The Volvo S90 sedan brings a Scandinavian touch to a competitive segment, delivering a beautiful design and a level of elegance on top of cutting-edge safety features. In its sophomore year, the big Volvo grows up in a very literal way.
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2018 Volvo S90 Overview
What's New for 2018
One year removed from its return to the market, the 2018 Volvo S90 sits on an extended wheelbase, adding 4.5 inches over the previous model year. The standard wheelbase model is no longer offered in the US. A T8 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle joins the product line.
Choosing Your Volvo S90
Volvo offers the 2018 S90 with standard front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive and divides the model line into two classes – Momentum and Inscription – then offers further separation based on three powertrains: T5, T6 and T8. Fortunately, if you're at all familiar with Volvo's engine nomenclature, this makes plenty of sense.
Like the XC90, T5 models have a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, generating 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque with standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. This model makes an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway or 23/32 for all-wheel drive.
The all-wheel drive only T6 line comes with a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. This model delivers an EPA-estimated 22/31 mpg city/highway.
The all-wheel drive T8 adds an 87-horsepower electric motor to the T6’s engine, delivering a combined performance output of 400 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. Look for an estimated 29 mpg or 71 mpge with an electric-only range of 14 miles.
All 2018 S90 models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Standard features include LED headlights with "Thor’s hammer" daytime running lights, automatic high beams, and fog lights. Also included are extractable side mirrors, puddle lights, a moonroof with a power sunshade, dual tailpipes and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Interior equipment includes leather upholstery, power front seats with lumbar support, dual-zone climate control, a 10-speaker audio system with satellite radio, and USB ports. Volvo's Sensus infotainment system is lovely to look at, offering drivers a huge, portrait-oriented touchscreen display that's easy to reconfigure to display the most pertinent information.
Safety features are excellent and that’s no surprise — we’re talking about Volvo. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, rear automatic emergency braking, and rear park assist camera are all standard. But the crowning achievement is Pilot Assist, Volvo's comprehensive suite of active driving assists that make the S90 (and its V90 and XC90 counterparts) some of the most advanced cars on the road. Packaging adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and a bunch of other goodies, it's the closest most consumers can get to a semi-autonomous vehicle on today's market. It's also standard.
If you prefer a color other than the standard Black Stone, you’ll pay $595 for one of seven metallic colors.
Plug-in hybrid buyers may also qualify for a $5,002 federal tax credit on top of whatever state and local incentives are in their area.
Most S90s offer an array of standalone options, in addition to the trim-specific packages. A head-up display is available for $900, a 19-speaker Bowers and Wilkins audio system adds $3,200, heated seats are available as a $500 standalone option (unless they're standard, of course) as is the $300 heated steering wheel, and an air suspension, for improved comfort and handling. Finally, if you fancy the dark look, a black headliner adds $200.
The only universal option package is the $2,550 Convenience Package, which adds a surround-view camera, an automatic parking assistant, front parking sensors, a power trunk lid, a compass in the rear-view mirror, and heated washer nozzles.
The new plug-in hybrid model intrigues us, but the T6 Inscription is the most popular model, and for a very good reason too. Its robust engine and all-wheel drive is the performance and handling combination you want. Add in the Luxury Package and you’ll enjoy a cabin that lines up with the best models from Germany.
2018 Volvo S90 Review
Oldsmobile is six feet under and Buick has actively tried to bury its heritage, but it's hard not to think of their glory days when looking at the 2018 Volvo S90. This is a sedan that's big, elegant, sophisticated, and understated, just like the old Park Avenues and Ninety-Eights. Spend a little time with the S90 and it's clear that the classic big American sedan isn't dead – it's just being built by the Swedes.
Volvo builds their S90 in two distinct trims: Momentum and Inscription. Both are available with any of Volvo's three four-cylinder powertrains, dubbed T5, T6, and T8. The cheapest combination is a Momentum with front-wheel drive and the T5 engine, but even that combo is nudging $50,000, so expect to pay luxury-car prices for this Volvo.
We imagine that the T6-powered Momentum should satisfy the majority of buyers. With 316 horsepower, the T6's supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine (yep, it's both) has adequate thrust to move this Scandinavian with grace and purpose. The Momentum trim also includes enough features that you'll soon forget about the $10,000-pricier Inscription model.
