Volvo S90 Diesel Saloon

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VOLVO S90 Diesel Saloon
2.0 D4 Momentum Plus 4dr Geartronic
VOLVO S90 Diesel Saloon
2.0 D4 R DESIGN Plus 4dr Geartronic
VOLVO S90 Diesel Saloon
2.0 D5 R DESIGN Plus 4dr AWD Geartronic
VOLVO S90 Diesel Saloon
2.0 D4 Inscription Plus 4dr Geartronic
VOLVO S90 Diesel Saloon
2.0 D5 Inscription Plus 4dr AWD Geartronic

The new Volvo S90 is the standard bearing saloon from the refreshed Swedish automaker. Alongside the striking new V90 – its estate-bodied twin – the new S90 is looking to muscle in on the German dominance in the executive saloon market, and aims to enhance the driver’s life by providing a more relaxing and comforting driving experience. The question is, can Volvo pull off such a huge task in outmuscling the German brands at their own game?

Overview of the Volvo S90

On the Road

Volvo V90 D4 Inscription front bumper parked on road

Our Volvo S90 test car was the D4 ‘Inscription’ model. The D4 is a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine providing a more than adequate 190PS – a well-judged output for everyday road use. It’s certainly quick enough for most tastes, reaching 62mph in around eight seconds, but it is also fairly frugal too. If you see 60mpg from this engine, we wouldn’t be surprised.

The D4 is expected to take up most of the sales with the new Volvo S90, and we can see why. It’s the entry level engine, and isn’t as powerful as its bigger brother (the D5 with 235PS and all-wheel drive) but it doesn’t feel entry level. It’s quiet and very smooth, and while it isn’t quite as responsive as we’d like, that could well be put down to the more lethargic eight-speed automatic gearbox than a lack of response from the engine. After all, Volvo has set up the new Volvo S90 to cruise and relax more than anything else.

We often focus far too much on the sporting credentials of saloon cars, and the truth is, they just aren’t often driven aggressively enough to really make this worthwhile.

While there’s no excuse for a poor handling saloon car, it’s also important to not overstate its athletic potential. The Volvo S90 is a wonderful antidote to the rear-wheel drive layouts of its German rivals, being front wheel drive and far lighter to wield. By lighter, we mean it feels lighter thanks to the weight of the steering and pedals. And while this is no small car, it feels far from intimidating, thanks to the ease in which it can be controlled. It truly is effortless.

Volvo S90 D4 Inscription with doors and bonnet open on side of road

Interior, Design, and Build

Volvo S90 D4 Inscription Interior Dashboard and steering wheel

Scandinavian design is envied the world over, and Volvo’s designers have put on another masterclass with the interior of the new Volvo S90. All the new Volvo models at the moment are blessed with beautiful interior spaces, and the Volvo S90 is no different. There’s such a light and airy feel to the interior, with light leather colours and wood trim, and it looks almost rebellious against the black-on-black interiors of its rivals. Because it is a Volvo, there’s a real dedication to the quality of the components, too. Everything feels exceptionally well screwed together, and the touchpoints in particular really stand out – even the plastic feels silky.

The executive saloon segment is incredibly competitive, and so the Volvo S90 really needed to make an impact to draw attention away from the brands that have become ‘go-to marques’ in the car market. Volvo said it wanted its designers to focus on creating a beautiful car, and for the most part they have. It is a sleek, aerodynamic looking saloon and looks lower than it actually is; it’s incredibly eye-catching, yet full of class at the same time. The only low point of this design is the huge rear light clusters; they just don’t quite work on the saloon like they do on the Volvo V90 estate. Despite that, the Volvo S90 still looks cool and different, and is sure to win over fans.


Volvo has taken the bold step of announcing its plans to end fatalities in its cars by the end of the decade. As a result, you can expect to find an array of safety equipment in the new Volvo S90. There’s a ‘City Safety’ package that deploys sensors to keep an eye out for pedestrians, cyclists, and even large animals, and this will deploy the brakes if it deems a collision is unavoidable. Similar sensors and technology are used to prevent the car from leaving the road, too, and there’s a driver assistance system that works alongside adaptive cruise-control that provides a glimpse into the future with a semi-autonomous driving experience.

