In-depth reviews

Volvo S90 review - Engines, performance and drive

Excellent cruising refinement, but the chassis feels either too stiff or too soft. Larger wheels dent ride quality, too

The best-selling engine in the S90 line-up will be the more modest of the two four-cylinder units on offer, a 187bhp motor badged D4. It is, in effect, the same engine that you’ll find in an XC90, but detuned slightly - although this doesn’t really affect performance in the lighter S90.

With 400Nm of torque on tap, there’s a vein of smoothly delivered acceleration as the S90 D4 gets from 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds. It’s a strong performer in gear, too; it beat Mercedes’ E 220d in our back-to-back tests between 50mph and 70mph.

Volvo S90 vs Mercedes E-Class

Rev the D4 hard and you’ll be fully aware that it’s a diesel; there’s a bit of clatter when it’s stressed. But once you’re up to speed, it settles down nicely to be a smooth, refined cruising companion. Indeed, it seems the transmission is set up for this characteristic, because it’s slightly reluctant to kick down unless you really need a sudden surge of acceleration.

The chassis set-up is less satisfying, if only because it falls down between the agility of a genuine sports saloon and the wafting ride quality of a pure motorway cruiser. 

On 18-inch wheels, and even with the optional adaptive dampers all round, the S90 still feels too harsh over larger bumps - and this isn’t countered by sensational body control, because there’s still more going on mid-corner than you’ll find in a 5 Series. That’s not helped by quick, slightly over-assisted steering, which tends to throw the nose of the car into corners instead of guiding it there.

As you’d expect from a Volvo, the S90 gets a long list of safety equipment. Alongside passive aids, which aim to protect you in the event of an accident, there are several new Active systems, which try to prevent the crash in the first place.

Most novel among these is large animal detection, which can warn you when deer are approaching from the side of a dark road in front of you. But there’s also Volvo’s latest generation of Pilot Assist, which can look after acceleration, braking and keeping the car in its lane at speeds of up to 80mph. It’s a useful way of easing the strain of long journeys, although it’s best in stop-start situations like motorway congestion or urban dual carriageways.

Engines

The engine line-up is broad, with a pair of twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels to choose from, a pair of 2.0-litre petrols and the T8 Twin Engne plug-in hybrid. The D4 diesel brings 187bhp and 400Nm - enough to take the front-wheel-drive S90 from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 140mph.

The more powerful motor is the D5, which has 232bhp and 480Nm. It also gets a small electric compressor, called PowerPulse, that uses a blast of air to spin up the turbocharger and cut down the amount of turbo lag - the much-hated delay between pressing the throttle and the engine providing its maximum thrust. The S90 D5 is four-wheel drive only, and it is almost a full second quicker than the D4 to 62mph (7.3 seconds). 

Both diesels are pretty refined, with not much harshness or rattles to speak of unless you’re working them hard. Once you’re up to speed the S90’s engines quieten down to a hush; you’re more likely to be bothered by wind noise from the side mirrors.

The T4 and T5 petrol engines are smoother and quicker than their diesel counterparts, with 0-62mph times of 7.8 and 6.8 seconds respectively. They're also slightly lighter, so handle a little more sprightly than the diesels, too.

At the top of the range, the T8 Twin Engine uses the 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor to make around 385bhp. Depite weighing over 200kg more than the next heaviest S90, the T8 stil manages 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds.

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    2.0 T4 Momentum Plus 4dr Geartronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £36,650

Most Economical

  • Name
    2.0 T8 Recharge PHEV R DESIGN 4dr AWD Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £54,525

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 T8 Recharge PHEV R DESIGN 4dr AWD Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £54,525

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