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

Volvo no longer offers sole petrol or diesel engines for the S90, instead choosing to go with the T8 petrol plug-in hybrid unit from mid-2020. As such, the range now falls into the manufacturer's Recharge branding for its electrified cars.

On the road, 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. It really falls somewhere between the agility of a genuine sports saloon and the wafting ride quality of a pure motorway cruiser. 

However, 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, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The T8 plug-in hybrid combines a 2.0-litre petrol unit with an electric motor, delivering 385bhp. During our own test we managed the 0-60mph benchmark in just 5.0 seconds and, while you can definitely feel the electric motor’s instant response helping the S90 off the line, the four-wheel-drive traction also played its part here, too.

One downside is the T8 version is saddled with a heavy battery pack which impacts on the ride comfort and also blunts any notion of an entertaining drive - a feeling compounded by the lifeless steering and a driving position that isn’t as well-judged as its BMW 530e rival.

Next Steps

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 [390] Hybrid R DESIGN Plus 4dr AWD Gtron
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £57,000

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 T8 [390] Hybrid R DESIGN Plus 4dr AWD Gtron
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £57,000

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