Volvo S90 D5 Inscription Quick Review

Top of the range Volvo sedan offers a spread of engine outputs and high-tech safety features in a modern, sharply designed package.

Volvo S90 D5 Inscription


The S90 is a large luxury sedan and the largest four-door in the Volvo showroom, replacing the S80 as the brand’s flagship model. It is available with five different engines configurations, all of which are 2.0-litre four-cylinders. The Volvo S90 is priced from about $80,000 and runs well over $100,000, depending on how many options you choose.


  • Safety. Volvo has long been about safety and the S90 is no different. As well as good passive safety features (including airbags and a strong body structure) the S90 has a long list of active safety features. It can warn of other vehicles in its blind spot and partially steer the car on a freeway. It also has a system that counter-steers and applies the brakes if it senses the car is about to run off the road. And the auto braking system now incorporates software that not only recognises humans and other vehicles but also responds to large animals, such as horses and cows.
Volvo S90 D5 Inscription
  • Performance. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel in the D5 has plenty of pull across its rev range. Combined with a decisive eight-speed automatic transmission and the tricky PowerPulse system (which uses stored compressed air to spin the turbo up, reducing so-called turbo lag) it makes it feel more powerful than the numbers in the brochure may suggest.

  • Design. With the exception of the rear-end – which has very distinctive tail lights – the S90 is a stylish machine. The headlights include “Thor’s hammer” LED daytime running lights (lights that stay on during the day to make the car more visible) while the concave grille helps create a unique look. But it’s inside where the S90’s design works best. There are plenty of high quality materials (real metal, wood and leather, for example) as well as a simplistic but functional layout that doesn’t overload the driver with buttons or controls.

  • Steering and general control. Volvo has done a great job of adding some decent weight to the S90’s steering, while ensuring it is still easy to use when doing U-turns or parking. It adds confidence on longer corners, ensuring it is an engaging car to drive. And, when fitted with grippy Pirelli tyres as our car was, the S90 hangs on nicely if you’re pushing on.
Volvo S90 D5 Inscription


  • Value. Okay, so nothing with a six-figure price tag is likely to win any awards for outstanding value, but the S90 has stepped up in price significantly over the S80 it replaces in the Volvo line-up. Plus, it’s missing some features you might expect on a luxury car like this; things like digital radio, smart key entry and Apple CarPlay connectivity.

  • Comfort on some surfaces. Our car was running on optional 20-inch wheels (the Inscription comes standard with 19s) with very little air between the wheel and the outside of the tyre, so it was prone to the occasional thud into bumps with a sharp edge. It’s by no means uncomfortable, but takes the shine off an otherwise comfortable driving experience.

  • Carrying five people. Like most rivals, the middle seat in the rear sits proud of the more cosseting outer seats. But it’s the large transmission tunnel on the floor that makes life most difficult for anyone stuck in the centre.


The popular cars in this segment are predominantly from German manufacturers. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class (a new model arrived in mid-2016) and BMW 5-Series (a new model arrives in 2017) head the field, with Audi’s A6 also putting up a good fight. Others to consider include the Jaguar XF and Lexus GS.


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