Volvo S90 D4 Inscription center console touchscreen

Safety is what Volvo is known for, and with the ‘On Call’ assistance package, the new Volvo S90 will even call the emergency services for you when it detects you have been in a collision.

We often come down hard on new cars – and rightfully so – for lacking a competent infotainment system, but the ‘Sensus’ system that Volvo runs on an i-Pad sized screen in the centre of the dashboard is really very good. It’s user friendly, lovely to look at, and doesn’t take too long to get used to. It just takes a little bit of practice, and then you’re away.

Like many of its stablemates, the new Volvo S90 comes packed with standard equipment, and therefore represents better value as a base model when compared with some German competitors, like Audi and BMW. Kit, such as the adaptive LED lighting, heated leather seating, and dual-zone climate control all come as standard, as does full European satellite navigation.

Volvo S90: Cost, Pricing, and Leasing Rates

Executive saloon cars like this Volvo S90 are by no means cheap, but it is at least competitively priced in the segment it competes in – our D4 Inscription starts at £35,555. Of course, the vast majority of buyers now get the keys to their new car by using finance, such as a Personal Contract Purchase, rather than purchasing the car outright, and there’s certainly deals to be had going about business in this way. It’s worth bearing in mind that Volvo often does customers very competitive deals, too. Searching online will help you find some bargains if the new Volvo S90 is the car for you, and you can always use that to bargain with your local dealership if you can’t travel. Some four-figure discounts are being offered already, which is quite unusual for a brand new car. You can’t deny Volvo is generous with its deals.

Business lease customers can find a new Volvo S90 D4 in entry-level ‘Momentum’ trim for around £300 a month with 12 months down in advance, but a new D4 ‘Inscription’, like the model we’ve tested, will cost you a bit more –  around £330 a month on the same plan. If you’re not a business user, you can lease a new Volvo S90 Inscription on a personal scheme for around £400 a month with 12 months’ deposit.

Volvo S90 D4 Inscription behind

Pros and cons of the Volvo S90 D4 Inscription

Pro: Design

The new Volvo S90 exists in a world where it is surrounded by saloons with reserved styling. It’s brilliant to see Volvo’s design team getting stuck in and just going for it, rather than playing it safe. They haven’t held anything back, and have at least succeeded in producing a striking saloon car, even if the rear end isn’t to everybody’s taste. It still makes the BMW 5-series look old and heavy, and it makes the new Jaguar XF look about as plain as a saloon car can get.


Pro: Comfort

Of course, any car in this sector of the market has to be comfortable, but the Volvo S90 offers something more, with an assortment of small touches adding to the overall feel of refinement. Soft-touch details on the steering wheel, easily operated controls, and luxurious leather seating all add up to make a significant impact.


Pro: Desirability

The new Volvo S90 is a Swedish saloon curveball, and we fancy that might set a few more hearts racing. It’s a far more confident car than some of its competitors, in that it seems to know who and what it is, and where it wants to go in life. As we’ve discovered, it drives well, too.

Con: No Larger Engines

Volvo believes that four-cylinder engines are the way to go, so no six-cylinder units are being offered with the new Volvo S90. It’s a disappointment as although six-cylinder engines are pricier and less efficient, they usually offer a far better sense of sophistication. We can’t help but wonder if Volvo will see this as an opportunity missed in the coming years.


Con: Automatic Transmission

Designed to improve the ease of motoring rather than offering first off the lights pace, Volvo’s automatic gearbox can be a little reluctant to relax. It’s nothing horrendous; it just isn’t quite up to speed with the automatic gearbox that BMW puts into its machines. That being said, it easily equals Audi’s DSG ‘box, even though there’s no flappy paddles for manual inputs.


