Volvo’s S90 T6 AWD executive sedan has that wow factor

High, wide and handsome, although not so much of the high, that’s the Volvo.

Brian Joss – S90 T6 Inscription AWD. The first time I ever had a ride in a Volvo was in a cold Sweden when more years ago than I care to remember Lufthansa flew me and a few other journalists from around the world to Stockholm to mark their inaugural flight to the Swedish capital, and a side trip to explore the then new Frankfurt airport, and of course, the German city. 

The Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD: a premium product with bells and whistles galore. Picture: Quickpic

Our guides in Stockholm ferried us around in a Volvo sedan, if memory serves, and it coped well on the icy roads. But in the intervening years Volvo has reinvented itself a few times: the latest reincarnation is the S90

T6 Inscription AWD, an executive sedan.

Volvo was also bought by the then little known Chinese automaker, Geely, about seven years ago from Ford, for $1.5bn (try converting that to rand and there won’t be enough space for all the zeroes), and according to a Reuters report, it put the then small and relatively unknown Geely into the big league.

Otherwise Volvo, which is still based in Gothenborg, with factories in a few European cities including Belgium, may have gone the same way as SAAB.

The S90 is a premium product with bells and whistles galore and I really enjoyed swanning around in a car that carries a price tag of R1 million and change, including the premium pack of optional extras. The vehicle just screams luxury, inside and out.

My neighbours probably thought I had won the lottery when the Savile Grey Metallic car was delivered, all bright and shiny, to my door. The S90 has a list of standard features as long as your arm and many optional extras to help you travel in the style you could get accustomed to.

To get the minor irritations out of the way first. There are two: the Sensus infotainment centre. It’s niggly to operate, try setting the climate control without taking your eyes off the road or adjusting the 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system; and I didn’t much care for the Drive Mode Selector.

But that’s my opinion.

It’s clear that the Volvo S90 is pointing its nose at the German marques Mercedes Benz and BMW. And I think there’s a good chance it will make inroads into that segment of the market. 

I liked the look of the S90 from the moment I saw it. And when I climbed inside and sat in the Nappa leather seat (all the upholstery is covered in this soft material) I felt every inch the executive it is aiming to attract.

The build quality is excellent and when we drove up a badly rutted sand road to a Wellington farm there wasn’t a squeak or rattle.

The T6 Inscription AWD petrol model is the flagship of the range. It’s powered by a 2.0-litre engine that performs well in all road conditions. I was even happy stuck in the gridlock that is the daily offering on the N1 driving into town from Stellenbosch, where road building has been going on, seemingly forever. It’s also amazed me the respect other drivers showed when they saw me signalling a lane change: they gave me right of way without hesitation. I can only put it down to the Volvo’s presence. Normally, Cape Town drivers are a mostly rude and boorish bunch.

You just have to touch the accelerator and the S90 gets a move on: the eight-speed automatic gearbox doesn’t hesitate, there’s no hunting and the changes are, well, smooth as baby’s bottom. Maximum torque is available between  2 200 rpm and  5 400 rpm and the super turbocharged engine develops 235kW and 400 N.m of torque.

Volvo claims fuel consumption figures of 7.2 litres/km, but that’s in a perfect world. Surprisingly, though, I recorded figures of 9 litres/100km, and that was keeping to the legal limit, most of the time.  The S90 is fitted with a relatively small 60-litre tank. But fuel consumption figures and the tank size are probably irrelevant to the Volvo’s target market, the executive with deep pockets. The spec sheet indicates that the S90 can go from 0-100 km/h in 5.9 sec with a top speed of 250km/h and it’s greenish at

165 g/km of CO2.

The S90 is not marketed as a sporty performer.  The steering is light and even though it’s a long vehicle it is easy to park, and literally turns on a tickey as it showed when I easily did a three-pointer to escape a rather cramped parking area at a corporate head office where I had an appointment.

It must have been the S90 because the electronic gates opened immediately.

Usually when I go in my car I have to get out and press the button on the intercom to enter.  And then wait.

It delivers an extremely comfortable ride , and with the help of the air suspension active chassis, which was fitted to the test car as an optional extra,  you could hardly detect the road corrugations, not even on the sand track I mentioned earlier.

None of the two rear passengers complained about any bumps, in fact they were so laid back, one of them was sleeping.

The S90 is made for the long and open road: cruise-ability has probably been built in to its DNA. If you want to take it on holiday you’ll have no problem packing in all the luggage, as well as the kitchen sink, if you have to, in the cavernous 500 litre boot which you can open and shut remotely using the key fob. 

An interesting feature on the S90 is the Pilot Assist which I didn’t try for various reasons. The main requirement being clear lane markings and where I was driving many of them had faded away or wiped out because of road works.

Basically it is a semi-autonomous driving system which you can activate from the steering wheel. You can use it at speeds of up to 130km/h. However, the driver is responsible for controlling the vehicle at all times although Pilot Assist can be activated to manage acceleration, braking and steering as long as there are clear lane markings on both sides of the vehicle. It was designed by Geely. 

The Heads Up Display (HUD) proved useful in that you can easily see the speeds at which you are travelling. It  changes when the speed limit drops or increases, say from 80km/h to 60km/h or vice versa and when there is a speed trap in the vicinity an icon of a camera pops up. The HUD is one of the best that I’ve seen so far.

Standard features on the S90 include active bending LED headlights with active high beam; a  12.3-inch digital instrument cluster; a  9-inch Sensus Connect touch screen infotainment system; electric front seats with memory; Nappa soft leather upholstery; rear parking sensors; reverse camera; navigation and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).

If you want the premium pack you can add an extra R65 000 to the base price of the S90 and for that you get heated front seats with power-adjustable side supports; keyless entry and starting; a powered boot lid (hands free opening and closing;  visual park assist including a  360-degree HD camera; Bowers & Wilkins premium audio, 19-speaker; blind spot information system with cross traffic alert and more. And everything works.

Obviously the options come at a price: a sunroof (R12 500) and Smartphone integration – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (R4 000), while you will pay

R14 500 for the HUD, for example.

In summary:  The Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD has plenty of appeal  and presence.  Inside,  everything is finished to perfection. The S90 is not a flashy car but it has understated elegance.  The concave grille and ‘Thor’s Hammer’ signature LED headlamps add to the wow factor.

Sadly I had to return the press car two days early. It was too big to fit in my garage and I had to park it under the car port. However, Volvo assured me that any would-be thief would have had a hard time trying to break a window, and an even harder time to get bit started.

The Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD automatic is priced (at the time of testing, July) at R899 000 and with the optional extras as fitted R1 029 725. It comes with a comprehensive 5-year/100 000 km maintenance plan and a

5-year/100 000 km warranty.

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