Volvo's new S90: Svelte Swedish sedan headed for SA

<B>LAUNCH DRIVE:</B> We drive Volvo's new S90 in Spain. <I>Wheels24 / Sergio Davids</I>
<B>LAUNCH DRIVE:</B> We drive Volvo's new S90 in Spain. <I>Wheels24 / Sergio Davids</I>
Sergio Davids

Spain - Volvo is in the midst of a brand renaissance. And with offerings such as the XC60, XC90 and soon-to-be launched facelifted V40, the automaker has no intention of slowing down.

Its latest offering wholly embracing its Scandinavian roots: a svelte, stunning sedan in the form of the new S90. Wheels24 experienced the new model in Spain ahead of its South African introduction. 

Luxury Volvo sedan

The S90 is built on the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) as the XC90 crossover, and like its SUV sibling, introduced locally in 2015, it’s a winner. Indicative pricing, which will be finalised closer to the time of launch, sees the new sedan priced from mid-R600 000 to R900 000.

From its assertive, concave grille (with Thor's Hammer LEDs), elongated hood and wide proportions, to the curves along its flanks, the S90 is one good-looking sedan. The automaker has tapped into its roots as there many retro cues from its iconic P1800 sports car. It's a sharp and fresh-looking design on the outside and the interior, albeit minimalist, is one of the best in its class.

SA-bound Volvo S90 preview: We have details, pics

Volvo previously dabbled in the realm of luxury sedans with its S80 20 years ago and since then it has never had a flagship sedan that’s anywhere close to a sales success. The S90 has the best chance to break into that segment dominated by rivals Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi models.


Familiar, strong engines

Launching initially in 2016 with D5 AWD and T6 AWD derivatives with Momentum or Inscription trim, the full S90 range will be made available in South Africa. In 2017, D4 FWD, T5 FWD and R-Design variants will be introduced, with the T8 Twin Engine to follow at a later stage.

The range-topping T8 Twin Engine produces 300kW/640Nm and emits just 44g/km of carbon dioxide, while still being able to propel from 0 to 100km/h just 5.2 seconds.

The updated D5 twin-turbo diesel engine, featuring new PowerPulse technology, is included in the range - with its unique compressed air solution to low-rpm turbo lag. 

Driving it

“Relaxed confidence” is the catch phrase Volvo uses to describe its S90, and driving I believe that’s apt. There’s heavy focus on comfort, effortless driving (made even more so with the addition of self-driving tech) all wrapped in a plush but well-controlled ride. The driver has enough control but pleasing passengers without too much bobbing or pitching over backroads and choppy surfaces. 

Powered by its T6 engine, the S90 performs admirably. The engine has sufficient power to propel its near two-tonne bulk along effortlessly and acceleration is more than brisk.

Gallery: 2016 Volvo S90

Other than its tech, it doesn't set new benchmarks for luxury-car driving dynamics. The Mercedes E-Class glides better over bumps and a BMW 5-Series corners more sharply. Gear-changes in the eight-speed automatic transmission can be a little prominent rather than silky smooth - a trait expected in this class. Take on a series of corners and you’ll find the sedan composed, though not hugely engaging.

The S90 may not be the most dynamic car but it's a solid all-rounder. It fulfills the three main criteria for a luxury sedan: it's comfortable on the road, pampers you inside and it'll stand out from the crowd. 


It's a true five-passenger sedan with plenty of head- and legroom. Inside, the S90's cabin is exceptionally quiet courtesy of smart noise insulation. 

All models are fitted with the amazing Sensus Touch system that replaces the clutter of buttons with a large, vertical touch screen (used in the XC90). It's possibly the easiest, most intuitive menu system in its class. Akin to a smartphone or tablet, it allows a quick tap or swipe for core functions (audio, satnav, menu etc) while climate control and even the seats can be effortlessly operated via the screen.

Check it out:

A video posted by Wheels24 (@wheels24_sa) on

Its "clean layout" is designed to unclutter your life and there's a certain elegance in its simplicity. The cabin is replete with wood trim, metallic adornments and plush leather all rather tastefully done. Its intuitive touch screen will help ease the daily grind. Much like the XC90, it’s hard to find fault with the interior quality, with excellent materials throughout.

Its load capacity is a competitive 500 litres and features a wide aperture for easy loading.

An armada of world-first protection

What would a Volvo be without a focus on safety and the S90 exemplifies this. The body structure aims for higher standards of occupant protection, and of course, the S90 has one of the most complete sets of safety features among luxury sedans. Some world firsts include:

  - Large animal detection; The first car with a standard system that will automatically apply the brakes to when a moose, elk, or deer is detected.

  - Pilot Assist; The second generation of a system that interfaces cruise control, lane-keep assist, and forward collision systems, as well as high-resolution cameras and processing developed by Volvo.

Volvo has made a concerted effort with the S90 to include the potentially lifesaving automatic-braking systems as standard, with other warning features like Blind Sport Information System (BLIS) and Cross Traffic Alert optional; officials concede that they’re not features for which every shopper might find value.


Volvo still has a long way to go to truly compete with premium automakers, but it’s gaining ground fast. The S90 is possibly more of a revelation than the XC90 - it's a luxury Volvo offering a genuine alternative to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Audi A6

The Chinese-owned Swedish automaker doesn't have the size or volume to truly unnerve it's German counterparts, but as a brand-builder and perception-changer, the proudly Swedish sedan stacks up pretty well.

The S90 is a true rival to many luxury sedans and once you're seated behind the wheel it's likely this one will charm you.

A photo posted by Wheels24 (@wheels24_sa) on

Rivals beware! 

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

A photo posted by Wheels24 (@wheels24_sa) on

BMW 5 Series

A photo posted by BMW (@bmw) on

Audi A6

Infiniti Q50

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