the short trunk at the back. That long wheel base says: “serious luxury car sitting here.” The big Swede has a little fun with its style like LED headlights and Thor’s Hammer lighting up front, making the S90 distinctive. Large optional 20-inch wheels fill out the wheel wells and are good looking. Just be careful when parking near curbs, as the spokes seem to be susceptible to easy curbing if you’re not paying attention. One thing that stands out to me is the lack of spoilers or trunk-mounted wings. The S90 T6 offers a clean, uncluttered look. Only dual exhaust pipes stick out as flair for styling.

The Volvo S90 T6 engine has just four cylinders, which at first sounds like it might not be enough. But Volvo has both a supercharger and a turbo making 316 horsepower. First the supercharger gives you power down low and the turbo provides that oomph for passing. This combo works well, moving the car briskly for a small engine. The eight-speed automatic is smooth but at times seems to be caught in the wrong gear and a bit slow to respond. Driving the S90 like a normal luxury car rewards you with a quiet cruiser. The steering is a bit heavy, which I prefer, but it might not be for everyone.

Drivers have good visibility up front, but it’s a bit limited out the back due to large pillars and the sloping rear end. The Volvo S90 delivers safety features like collision avoidance, which detects vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and larger animals, which I proved works on deer. There is the usual blind spot and cross traffic alert plus lane-keep assist. The Run-off road mitigation begins to stop the car if you run off the road and do nothing. Add in the Pilot Assist which takes the adaptive cruise toward a semi-autonomous system allowing you to follow traffic with steering support that makes corrections for you. It’s available from 0 mph to the speed limit, taking care of acceleration and braking and following the traffic ahead.

Volvo has, in just a few short years, evolved from sleepy to head-of-the-class in making safe cars that are now stand-out vehicles. The S90, the flagship car for Volvo, demonstrates what a modern luxury car should be.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by DriveShop, FMI or Motus One for the purpose of this review. 

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