Here's the scoop on our best value S90:
- Model:2018 Volvo S90 Momentum T6
- Engine:Supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
- Output:316 hp / 295 lb-ft
- Transmission:Eight-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 22 City / 31 Hwy
- Options: Momentum Plus Package ($700, four-zone climate control, headlight washers, active bending headlights), heated steering wheel ($300), Premium Air Suspension - Rear ($1,200)
- Base Price: $55,095 (including a $995 destination charge)
- Best Value Price: $57,295
Volvo has recently streamlined their powertrain lineup to just one engine offered in three variations. This engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and can be had just turbocharged, turbocharged and supercharged, or the latter along with an 87-hp electric motor. Volvo calls them T5, T6, and T8, respectively. All are backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Unsurprisingly, the tamest T5 powers the base model, and is also the only motor available with front-wheel drive. Making 250 hp, this variant keeps the S90's price down but its persona isn't befitting a $50,000 luxury car. Compared to the T6 and the T8 – and especially when compared to the competition – the T5 is lacking in power and refinement. There's a constant nagging feeling that this engine belongs in a lesser car, not in something with grandiose aspirations of taking on the established luxury cars.
The T6 improves things with 316 hp and 292 pound-feet of torque. It's only available with all-wheel drive, and we think that's a good thing – front-wheel drive in such a large and stately car doesn't jive well with us. Luckily, the additional power of the turbo- and supercharged T6 masks most of the deficiencies of the T5. Passing can be done authoritatively, and the rather coarse nature of the T5 is more muted here. The extra juice and additional refinement offer a strong incentive to spend a bit more and move into a T6-powered S90.
New for 2018 is the high-zoot T8. In this guise, that 2.0-liter four is buried under a turbocharger, supercharger, and an electric motor. The whole setup is good for 400 hp and an impressive 472 lb-ft of torque, and manages up to 21 miles of all-electric driving range and fuel economy of 23 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway. Unfortunately, we haven't driven this technological tour de force, but are looking forward to determining if it's as good in person as it looks on paper.
The S90 might go up price-wise with cars like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5-Series, but make no mistake: the S90 is a big car, and measures in a good bit longer than those German sausages. The massive 120.5-inch wheelbase – the same as an early 1980s Cadillac – means there's plenty of room inside to stretch out and bask in Swedish luxury. Leg room in the rear is an impressive 40 inches, and back seat hip room is a very comfortable 55 inches. If you're looking for a sedan to transport some linebackers, the S90 isn't a bad choice.
We're not sure if Ikea collaborates with Volvo's interior team, but we do know that the seats in the S90 are some of the best in the business. Supremely comfortable, these perches make all-day driving as painless as a jaunt around town. There's also heated, ventilated, and even massage functions available for the front row, truly making these already-comfy seats into true royalty-worthy thrones.
Making the seats seem even better is the view out. In a world dominated by gun-slit windows and beltlines that are reaching suspender height, the S90 has refreshingly thin pillars and lots of glass area. The result is a car that's easier to pilot than the 200-inch length would have you think. All that extra sunlight also highlights the elegance of the interior, specifically the high-quality wood and leather surfaces.
Dominating the center stack is the 9.0-inch touchscreen whose software is easy to navigate and intuitive. While base models use a standard gauge cluster, upscale models use a 12.3-inch LCD screen to relay the important info. An optional Bowens and Wilkins stereo is a pricey $3,200 but sounds fantastic and should be considered a mandatory upgrade for any audiophile.
The Best and Worst Things
With a lavish interior, debonair silhouette, and lots of luxury features, the upscale cohesiveness of the S90 makes it hard to believe it comes from the same company that built the 240 for nearly 20 years.
Unfortunately, the T5 engine doesn't feel wel -matched with the luxury vibe. Definitely upgrade to the T6 if you want a motor worth the price of admission.
Right For? Wrong For?
The discerning customer who wants a large luxury car that doesn't hail from Germany will be pleasantly surprised by the competence of this Volvo sedan.
If strong and smooth powertrains are high on the must-have list, look elsewhere. The S90's variety of 2.0-liter fours may be alright when looked at in a vacuum, but their faults become readily apparent when compared to the inline-sixes available from BMW or Mercedes.
The Bottom Line
The 2018 Volvo S90 encapsulates the ethos of current-day Volvo – quietly elegant but unpretentious. Unlike a comparable BMW or Mercedes, the S90 doesn't have an option sheet or ordering process that's built on hubris and haughtiness. It's modest yet beguiling; the automotive equivalent of a secretly-rich neighbor that everyone assumes is middle class. Just as Buick and Oldsmobile used to be the choice for those who didn't want to flaunt their success with a Cadillac, the S90 seems poised to be a similar antidote to today's ostentatious luxury market. If you're pining for a big but modest luxury sedan, take a look at this tasty Swedish offering.