By: Jag Dhatt
ESTEPONA, Spain – It’s never easy to break new ground; many have tried and only a select few have succeeded. But when done correctly, the world really takes notice. When asked to think of a premium European luxury vehicle, the usual suspects always stand out: BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. But recently, I was invited to beautiful Spain and a “sleeper” Swedish brand really made me take notice. Following the footsteps of the award-winning and successful XC90, Volvo has now launched the all new S90, a flagship that I think will make quite the impression.
Volvo, when owned by Ford for 10 years until 2010, was stuck to the same bland design elements. There wasn’t anything creative, until the brand was bought by a Chinese company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Company Ltd., or Geely for short. Wanting to make some drastic changes, it was reported that Geely spent about $11 billion in new infrastructure and support for Volvo – and it seems to have worked.
The 2017 S90 is the first Volvo to be built on the company’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform. According to Kyle Denton from Volvo Canada, SPA will, “open new opportunities in the way future products will be designed, built and equipped, while still conforming to factory standards.” In essence, multiple vehicles can share the same production line, which will not only increase manufacturing efficiency, but maintain Volvo’s vision for continuity.
Looks and Design:
Volvo cars were never on the edge of design; they were bland and had followed the same conservative looks for years and years. The XC90 was the first to break free from this boxy mold and now, the S90 does the same. This 4-door sedan has flagship written all over it; it has a strong, elegant stance and looks absolutely stunning. Up front, the S90 introduces a new concave waterfall grille, which embodies Volvo’s Iron Mark emblem badge. To make sure the gods were kept happy, Thor’s Hammer styled daytime running lights are embedded into HID headlights. Even though the S90 is a flagship sedan, the long hood and steeply raked windshield convey a sporty look. On the sides, the lines are clean and there are hints of the XC90. And to make sure that others take European brands take notice, the rear small window also shares a look similar to a BMW. Compared to the rest of the car, the tail of the S90 fell a little short; from certain angles, it doesn’t match the beauty of the rest of the car. Our test vehicle did, however, have a lip spoiler that helped.
The best feature of the S90 has to be its interior; it is simply stunning and I would put it on par with most other European luxury vehicles. The S90’s interior borrows from the XC90, but takes comfort and design to a higher level. There’s a great blend of leather and wood, keeping true to Scandinavian roots. What can I say about the front seats except they are comfortable, with our test vehicles having heated and cooled seats; for our drives in sunny, warm Spain, the cooled seats were definitely enjoyed. Although I only spent a few minutes in the rear seats, I can attest they comfortable and there is plenty of head and leg room. Long distance travel, here we come.
Safety and Technology:
Think Volvo and you know you’re getting leading edge safety, and the tradition continues with the S90. There’s all the usual safety components but let’s look at what’s new. For us in Canada, where sometimes, there’s big game on roads, Volvo has introduced the world-first Large Animal Detection feature. In conjunction with the car’s City Safety option, there’s now intuitive warnings and braking assist in the potential you’re about to collide with people, deer, moose, etc.
We were also able to test out Volvo’s improved semi-autonomous Pilot Assist feature, which allows the S90 to accelerate, decelerate, stop, and even steer the car as long as there’s clear road markings. During our drive along some amazing Spanish roads, the S90 steered itself effortlessly for a certain length of time and should you not touch the steering wheel for a while, an alarm will remind you to take control again.
Volvo brass gave information about their new Vision 2020, which states that no one in a Volvo will be seriously injured or killed by the year 2020 – that’s quite remarkable, and given the company’s track record, something we all should look forward to.
The XC90 was the first Volvo to showcase the large iPad-like Sensus Connect touchscreen, and I liked it a lot. The S90 has the same setup and again it works flawlessly. Yes, you do have to get accustomed to the layout, size, and workings, but it’s pretty easy. After listening to various tracks on the sound system, another tick mark for sound quality and richness, thanks to the Bowers & Wilkins setup.
Our test drive routes took us through the hills above Marbella via winding roads, highways, back roads, and even tight city streets. One of my first impressions of the S90 was how quiet the vehicle was. According to Kent Falck, Volvo’s New Car Director, “a lot of work went into making sure the vehicle exemplifies what luxury should be. For example, even the speakers and subwoofer are integrated into the body to give the best sound experience without the interference of road or engine noise.”
For Canada, the S90 will have the same powertrain as the XC90; thus, we’ll have the supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pushes out 316 hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Although it’s not going burn through tires, this motor does have enough power for a 0-100 km/h run of just 5.9 seconds. That’s pretty credible for this car, considering that it’s only a four. We had no problems in pushing the cars through the various roads and when in Dynamic mode, it’s like the S90 just gulped a big bottle of Red Bull. I was disheartened when I saw no paddle shifters (they aren’t even available), only Powershift. It’s a minor blow, but the S90 doesn’t want to be like the other Europeans; in fact, Volvo says that this flagship isn’t intending to compete with a BMW or Mercedes – it’s making its own path. It’s the strong silent type that wants to remain cool and collected, and not shed its tuxedo for racing gear.
I found the car to be an absolute joy to drive in Spain. Volvo is staggering the release of the S90 for the Canadian market. We’ll first see the T6, both Momentum and Inscription models, in September, followed by the T8 Inscription sometime later. All Canadian models will be all-wheel drive. And sorry, for those who love diesel, Canada will also not be getting that engine either.
Volvo is on the right track with its new vehicles and if the success of the XC90 is any indicator, the brand is looking towards a great future. I personally love the car. With a starting price of just $56,900 for the Momentum and $63,000 for the Inscription, the S90 is set to flex its muscles and take on the usual luxury suspects.