First Drive: Volvo V90/S90

By / 11 months ago / Road Test / No Comments

 

 

SECTOR Executive   PRICE €42,750–€60,600   FUEL 4.4–7.4l/100km   CO2 116–169g/km

 

Volvo’s global sales figures suggest it’s a brand often overlooked when executive-level company car drivers are putting a shopping list together. But the S90 and V90 might be about to change that.

As per the S60 and V60, the newcomers are sedan and wagon versions of the same model. It brings all of the brand’s biggest cars under a single ‘90 Series’ alongside the new XC90, replacing the near-invisible S80 and ageing V70. The newcomers share a platform, engines and technology with the XC90, and sales are expected to be weighted more heavily towards the top trim levels too.

Volvo is being realistic, and isn’t expecting to dominate the executive segment. Residual values were never the S80 and V70’s strongest point, so it’s controlling sales volumes, but it now has a competitive alternative to the A6, 5 Series and E-Class. The V90 is predicted to be the stronger seller in Europe, by a large margin, while the S90 is targeting sedan-heavy markets such as Asia and North America.

It’s benchmarking the core of the segment. Volvo is expecting the 190hp D4 to be the most popular engine in Europe, and it features an eight-speed automatic as standard. There’s also a 235hp D5 AWD, which features a system that uses a compressed air pump to spool the turbocharger and improve acceleration off the mark, and T5 and T6 petrols which aren’t likely to be a common sight where CO2-based taxation is the norm.

The S90 and V90 are tailored a little differently. Volvo says its customers value comfort more than outright sportiness, and that’s reflected in the driving experience. Despite offering selectable driving modes and impressive grip and stability, both feel best suited to the default Comfort setting where they offer an effortless ability to cover ground. As in the XC90, the calming hues of the cabin and low wind, road and engine noise all add to that laid-back character which is a brand hallmark.

However, it’s worth noting that the likely biggest-selling engine wasn’t available to drive on the press launch, and Volvo had equipped the entire fleet with air suspension and the more sophisticated multi-link rear axle, which aren’t expected to be popular options. Front-wheel drive versions with the simpler leaf-sprung rear axle have a lot to live up to, especially with the optional 20-inch wheels.

As in the XC90, the range comprises the entry-level Kinetic and Momentum trims, with a choice of chrome-accented, luxury-focused Inscription and the aggressive R-Design which will follow shortly after launch. Volvo wouldn’t confirm it, but the 60 Series range structure suggests there will be V90 Cross Country to replace the XC70 – a popular model with emergency services fleets.

While all of this sounds familiar, there are compromises to be made for Volvo’s prettier new family styling. Rear three-quarter visibility in the S90 suffers from the kicked-up windowline and, while the V90 is the best-proportioned Volvo estate since the Amazon, that comes at the expense of the practicality which once defined its predecessors. There’s less space behind the rear seats than most in this class, and an Astra Sports Tourer has more capacity with the bench folded flat.

But that’s an ongoing trend, and the outgoing V70 was smaller than its predecessor too. Volvo is carving its own niche within this segment, one defined by design and luxury and not driven by a need to copy the sportier Germans. Emerging from the shadows of the executive class could have looked like a genuine challenge, but Volvo’s luxurious newcomers look like a tempting option.

Verdict:

A stylish executive car with its own sense of character, but one launching into a segment where Volvo hasn’t had much presence recently. Sub-110g/km CO2 emissions for the D4 diesel would certainly have helped sway those seduced by the way it looks.

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