2016 Volvo S90 review

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2016 Volvo S90 review

Priced From $79,900Information

Overall Rating

0

4 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

4 out of 5 stars

Technology

5 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProLong list of safety features including driver assistance technology; elegant yet functional interior; punchy four-cylinder engines.

  2. ConApple CarPlay and digital radio cost extra; initial suspension firmness at city speeds.

  3. The Pick: 2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription 4D Sedan

What stands out?

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The S90 is a large luxury car with a choice of great four-cylinder engines. There’s also excellent active safety features, including advanced technology that can help avoid a crash. It has a very stylish interior that is quite different to those in the predominantly German rivals. There’s also lots of space and it is very comfortable for long drives.

What might bug me?

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Navigating the touchscreen. Its operation is similar to an iPad or other tablet computer, but occasionally an icon can be difficult to find. Or you forget to swipe while you’re trying to push.

Thinking you’re breaking the speed limit when you’re not. The S90 has a camera that reads speed limit signs and displays that speed in the instrument cluster. However, it’s prone to false readings about 5-10 percent of the time, occasionally missing a sign or incorrectly deciphering one (such as school zones, where it displays the school zone speed even out of school times).

Getting a puncture. The S90 has a space-saver spare tyre, which limits the recommended top speed to 80km/h once fitted.

Hitting kangaroos. The S90 has one of the most sophisticated crash avoidance systems on a modern car, with the auto braking calibrated to detect humans and large animals such as horses and cows. However, it’s not yet tuned to detect or respond to kangaroos.

Having to drive a four-cylinder; whereas most large luxury cars have the choice of six- or eight-cylinder engines on some models, the Volvo S90 comes only with a range of four-cylinder engines.

What body styles are there?

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Four-door sedan only.

In 2017 Volvo will also begin selling a wagon version, which will be called V90. The V90 will share the front half of the S90, including its engines.

The S90 D5 and T6 drive all four wheels. Late in 2016 the D4 and T5 will join the range; each is front-wheel drive. In 2017 there will also be a petrol-electric hybrid model called the T8, which uses electric motors as well as an engine.

The S90 is classed as a large luxury car.

What features do all versions have?

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Leather trim and electrically-operated front seats, with memory buttons for the driver’s seat.

Adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set distance to the car in front, automatically braking and accelerating the car.

Self-parking, which can identify suitable parking spots and automatically steer the car into the space.

Alloy wheels, which are lighter and more stylish than steel wheels.

A range of safety features, including City Safety, which is an active safety feature designed to avoid crashes. It can identify other vehicles, pedestrians and large animals (such as horses or cows) and automatically apply the brakes to avoid them or reduce the severity of a collision.

Lane Keeping Aid, which automatically steers the car to keep it in the lane on a freeway; it is intended as an assistance function so only operates temporarily and will disconnect if the driver keeps their hands off the wheel.

Electronic stability control, which can help the driver to control a skidding car. All new cars must have this feature.

The ability to read speed signs and display the speed limit in the instrument cluster; the system is far from perfect (it automatically defaults to 40km/h in school zones, for example, regardless of the time of day) but is an extra backup for monitoring your car’s speed.

A 12.3-inch customisable computer screen that displays the gauges, such as the speedometer and trip computer.

There’s also a 9.0-inch colour touchscreen mounted vertically in the centre of the dash to control the infotainment functions, such as audio and the satellite-navigation.

Four-zone automatic air-conditioning, which allows different temperatures to be set for each quadrant of the cabin.

Windscreen wipers that operate automatically when water is detected on the screen. Headlights that turn on automatically when in low light.

Six airbags; one directly in front of each front occupant; two protecting the bodies of front occupants from side impacts; and side curtain airbags that protect the heads of front and rear occupants from side impacts.

The S90 is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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Of the two S90 models currently available – D5 and T6 – the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel in the D5 is the most efficient, using a claimed average of 5.1 litres per 100km.

It’s an impressively low figure, albeit one largely unachievable in everyday driving (as with all fuel figures, it’s calculated in a laboratory and not representative of most driving). Still, you can expect to use less than 8.0L/100km.

The engine has lots of pull and makes light work of hills. It’s also very smooth and quiet, cementing the luxury experience.

The T6 uses the same basic engine layout but is fuelled by petrol instead of diesel (Volvo diesels are denoted by “D” in their alpha-numeric name, whereas cars with petrol engines have a “T”). It has a supercharger and a turbocharger, each of which forces air into the engine, which creates more power.

The T6 has more power than the D5 so is slightly quicker when accelerating. It’s also even quieter.

The penalty is you’ll use about 40 per cent more fuel than in the diesel.

All Volvo S90s have an eight-speed automatic transmission.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The D5 and T6 come with exactly the same level of equipment, right down to their 19-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels.

However, you can option the Technology Pack, which has digital radio tuning (for clearer sound and access to dozens of additional stations), a 360-degree camera (for a virtual overhead view of all angles of the car), Apple CarPlay connectivity (so Apple devices can be connected and controlled through the main display screen) and a head-up display (which projects the speedo on to a virtual space above the bonnet).

As is common with large luxury cars there’s a plethora of options to personalise the car, including larger wheels and tyres and rear DVD screens. You can even get rear iPad holders, which include a USB charger to keep the batteries topped up.