Con: No Sporting Credentials

Some people need a performance angle in their motor, and the new Volvo S90 just doesn’t have one. This is about being chilled-out behind the wheel, enjoying the drive, and feeling relaxed at the end of it. Those seeking something a little bit more mischievous will need to look elsewhere.

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Volvo S90 vs BMW 5-series (520d) vs Jaguar XF

We’ve got lots of love for the new Volvo S90, but the Scandinavian saloon will have to show why it’s the executive saloon to target. So, let’s compare the new Volvo S90 with a German and British foe – the BMW 5-series and the Jaguar XF.

Volvo S90 vs BMW 5-series

BMW 520d driving on road fast

How do you make a BMW 5-series look old? Well, all you need to do now is park it next to the new Volvo S90. The aging face of the 5-series is really starting to show now, and though we’d argue it’s better looking than the Jaguar XF, it certainly can’t match the Volvo S90 for design drama.

Volvo has a sportier ‘R-Design’ trim arriving later on in the year but until then, the more understated and considered Momentum and Inscription models are rather refreshing alternatives to the more aggressive styling packs for saloons.

When up against a BMW, it isn’t just sporty looks that the Volvo S90 has to contend with. Like all of BMW’s models, the 5-series saloon comes with an array of engine options, but most buyers will choose the lesser diesel like that found in the new Volvo S90, and if that’s so, the cars have almost identical performance and economy figures. So, if you’re after more oomph or six-cylinder finesse, a BMW showroom might be the place you need to start checking out.

We noticed the BMW sits lower in the corners, and has a tendency to squat down at speed, and this makes it great to drive fast, but the steering is slightly too heavy and can really wear on the driver after a long drive. You notice that more having driven the new Volvo S90. The Swedes have really hit the mark when it comes to soothing the driver, and the Swedish firm makes a very good point about comfort without really even having to say anything.

Saloon cars aren’t always loaded to the brim, but if you’re seeking as much space as possible, perhaps the new Volvo S90 isn’t the best place to start. Size isn’t so much the problem here – there’s 500-litres with the rear seats up – but the low levels of space in which you can squeeze luggage through and into the boot is fairly narrow.



Volvo S90 D4 Inscription – £35,555 to £42,555

BMW 5-series – £33,380 to £58,000.

Volvo S90 vs Jaguar XF

Jaguar – much like Alan Partridge – has bounced back. The new XF saloon is a very strong contender in the executive saloon segment, but it is also lacking in a couple of important areas, too.

Jaguar would probably be quite pleased if you told the company that its cars now drive like the much heralded German counterparts, but I’m not so sure that’s a compliment. They are staggeringly lacking in character now, and the boring exterior design – nearly impossible to tell it apart from the smaller XE – does it no favours.

Jaguar XF driving on road

While the Jaguar XF doesn’t feel as special as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, it does bring with it the prestige of owning a Jag, and that is bound to bring in some buyers. You can’t help but feel this is a bit of an opportunity missed with the Jaguar, though, the chance to do something truly different with the brand has now passed by.

Once again, the lack of larger engines on the Volvo S90 may prove a problem for some people, as the Jaguar XF does come with the option of bigger six-cylinder units. They’re smoother and give a far better feeling inside the cabin.



Volvo S90 D4 Inscription – £35,555 to £42,555

Jaguar XF – £32,300 to £49,995.


It is highly likely that a lot of buyers, previously enthused with German products, will be seduced by the new Volvo S90’s charming looks and beautiful build quality. The Swedish saloon is definitely awesome, not average. It just gives off a real aura of quality and class, and that’s not necessarily something its rivals have.

The ride may not be as supremely comfortable as you find in Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class, but it’s just as good as the all of its other rivals. The question is, will Volvo’s dogged approach to environmental concerns cost it sales when it comes to the absenteeism of a more potent unit? That being said, a T8 hybrid model is due to arrive in the UK mid-2017, so we’ll keep you up to date on how that drives.

Want to learn more? Click below to view the review for the competitors in this article…

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