Cool, composed and exceedingly clever. The Volvo S90’s luxury game is on point.
There’s always been a simmering undercurrent of defiance about the Volvo. A maverick streak hidden under its tweedy exterior.
After all, it’s not easy, burning the “safe and sensible” torch and still being cool while the rest of the European luxury bratpack are busy blazing a trail of hot laps and hard corners, grabbing fistsful of the market share while they’re at it. Yet, it appears to have paid off for Volvo. The S90 is the second car in Volvo’s all-new, future-driven offensive, which includes a new design language, new platform and a new crop of engines designed to tackle emissions and efficiency-related woes. Pretty sensible so far. Having said that, the S90 is also probably the least understated car Volvo has made in recent years. Considering its barge-like proportions, it’s more HMS 90 than S90.
Which isn’t to say it’s an ungainly sight. Far from it – the S90 has utilized that Scandinavian beauty gene to its full extent. It dispenses with all the faux-musculature of a car of its class, and has instead a sculpted symmetry that’s minimalistic and grand at once. Much like the XC90 SUV, it’s got the brand’s signature fascia, punctuated by two slick “Thor’s hammer” headlamps and a concave grille that still sports the diagonal slash that is unmistakably Volvo. Refreshingly, Volvo hasn’t bothered to make the car unnecessarily athletic at the expense of proper road-going comfort. And that’s precisely what makes the S90 so unconventional. Volvo turned away from brochurefriendly attributes found in other Autobahn-munching executive sedans and consolidated its efforts towards sheer ergonomic splendour. Besides, expecting a car like this to take to the racetrack or even really acute B-roads is like expecting the Pope to take to recreational squash.
Inside, the S90 is exceptionally plush. So much so that the aeons spent at gridlocked traffic signals become infinitely more tolerable. Especially with that glorious Bowers & Wilkins sound system which, once set to “Gothenburg concert hall” mode, will have you questioning the wisdom of leaving your car at all. Even with a tornado on the horizon. During rapture.
The interiors are awash with white Nappa leather, which also coats the steering, as well as a walnut wood trim on the dash running across the transmission panel. It’s noticeably “Ikea” in its execution, but perfectly in line with the Zen garden-like vibe. Volvo’s new design philosophy has done away with the palette of buttons previously found in its cars. Instead, you get a large touchscreen unit that’s the technological nucleus of the cabin. Through it, you can control anything from the infotainment system to the impressive “Lane Assist”, which keeps the car on its path and prompts the steering to vibrate should it begin to veer off-course, to the park assist pilot, which uses sensors and a reversing camera to automatically slot the car into any relatively spacious parking spot.
For all the Norse symbolism in its design, there isn’t a lot of thunder to be found in the D4 diesel variant with “Inscription” trim, the only one currently available in India. It’s got a gentlemanly 2-litre, four-pot turbo-diesel that makes a modest 190bhp of power. The motor settles down comfortably at a fairly brisk pace, with an inscrutable level of turbolag, which makes acceleration quite remarkable.
Even more remarkable is how the weight of the car tends to disappear when accelerating. This is a fullbodied executive sedan that shares its wheelbase with the XC90 – yet at no point does it lose its composure, adhering to the road right up to the precipice of its top-end acceleration curve. Everything from the cushioning of its seats to its perfectly sprung suspension is tailored for comfort – however undulated the road may be, there isn’t much that can or will make its way to your spine. Of course, bodyroll sets in only if you’re silly enough to tackle curving roads flat-out.
For a brand that has been synonymous with driver safety for the better part of a century, it would be remiss not to include all the safety bells and whistles. And so, for `53.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), you get all said bells and whistles: including front and rear seat belt pretensioners, an emergency brake assist and Volvo’s highly intuitive driver safety mechanisms. For the sort of technology and comfort on offer, the Volvo S90 is a serious bargain. It’s a new direction for the Swedish carmaker, one that’s likely to be very popular.