Volvo’s elegant S90 was launched as part of the Swedish company’s new wave of products, funded by Chinese owners Geely, which began with the XC90 SUV of 2015. Designed to sit alongside the V90 estate, the S90 is a premium executive car and it features distinctive rear-end styling too.
Volvo’s ‘Drive-E’ campaign, begun in 2014, saw the company abandon large, multi-cylinder engines in favour of two modular petrol and diesel architectures that can be adapted, via turbocharging and/or supercharging or hybrid augmentation, to deliver a wide variety of different power outputs. So, from late 2015 onwards, no new Volvos were being built with anything larger than a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine. Despite this, there are multiple badges for the S90, which reflect its power levels and fuel resource. So, there are diesel models, badged D3 (150hp) and D4 (190hp), and then a solitary ‘pure’ petrol model that has been offered in Ireland, the 190hp T4. Above these sits the T8 Twin Engine Hybrid, which uses a potent turbo- and supercharged engine plus a plug-in hybrid drive electric system to deliver 400hp; it was expensive new and is very rare on the used market, but its low CO2 outputs make it cheap for road tax. In other markets, D5 (235hp), T5 (250hp) and T6 (320hp) engines were offered, but Volvo Ireland never took these up – meaning the vast majority of used S90s here will be D3 and D4 models. All regular S90s are front-wheel drive and almost all employ a lovely, slick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, although you might find the odd D3 manual on the second-hand market. Trim levels are simple: Momentum is entry spec, and then buyers could move up in one of two directions – R-Design (sporty) or Inscription (luxury). While the R-Design models look fantastic and have some of the best front seats in the automotive industry, the larger alloys and firmer sports suspension can harm the S90’s otherwise smooth ride, so we’d advocate searching for Momentum or Inscription cars instead.
We think that, to get the very best of the distinctive S90, opt for Momentum specification and the 190hp/400Nm D4 powertrain. This offers the perfect blend of power, luxury and refinement for the S90, at a reasonable price – and it shouldn’t be hard to track down a good used one.
Volvo S90 D4 Inscription
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Maximum speed: 225km/h
0-100km/h: 7.9 seconds
Fuel consumption: 4.4 litres/100km
• Stunning interior
• Striking looks
• Something different from the Germanic norm
• R-Design models can ride poorly
• No six-cylinder options available
• Sister V90 estate is the better car
There’s no doubting that Volvo’s latest products are hugely desirable and much improved from what came from Sweden before, and the S90 is no exception to this rule. It’s not the most exciting thing to drive and the lack of six-cylinder engines might harm its ‘prestige’ value in some people’s eyes, but if you can get past that, this is an eminently likeable and talented executive saloon that deserves to be on anyone’s shopping list.