Break the mould in Volvo’s plush new S90

With the Volvo XC90’s SA COTY win in 2016 just one of many reasons to take a serious look at the Swedish brand, there’s a fresh confidence in the products from our Nordic friends. Can the rakish new S90 sedan keep the party going with the traditionally difficult follow-up album?

The stakes are particularly high for Volvo at the moment. Not just because the XC90 was so well received that it ousted all-comers to claim the 2016 Wesbank/SAGMJ SA COTY title – and the much-anticipated follow-up S90 is always more challenging following a big success – but also because rakish business saloons are de rigeur at the moment. New BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, Mercedes E-Class and further up the charts the Porsche Panamera – they’re all vying for three-box blood amongst those who haven’t turned to crossover and sport utility vehicles just yet.

The Volvo S90 needs to be good, is what we’re saying – very good. With a sizable $11billion investment into its Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) and a new family of downsized engines, everything’s in place for Sweden to finally usurp the Germans.

All it takes is a glance at this confident hunk of metal to tell you all you need to know about Volvo’s well-funded, Chinese-backed ambitions. Fronting a long bonnet is the gloriously illuminated “Thor’s Hammer” homage to a Nordic God and a prominent ‘iron mark’ logo on the beautifully concave grille (P1800 anyone?) – this is a Volvo with a steely yet handsome visage. In profile, thanks to its pronounced C-pillar, the S90 has coupe-like tendencies. It’s a gorgeous thing to behold – especially on the 20-inch eight-spoke rims fitted to our test unit – turning heads at every moment.

The first thing that strikes you when you’re on the move is the nonconformist approach its engineers have taken to chassis setup. Relaxed yet confident is a good way to describe it; forget the harsh, compromised sportiness of Beemers and Audis. Our test unit foregoes all-round electronically controlled suspension in favour of standard coil-over shocks up front and an unconventional transverse composite leaf spring at the rear, that allow the car to flow over cambers and harsh surfaces, giving the car a plush ride. If it is outright serenity you’re after, the standard 19-inch, fatter-sidewalled rubber enables further bump and rut absorption.

The light, almost stately steering seems to suit the new-age character of the car but it doesn’t want for accuracy. Despite the near-2-tonne kerb weight the S90 can be positioned effortlessly on the road thanks to sophisticated integral-link rear suspension. The standard Comfort setting is where the S90 is best enjoyed, but you can spin the diamond-cut Drive Mode selector to Dynamic if you want to tighten everything up and provoke gutsier engine response – flogging it through the bends feels somewhat inappropriate, however, like you’re messing with its Swedish tranquillity.

That’s mostly because that elegant prow looks and feels limousine-like from behind the wheel, and, despite the four-cylinder turbodiesel (173kW/480Nm) piling on speed briskly (0-100kph in 7.0sec) thanks to a special sauce called PowerPulse technology which blasts compressed air directly into the larger of the two turbochargers, it simply wants to cruise economically on the open road. Which it will do all day – Volvo claims 4.8l/100km – although you can realistically expect a still -commendable 6.0l/100km on an extra-urban cruise.

This gives you the best opportunity to take in the light and airy cabin, dominated in our case by a blonde and wood veneer colour palette, punctuated by paler shades of grey on the dash… And did we mention the space? Oh, so much space inside (and 500 litres in the boot). The cabin is swathed in gorgeous, nostril-pinging leather which invites one to settle into the soft, supportive seats and enjoy Volvo’s new-meets-old-school luxury.

Some of that newness comes courtesy of the sleek 9-inch portrait touchscreen, eliminating the need for silly buttons. It takes a while to gel with this minimalist concept, especially as almost every interior function is adjusted here with a swipe, pinch or scroll, but once you master the human/machine interface it makes other conventional infotainment systems feel, frankly, like they’re from the dark ages. Volvo’s Adaptive Cruise Control and Pilot Assist, which allow any S90 derivative to be driven semi-autonomously up to 130kph, come as standard, but be sure to select the highly affordable optional Premium Pack (R65 000), which brings juicy add-ons like the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), Park Assist Pilot and premium Bowers & Wilkins sound system with 19 speakers – it’s a must to get the most out of this svelte Swede.

Smart, safe, clean-cut and ultra-modern, the new Volvo S90 is a premium car that can go wheel-to-wheel with the Germans. It’s obvious that under the auspices of its Chinese backers, Geely, a genuine desirability has taken residence in Volvo’s new product portfolio. Both the XC90 and S90 possess appropriable weighty showroom value nowadays and yet retain that uniquely Scandinavian image that’s so refreshing against zee Germans. The verdict here is simple: if you’re in the market for a big, comfy sedan that dares eschew the E-segment norms – and I suspect a large majority of you are – you may have just read about your next car.

Base Price  R821 200
Engine Capacity 1969 cm³
No. Of Cylinders 4-cylinders
Aspiration Twin-turbocharged diesel
Power 173kW at 4 000 r/min
Torque 480Nm at 1 750 – 2 250 r/min
Transmission 8-speed auto
Drive type All-wheel drive
Acceleration 0-100 km/h in 7.0 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed 240km/h
Maintenance Plan 5-yr/100 000km
Warranty 5-yr/100 000km
Road Tests

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