By Miles Downard
The three usual suspects of the premium saloon market are pretty much all us South Africans are fed these days, such is there popularity. It’s a shame really, considering there are other car makers out there that offer up automobiles that are at the very least a solid match…and in a few cases even better.
The Volvo S90 is one such vehicle. Playing against the likes of BMW’s 5 Series, the Mercedes E Class and something-or-other from Audi the unassuming Swede should not be taken lightly as a competitor. And here’s why.
Inside and out
There’s something special about the way current generation Volvo’s look. Each one is so unique, with only a few design cues carried from model to model. That’s very unusual these days. This S90, with it’s R Design package, is quite radical by comparison to others in the segment, even if I think the rear section looks like a Citroen circa 2005. It’s fresh and exciting, challenging the notion that a big premium saloon needs to blend rather than stand out.
It’s something of a cliche I know, but the inside of the S90 is a really chic place to be, starting out with the on/off switch in place of a starter button. Very pleasing indeed. The large portrait touchscreen takes some getting used to especially if you’re coming from an i-Drive type toggle setup but is superb once you’ve worked it all out. The seats are sublime and only add to the soothing feeling of being inside the S90. There’s plenty of room, too.
Volvo has gone in a completely different direction to the other premium saloons in a move that really pays off, with controls that manage an excellent trick of being ergonomical and quirky all at once. As a good friend of mine said, “The control weighting, linearity of response of everything from brake pedal to door handle. It’s just so…harmonious.” Couldn’t have put it better myself.
On the road
The S90 shares its mechanicals with its bigger sibling, the XC90. With a lower centre of gravity the S90 is an even neater and tidier thing to drive. The big 19” R Design package wheels are an unfortunate addition in this setting, making the ride firmer than you’d expect, but otherwise this is a quiet, cosseting place to spend time.
This range topping T6 features a twin-charged petrol engine. It’s got a supercharger for low-down torque and a turbocharger when power is demanded higher in the rev range, the combination of which is good for 235 kW and 400 torques. The 0-100 km/h sprint takes just 5.9 seconds. Take things down a notch and you can manage around 8-litres of fuel per 100 km. An 8 speed automatic gearbox deals with sending power to all four wheels with little fuss.
At a smidge shy of R900,000 I must admit you’re getting a lot of car for the money. Yes R900,000 is a fair sum, but consider that the same money buys you a less powerful, less well equipped BMW 5 Series and you’ll start to get my drift.
The Volvo S90 just does everything a big premium saloon should. There’s no fuss about driving dynamics or any of that nonsense. It just gets on with being an exceptionally pleasant place in which to comfortably travel vast distances, or simply waft home from the office. Put simply iIt sets the precedent for the segment and pokes a finger in the eye of what Germany has to offer.