• Volvo S90: First Drive Review

Trust the Swedes to do things their way and stand out!

Volvos are cool. In a segment where luxury and elegance are the keywords, Volvo guns for minimalism and simplicity. I reckon it’s this clean, uncluttered thought that also lets you get immersed into the driving experience. And the S90 takes things a step further, just by virtue of being a sedan. SUVs sell in large numbers but if you love driving, there’s few things that come close to the experience of lowering yourself into a luxury sedan. And as part of the latest update, the S90 is also equipped with a mild-hybrid system, making it environment friendly too.

You’d be hard-pressed to differentiate the 2021 model from its older version, unless both are parked next to each other. The new one sports a cleaner look, especially at the front. The new bumper is more slab-sided and has a cleaner-looking air dam. It even ditches the rectangular exhausts for a cleaner-looking rear end. I am not a fan of chrome accents but admittedly, the chrome on the S90 goes well with its long, sleek silhouette. This is a car that does not demand attention but gets it naturally.

Slide into the sculpted Nappa leather seat and you are bound to appreciate the clean lines and uncluttered cabin. This has been made possible by moving most feature functions on the iPad styled vertical screen. This Google-powered screen skips Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but gets a pre-installed assistant feature to help you navigate through menu functions. It even gets pre-installed apps like Spotify and Google Maps so you don’t really miss smartphone integration.

The piece de resistance though is the 19-speaker Bower and Wilkins music system that croons out 1,400 Watts of crystal clear tunes. It makes for a soothing experience, listening to Miles Davis while enjoying a relaxing back massage behind the wheel. Oddly, rear seats do not get the massage function though. The S90 now gets an ‘Advanced Air Cleaner’ that filters cabin air and displays air quality on screen.

Volvos are the last word in safety and this is equipped with features like blind-spot monitoring and radar-based, rear cross-traffic alert. I liked the lane-keep assist function which gently nudges the steering if you begin to veer off your lane. The raw wood finish on the dash and wood sliders on the centre console look classy, as do the neatly crafted crystal gear knob and metal knobs on the vertical air-con vents, an example of Volvo’s attention to tactile experience.

Like most luxury marques in India, Volvo has ditched diesel engines in favour of a turbocharged petrol motor but going a step forward, the S90 now uses a mild-hybrid system too. The 2.0-litre engine pushes out 253PS and 350Nm, supplemented further by the 48-volt mild-hybrid system that adds upto 14PS and 50Nm. Hybrid assist aids acceleration, fills in torque gaps and also compensates for turbo lag. So you get an eager powertrain that responds well to initialand part throttle inputs. Performance is linear and the S90 makes light of highway chores, while being efficient. We managed to eke out 11.6kmpl with a mix of city and highway driving. The eight-speed Aisin-sourced automatic gearbox seems tuned for efficiency and shifts can feel a tad slow, besides which, there is no Sport mode either.

I like the way earlier five-pot Volvos sounded when pushed hard and this too has a raspy growl at high revs. Drive sedately and the motor sounds muted, thanks to excellent cabin insulation. The rear air suspension takes the edge off sharp ruts and potholes quite well, despite its slightly firm feel. Given its long wheelbase and low slung nature, you do have to be careful on speed breakers though. The Volvo prefers to waft around corners than blitzkrieg through them, again a likeable trait. The light steering works well in city but feels a little vague in corners and overall, a slightly more engaging feel while driving would be nice.

Dynamics are not what make the S90 a good driver’s car though. It’s the way the cabin, crisp audio, powertrain and chassis come together to offer a relaxing experience behind the wheel. It makes the S90 excellent to drive back home after a hectic day at work. At Rs 61.90 lakh, the S90 makes a solid case for itself by standing out from its rivals. Simply put, you will love the Volvo S90 if you have arrived in life but do not want to shout it out to the world.

Cars First drives

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