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International First Drive: Volvo’s suave S90 in sunny Spain


Swedish car maker Volvo is a brand on the move, since its emancipation from Ford in 2010 the company has been going it alone in terms of design, platform and powertrain development. All of that work has come to fruition as the marque introduces its second all-new model series, the S90 and V90. We will only be getting the saloon S90 variant in South Africa. I travelled to Spain to see what this new model is all about before it reaches local shores.

Design in the DNA

The new design principles adopted by Volvo are admirable; take the rather svelte XC90 that has been with us for some time as an example. I feel that, in the metal, this S90 looks even better than its SUV sibling. Up front the massive P1800-esque grille dominates the front end while the “Thor’s Hammer” appears again, in the front lights, an apparent theme, very Scandinavian of them.

In side profile the car screams sports sedan with a few nods to the S90’s Germanic rivals. The rear end is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the car. It’s either a love/hate scenario, I personally love it however the shape of the rear lights and surfacing of the rear section are certainly talking points.

Interior, pretty Swede

The inside of the S90 is very similar to the XC90, which is not a bad thing at all. The fit and finish inside the vehicle is as you’d expect from a premium product. Leather and soft-touch materials are to be found everywhere, along with a general impression of tangible quality. There is also a large boot and enough room for six-foot-plus adults in the rear.


The layout is clean, simplistic, with an emphasis on the portrait-mounted central infotainment screen which controls many of the cars functions. The system has been slightly upgraded (existing XC90 customers will receive the update) to provide better performance and enhanced application compatibility. To give an example of the level of connectivity the car provides. I was able to stream music on Spotify, from the car’s Wi-Fi hotspot while connecting my smartphone to the net for the obligatory social media posts, while I was a passenger, of course.

Engines and driving

When the S90 reaches local shores towards the end of 2016 we will receive two variants, a petrol and a diesel. The petrol will be the T6 model with 235kW/400Nm from a twin-charged 2.0 litre motor. This model is really rather rapid for such a large machine, especially with the all-wheel drive system. However, in ‘Dynamic’ mode the gear changes from the 8-speed gearbox were, at times, rather clunky. Placing the car back to ‘Comfort’ or ‘Eco’ mode remedies this problem, I found.

The other model that we will be receiving is my pick of the range, the D5. This all-wheel drive 2.0 litre diesel model gets 173kW/480Nm and what Volvo calls Power Pulse. In basic terms it’s a cylinder that is filled with compressed air which spools to turbocharger up faster, meaning less lag. This technology works very well in action, there is still a bit of lag but nothing like many other diesel automatic vehicles out there. See this technology at work here:.

The front-wheel drive T5 and D4 variants will arrive in SA in 2017 while the range-topping 300kW T8 is yet to be confirmed.


Volvo is committed to a campaign that implies that nobody should be killed or seriously injured in a Volvo vehicle by 2020. So the safety technology has to be quite something. The S90 gets an updated version of Pilot Assist as standard (as will the XC90 for MY17). This is a semi-autonomous driving system that works up to 130km/h (versus 50km/h previously). We used this system of the freeways of Spain, it works very well indeed, the vehicle requires you to have a hand on the wheel and after that it will brake, steer and accelerate for you. There are also items such a City Safety which helps the driver in the urban environment, large animal detection, which is self explanatory as well as Run-Off-Road Mitigation which saves those who have fallen asleep behind the wheel.


Volvo is producing great vehicles at the moment; there are perhaps areas where the Germans may be sharper however the fact remains that the offerings that the brand have come up with are very appealing. The technology produced and the general enthusiasm of everyone associated with the brand means that the future looks bright for the Swedes, the S90 and XC90 is only the beginning.


Volvo South Africa provided quite a broad range for the pricing with models starting at R600 000 and going up to around R900 000

Article written by Sean Nurse
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Posted by: Alex
Submitted: 28-06-2016