Would you think of buying a Volvo rather than a BMW, Mercedes or Audi? No, of course not, but stop right there and put away your (and my) preconceived notions because l have just driven a German swede - and there’s a sentence l never thought l would write!
The S90 is handsome, refined, well-built and great to drive. It had better be of course as it’s entering the lion’s den – the sector that hosts the BMW 5-Series, Merc E-Class and Audi A6 so ten out of ten for courage. This should not be too much of a surprise as the Chinese company, Geely Holdings, paid Ford $1.8 billion for the Volvo company and have since pumped in a further $11 billion.
The interior is really well thought out and with the use of fine grade materials and really excellent Nappa leather seats they are in with a shot. I think they could have done without the silly woodesque bits and pieces but nevertheless, a very nice place to be. The central screen is huge and reminiscent of the Tesla S screen and it does everything it should, once you have worked out all the copious sub-menus. Interestingly, it will actually communicate with your service centre and book itself in for a service.
The 8-speed auto box is standard and it shifts in total silence and the whole car feels light and nimble with great throttle response. Grip in the corners is good and responsive but you do experience that slight lack of balance often found in large front wheel drive cars (cornering under power) but the answer to this is to select the 4WD version. You then get the balance expected and a go-anywhere car. Although l must say this is not a car that begs to be thrashed. Instead, it urges you to be calm and collected and waft around and, choose the optional air suspension, and you will literally be wafting around.
The S90 comes with either the 190bhp 2.0-litre D4 Momentum with front wheel drive or the blown D5 versions offering 232bhp and four-wheel drive and there’s a T8 plug-in hybrid on its way.
As far as safety goes, there is too much to list. Suffice to say that it is covered in clever sensors and air bags and if you are about to visit a ditch, it will not only stop you but then steer you back onto the road. It even comes with the world’s first pedestrian, cyclist and animal detection system. It is probably one of the safest executive saloons on the market.
There is one very annoying feature. The key. Silly l know but the large key fob is totally blank on both sides with the tiny function buttons buried on the side. This is bloody annoying every time you need to use it. Fiddly and very, very annoying and one of the worst fob designs l have ever come across.
Overlook that and you have a very good car indeed and it heralds an exciting new chapter for the company and some serious competition for the Germans.
Model tested: S90 D4 Inscription
Performance: 0-60mph 7.9 seconds
Economy: 64.2 combined
Price from: £35,955.00
The offending article As tested: £42,030.00