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UK: Volvo S90 D4 Inscription Review


This week we've had the new Volvo S90 in for review, complete with range-topping Inscription trim and entry-level D4 diesel engine. Another appealing Volvo 90 Series?

It only seems like five minutes since we were raving over Volvo's new Xc90 for the first time, but things have moved on for Volvo's new 90 Series cars since with the arrival of the V90 Estate and the S90 Saloon.

This car, the 2016 Volvo S90 D4 Inscription, is looking to offer the upmarket repmobiles - like the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Mercedes E Class and Jaguar XF - a run for their money by appealing in a different way to the German trio, and even the JLR offering.

That's a market that's perhaps the last stronghold for saloon cars of this size (the new S90 is more than 16 feet long), and the badge on the boot is, in many ways, almost more important than the car it's attached to.

Fortunately for Volvo, the new XC90 has seen Volvo's 'cool' factor soar as petrolheads with a brain realised the stylish and immensely practical SUV offered more than many a glitzy 'Premium' SUV could.

Which means the S90 has far more chance of carving a niche for itself than the old S80 ever did (the S80's only niche was Midsomer Murders viewers), but is it as good as its SUV sibling?

S90 D4 Inside and out
Let's start with the interior: it's as stunning and appealing as the XC90.

From the 9″ touchscreen tablet in the centre console to the leather, Volvo-comfy chairs, it's hard to find fault with an interior which does understated elegance better than just about anything you can buy.

Technology and safety stuff abounds, with City Safe, Cyclist and Large Animal Detection, Pilot Assist and Adaptive Cruise (which makes motorway drives a breeze) all standard, as is Run-off road protection (which we found works instantly as we crested a hill far too quickly and found ourselves pinned back by the seatbelts).

Of course, the goody stuff is there too to make life as comfy as possible, with heated screens front and rear and heated seats in the front, Sensus Navigation, Sensus Connect, Climate Control and Powered Bootlid.

To add to that you can throw in almost enough room to party in the back and, thanks to some stacking of the spec by Volvo, stuff like glass roof and Parking Cameras (part of the Xenium Pack), Apple CarPlay, and the stunning 90 Series Bowers & Wilkins Sound.

Outside, the S90 continues Volvo's design path, delivering a car that could only be a Volvo, and despite its three-box shape it still conspires to look cool and appealing.

The statement grille and 'Thor' headlights mark it out as a Volvo - as does its profile - although we're not as convinced by the back end, which just seems to try a bit too hard. Still, nothing perfect.

But at least you won't confuse it with anything else, which is more than you can say for most of the competition.

Frankly, Volvo has gone its own way with the design of the both the interior and exterior of the S90, and that alone should make it an appealing choice. The fact it's as cool as hell - a tough ask for a big three-box saloon - is just a bonus.

S90 D4 Performance and on the road
If you were looking for a private buy on the S90, chances are you'd be looking at the D5 with AWD or, price permitting, the yet-to-arrive S90 T8 with the clever 400bhp plug-in hybrid setup.

But in terms of power and drivetrain, this D4 S90 is the entry point engine-wise, and busy rep's choice, offering a 2.0 litre four-cylinder Drive-E engine with 188bhp, 295lb/ft of torque and front-wheel drive.

That's enough to get to 62mph in 8.2 seconds and on to 140mph, and treated gently you could maybe hope to match the official economy of 64.2mpg. But you won't. We got 39.2mpg, although owners will probably best 40mpg.

We understand why Volvo has gone the 'Nothing more than 2.0 litre' route with engines, and most of the time it's just fine.

Ambling around town or cruising on the motorway, the engine is quiet and refined. But push hard on a back road or accelerate briskly to join a motorway and it sounds a bit rattly and unpleasant. We're also not convinced, in the real world, it's any more economical than a six-pot would be. But it certainly is on paper, and that's the point.

Where the S90 excels is on the ride, which does what any posh rep will want - even if he feels compelled to say it's all about handling and dynamics - and that's deliver a comfortable ride whilst still staying the right side of being an enjoyable drive.

The suspension isn't as hard or unforgiving as a German saloon, and there's perhaps a bit more wallow than a modern Jaguar XF would deliver, but the balance between comfort and handling is one that works very well, and sets the S90 apart from the competition.

S90 D4 Verdict
Volvo doesn't seem to expect the S90 to be a huge seller in the UK, with expectations the V90 Estate will do better.

But with more than one member of the Cars UK team who once pounded the UK's highways and byways from top to bottom as a rep of sorts, we can say that the S90 offers a combination of abilities that should see it make a real mark. And make a dent in the sales of the competition.

Yes, there are going to be the enthusiasts who want a 5-Series or XF because they're a bit more dynamic, and those who will opt for an E-Class because they think it's a notch up the ladder.

But in the real world of pounding the roads to meetings, the comforts of the S90, it's individual 'Cool', it's brilliantly designed, sublime interior and its feelgood factor, really are a winning combination.

Add to that the start of Volvo's properly autonomous tech that can take a lot of the strain out of motorway driving, a properly decent-sized boot, and enough agility to make a back road jaunt enjoyable, it's hard to fault the Volvo S90. Well, apart from the back end.

But you don't see that sat behind the wheel.

2016 Volvo S90 D4 Inscription Review Quick Specs
  • Engine: 1969cc, 188bhp
  • Performance: 0-62mph 8.2 seconds / Top Speed 140mph
  • Economy: 64.2mpg - Official / 39.2mpg - Test
  • Emissions: 116g/km
  • Price: ?35,555 / Price as tested ?43,230
  • Test car supplied by Volvo UK

Test car options
Winter Pack - ?1,175
  • Heated Front Windscreen
  • Heated Steering Wheel
  • Headlight Cleaning System
  • Heated Washer Nozzles

Xenium Pack - ?525
  • Power Glass Tilt & Slide Sunroof
  • Parking Camera 360? Surround View
  • Park Assist Pilot - Automatic Parallel and 90? Parking (includes Front and Rear Park Assist)

Single Options
  • Apple CarPlay? with 2 x USB/1 x Aux. Input - ?300
  • Sensus Connect with Premium Sound by Bowers & Wilkins ?3,000
  • Volvo On Call with App ?450
  • Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert (CTA) and
  • Rear Collision Mitigation plus Autodimming Exterior Mirrors - ?600
  • Premium Metallic ?1,000

Read more on Cars UK.

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