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Volvo S90 2016 review

Volvo's first limousine in more than a decade is just around the corner.
EXPERT RATING
6
Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the 2016 Volvo s90 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch.

Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the 2016 Volvo s90 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch. 

The company best known for its box-shaped cars finally has a new generation luxury sedan from a clean sheet of paper.

If you think the new Volvo S90 has hints of Audi in its flanks, you'd be right. It was penned by a former Audi designer.

This is Sweden's latest attempt to rub shoulders with Germany's Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Volvo is certainly trying to charge real money for it.

Volvo has been making sound cars for years but there remains a large gap between the reality and public perception.

The Volvo S90 will initially set you back $96,900 plus on-road costs when it goes on sale in October, and the range will stretch to $101,900 with a couple of options added.

More affordable models follow next year, giving the S90 a more realistic starting price of $79,900 plus on-road costs.

That's still a chunk of change, and getting people to hand over Mercedes money for a Volvo hasn't historically been the company's strong suit.

Volvo has been making sound cars for years but there remains a large gap between the reality and public perception.

The other challenge for Volvo: its intended rivals have lifted their game.

Volvo may have invented the three-point seatbelt -- and effectively donated it to the automotive world by not charging 1 cent for the original patent -- but Mercedes, the inventor of the motor car, has overtaken it as a leader in safety and technology.

The latest Mercedes sedan has nine airbags, a 360 degree camera, and automatic emergency braking from freeway speeds.

The latest Volvo has seven airbags, a 360-degree camera is optional, and has only just now been able to match Mercedes' emergency braking from high speed.

On the move, the S90 is relatively quiet and refined.

Incredibly, Apple Car Play is part of a $3000 option pack on a $100,000 Volvo -- even though the handy phone integration software is standard on a $14,990 Holden Spark hatchback.

Volvo has given away a handful of key technical and safety advantages to rivals even before the first car has arrived in showrooms.

On the road

While Volvo is one of the most vocal car makers about future autonomous vehicles, the new S90 has less automation than the Mercedes E-Class that's due in local showrooms in August.

The Mercedes E-Class can steer itself for up to 60 seconds (when the technology works, that is; we had a near miss with a concrete wall at 100km/h) but the Volvo S90 can go hands free for only 15 seconds before all bets are off.

As with the Mercedes, the Volvo's "piloted steering" technology ("autonomous" is quickly becoming a banned word in the industry) works intermittently, depending on the clarity of road markings.

In other words, if the geniuses at Volvo and Mercedes-Benz still don't have automation figured out, we still have a long way to go.

A world first, Volvo claims the S90 can detect the edge of a road (even without lane markings). But given there were numerous times on our test on European roads it could not detect lane markings, we weren't game to test the theory.

By a Volvo safety expert's own admission: "We haven't seen every road edge in the world, it won't detect everything, but this is a first step".

On the move, the S90 is relatively quiet and refined -- and it steers nicely, rather than delight the senses.

It's a sharp and fresh-looking design on the outside, and the interior is one of the best in the business.

For all its merit, however, it does not set any new benchmarks for luxury car driving dynamics. A Mercedes is more plush over bumps, a BMW corners more sharply.

Gear-changes in the eight-speed automatic transmission can be a little pronounced, rather than silky smooth, whether it's matched to the petrol or the diesel engine.

But the S90 delivers in other ways. It's a sharp and fresh-looking design on the outside, and the interior is one of the best in the business.

The clean layout of the cabin is designed to unclutter your life -- while you're stuck in the daily grind.

The acres of real timber in the dash, doors and centre console is tastefully done.

The large tablet-style display screen (which operates in much the same way as an iPhone, with its pinch and swipe functions) takes a little getting used to, but once you're familiar with it, you'll never go back to anything else.

The screen itself is now easier to read because it sits more upright in the S90. In the Volvo XC90 SUV the same screen can be impossible to read at times because there is too much glare.

Oddly, there is only one USB port in the new S90. Fancy another? It's part of a $3000 option pack that includes a heads-up display in the windscreen.

Surely a $100,000 Volvo should come with a couple of USB ports as standard when $20,000 hatchbacks have more than one?

The superbly designed front seats have ample adjustment and the seating position can be as low as a go-kart (if you're so inclined) or raised to give a more commanding view.

Back seat space is generous, so too is the boot (which houses a space saver spare).

Pricing Guides

$52,950
Based on 8 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$48,980
Highest Price
$49,950

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
D4 MOMENTUM 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $48,980 – 49,950 2016 Volvo S90 2016 D4 MOMENTUM Pricing and Specs
D5 INSCRIPTION 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $46,860 – 54,450 2016 Volvo S90 2016 D5 INSCRIPTION Pricing and Specs
T5 MOMENTUM 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $40,590 – 47,740 2016 Volvo S90 2016 T5 MOMENTUM Pricing and Specs
T6 INSCRIPTION 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $48,070 – 55,220 2016 Volvo S90 2016 T6 INSCRIPTION Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6

“The Volvo S90 may not be the most dynamic car among its peers, but it's a solid all-rounder and, to be frank, that will suit the needs of most buyers.It's "nice" to drive, makes you feel pampered on the inside, and stands out from the crowd.But before Volvo can pitch this car as a luxury item, it needs to add the basics that are missing from the standard equipment list. ”

Does the S90 have what it takes to tempt you away from an Audi, BMW or Mercedes? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guide

$46,990

Lowest price, based on 3 car listings in the last 6 months

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