2019 Volvo S90 T8
2019 Volvo S90 T8
How many of us have owned Volvos? Maybe it was a bulletproof PV544, or a 1982 240 intercooled Turbo Wagon that could chase down the Camaro Z/28s of the day. What about a cool P1800 wagon? Maybe you owned one of the big 900s, or a C70 convertible? Ask those who have owned Volvos and you tend to get a warm reply about the car. Safe. Solid. Reliable.
Maybe the years Volvo was owned by Ford (1999-2010) weren’t the best, but then China’s Geely Holding Group bought the Swedish automaker and, it’s said, they let Volvo be Volvo. The brand now has nine models in the US, various sedans, SUVs, crossovers and, for those of us who get sentimental, a pair of station wagons. There is even Polestar 2, the upcoming all-electric performance model. Volvo has made a point of stating that every new vehicle it introduces from now on will be a hybrid or fully electric.
We chose to test the biggest of the Volvo models, the S90, with its T8 engine hybrid option. There are, in fact, various S90 models beginning with the front-drive, 250-horsepower T5 at $48,100 and the T6 versions with all-wheel drive opening at $58,600 and up.
Our test car was the S90 T8 plug-in hybrid with its 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged 4-cylinder engine matched to an 87-hp electric motor at the rear axle. The lithium-ion battery pack is in the central tunnel. It has a total of 400 horsepower with maximum torque of 472 lb-ft through an 8-speed automatic to all-wheel drive. Pedal down, the 4,800-lb S90 can reach 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and claims a top speed of 130. Volvo puts the pure electric range at 21 miles, and overall fuel economy at 26 mpg city/33 mpg highway.
The base price is $68,150, though the options list could entice you to $80,000 or more.
But enough numbers. What about the design?
There was a time when Volvos were rather boxy, but that’s long past. Perhaps the best words to describe the S90 are long and elegant. There is the expected grille with its diagonal slash and “Thor’s Hammer” headlights (the nickname given to the distinctive light shape Volvo debuted in 2015). The car’s handsome side profile emphasizes its length. And then there is the reason we break with tradition and describe the car’s back seat first…
Volvo assembles the US S90 T8 in China, where rear seat space is prized, so the S90 has a generous 40.4 inches of legroom in the back seat, which is greater than many big luxury sedans. We’ll let our photo of the rear seats tell the story. There is nice sculpting to the seat back and a prominent fold-down center armrest. But check out the space ahead of the seats. That photo wasn’t cheated with the driver’s seat moved forward. It was left in place for a 6-foot tall driver.
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What one gets up front is typical for Volvo these days, and for the most part that’s welcomed. Prominent dials are placed straight ahead. Buttons and switches are minimized and are easily learned with positive movement. The shaping of the wood from doors to dashboard is nice and the front has the same comfortable seats as in back.
Then there’s the central 9.0-inch vertical screen Sensus Connect infotainment system. In addition to its basic 4-function screen, you can swipe your finger left-right or up-down to uncover a multitude of things that can be turned on and off or adjusted. This level of control is basically a good idea, but it can be distracting. New owners should set aside a half hour just to learn the system and then save adjustments for down time at stoplights. Taking eyes off the road to fiddle with settings is not safe.
Besides, an accident in an S90 would go directly against Volvo’s approach to passenger safety. The company has stated that, “Our vision is that by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car.”
Other than adjusting the audio or navigational screen, you can ignore the infotainment system and just enjoy the drive. This isn’t a sports sedan, though it won’t embarrass itself on secondary pavements. However, the temptation isn’t a canyon road, but gliding down the open highway or calmly and quietly though city streets. Which is just as enjoyable in the back seats as in the front.
John Lamm worked for Road & Track for 37 years and is equally happy behind a keyboard or a camera. He has written ten automotive books and has been honored with the International Motor Press Association’s Ken Purdy award and the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor award for writing. He is on the organizing committee for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and has been a judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for two decades.