There’s also an optional 19-speaker sound system by home hifi specialists Bowers & Wilkins.

Another option is pop-up booster seats in the outer two rear seat positions. Release a clip and the seat base rises to better position the seatbelt over the shoulders of children. It’s an excellent feature and can replace a booster seat for children aged between four and eight.

Volvo’s performance division, Polestar, also offers a performance upgrade for the D5 engine. It only increases maximum power by about 2 per cent, but Volvo claims more noticeable improvements in everyday driving.

Buyers can also option more safety features, including blind spot warning, which monitors other vehicles in the blind spot and alerts the driver if they go to change lanes. There’s also “Pilot Assist”, which maintains a set distance to the car in front and partially steers the car up to 130km/h.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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The T6 is slightly more expensive and uses more fuel.

There are 13 standard colours (11 metallics, with black and white the only non-metallic hues).

Buyers can also choose between eight interior colour themes, blending light, black or tan leather with various metal and wood trim finishes.

How comfortable is it?

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The S90 is very comfortable with lots of space up front. The seats are nicely shaped and supportive, making for excellent long-trip comfort.

There’s an elegant simplicity to the presentation of the cabin; authentic finishes such as wood and metal are in abundance and there are very few buttons and knobs, with most reserved for commonly used features such as the sound system volume and controls on the steering wheel to navigate things such as the trip computer and cruise control.

The touchscreen is the main point of contact for everything from the digital owner’s manual and navigation system to the ventilation. It is controlled very differently to those in most cars, requiring swiping, pinching and pressing more common on tablet computers and smartphones. Once you get the hang of it it’s easy to use, but there are times you may struggle to locate the menu or screen you’re looking for; that’s where the physical “home” button comes in handy, taking you back to the main screen.

Those who appreciate high quality audio systems will like the optional Bowers & Wilkins sound system, which delivers clean, crisp sound with powerful bass.

The S90 is also very relaxed on the road. It is quiet and smooth, although the low profile tyres (there’s not much air between the wheel and the road) means there is some sharpness over bumps taken at city speeds.

Above 60km/h the suspension is more compliant and large bumps are well controlled.

What about safety?

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Safety has long been a Volvo cornerstone and it’s no different with the S90. When it went on sale in the third quarter of 2016 it was the most advanced Volvo ever produced in terms of crash avoidance.

Key to its safety artillery is a suite of features called IntelliSafe, which includes auto emergency braking up to 130km/h and a semi-autonomous steering system; that steering includes a feature that detects if the car is about to run off the road and can partially steer and brake the vehicle to reduce any impending impact. There’s also rear cross traffic alert, which warns of people and cars approaching from the side when reversing.

The S90 also has full airbag protection, providing frontal and side protection in crashes.

The Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has not yet rated the S90’s crashworthiness.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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While comfort is a clear focus with the S90, it’s also one of the best Volvos when it comes to driving excitement.

The four-cylinder engines in the D5 and T6 are excellent.

The D5’s engine features a system called PowerPulse, which consists of an air compressor that forces air into the turbocharger when you first press the throttle pedal. It’s designed to reduce the time it takes for the turbo to spin up to its peak operating speed, translating to better response.

The result is excellent acceleration as soon as you press the accelerator. The diesel continues that enthusiasm while driving, making for plenty of pull.

The supercharged and turbocharged engine in the T6 is even better, with more power and a more enticing sound when you drive it harder. It’s a sweet engine and one that has similar performance to a big six-cylinder engine.

Each engine also works well with the eight-speed automatic transmission, with well-calculated shifts; those

With the D5 and T6 driving through all four wheels there’s also reassuring surefootedness, even on a wet road.

The tyres, too, grip very well and combine with precise yet light steering for fun and confident cornering. Because it is a large car – and relatively heavy - the S90 is more at home on flowing country roads.

How is life in the rear seats?

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The S90 has excellent space in the back for adults and large doors make it easy to get in and out. Head room is very good and there’s some space under the front seats for toes.

The person in the middle will be less comfortable, though; the seat itself sits higher (the outer two are sculpted, whereas the centre one isn’t) and there is a large hump on the floor for mechanical components underneath.

The attention to detail is excellent, though, with the same finishes and elegance as up front. There are also rear temperature controls in the centre with a digital display and touch pad for adjusting it.

The built-in booster seats for children are an excellent addition, allowing children who would usually need a car seat to sit slightly higher, better positioning the seatbelt over their shoulder. It’s also very useful for those with friends or family with children who may not want to transfer the child seat from their car to yours.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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The S90 has a large, broad boot that easily accommodates large suitcases and bags. There’s also a 60/40 split-fold function to allow long items to protrude through to the cabin.

And inside the cabin there are large door pockets and a sizeable centre console for keeping valuables out of sight.

Where is it made?

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All S90s are made in Sweden.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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The S90 comes with a very high level of equipment and matches or betters most competitors.

Other cars to consider include the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, Lexus GF and Jaguar XF.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

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The S90 T6 Inscription gets a very nice engine, albeit one that uses more fuel. Still, it’s worth the slight price premium for the extra driving enjoyment.

Are there plans to update this model soon?

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The S90 went on sale in 2016, so it’ll be about 2019 before a major update arrives. However, expect a hybrid model (called T8) to join the range in 2017, as well as a wagon, called V90.