Volvo S90: Trust us, you can take this Volvo’s pulse

Volvo PowerPulse Technology with S90

There’s a new premium sedan in town, one that can truly stand wheel-to-wheel with the Germans as far as desirability, looks and quality goes, but what about the all-important performance factor? This is traditionally where Volvos have faltered against their sportier German counterparts. But the latest S90 appears to be turning that thinking on its head.

As we know, Volvo nailed its colours to the turbocharging, downsizing mast when it introduced its modular Drive-E, four-cylinder-only engine strategy which culminated in the new XC90. Available solely in 2.0-litre capacities fueled by petrol or diesel and featuring forced induction – from D4 (140kW diesel), D5 (173kW diesel), to T5 (186kW petrol) and T6 (235kW petrol), with an electrically augmented T8 Twin Engine (300kW/640Nm) on the table at a later stage for SA – each of these powerplants offers the performance of a larger engine thanks to turbo and/or supercharging, but without the thirst of a six- or eight-cylinder motor. It’s not simply forced induction that’s responsible for this boon though: in the S90 (also available in the XC90 as from late 2016), Volvo’s employed a special new innovation called PowerPulse technology – an exclusive world-first.

It’s a ‘special sauce’ that, in the twin-turbocharged D5, eliminates the effects of turbo lag with the help of a small tank of compressed air. This air is blasted directly into the exhaust manifold via a special valve to rapidly spool up the larger of the two turbochargers when the engine is at low revs. The result? Bhu-bye traditional turbodiesel lag, welcome completely lag-free acceleration from standstill and smooth power delivery all the way through the rev range to peak power at 4000rpm…all the while piling on speed briskly in a decidedly un-Volvo fashion. How does 0-100kph in 7.0sec dead and a top speed of 240kph strike you?

The 2.0-litre tank, which is fed by air from the air filter, automatically refills after each burst with the compressed air remaining on hand to work its magic again at any given moment, whenever turbo lag would otherwise have impeded engine performance. The tractability of the engine and the eight-speed gearbox’s ability to respond quickly in kick-down scenarios especially ensures that the S90 exudes great confidence on the highway.

Naturally, with such a pioneering upgrade in its arsenal, the D5 engine’s output has been increased compared to its traditional twin-turbo predecessor – 173kW at 4000rpm (up from 165kW) and torque is up by 10Nm to 480Nm between 1750 and 2250rpm – but efficiency remains exceptional, with an average fuel economy on the combined cycle of only 5.7l/100km (down from 5.8) and carbon emissions lowered to 127g/km. Not bad for the five-metre-long limousine with AWD that is the new S90. Thanks to its newfound focus on style, safety, comfort and engineering nous, too, there’s an overwhelming sense that the S90 is not only a Swede to challenge the Germans, but one that’s going to teach them a thing or two, too.

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