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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
Volvo S90 T8 Twin Engine R-Design Pro AWD

Click to view picture gallery“From the moment Volvos prestige
  blitzkrieg began with its impressive
  XC90 SUV, the Big Question for
  upmarket buyers was: Would you
  buy a Volvo instead of a BMW
  or Mercedes-Benz?”


TODAY THAT QUESTION is moot — the Swedish marque is now every bit as covetable as its Teutonic rivals; and not just its competent and classy SUVs and svelte all-wheel drive estate cars, but its swish saloons too.

Long, low, wide, and marked out by a confident stance that's fronted by an imposing nose: the S90's upright gloss black mesh grille is bracketed by eye-catching 'Thor's hammer' LED headlights and capped by a long bonnet. Clean flanks stretch back over circular wheelarches, tightly packed out with five-arm twenty-inch alloys, to broad shoulders that run fluently into a contrastingly angular rear-end framed by distinctive tail lights; underscoring and adding to the compellingly sleek look is the complete absence of bling. The S90, especially in sporty R-Design spec, oozes kerb appeal.

Inside, the unique
Swedish take on style
and luxury is what sets
the Volvo satisfyingly
apart from the German
competition. There’s no
denying that the
corresponding models
from BMW, Mercedes and
Audi offer premium
cabins, but this Volvo
does ‘richly-upholstered’
in its own inimitable way
— tastefully integrating
minimalist architecture
with upscale design...”
Inside, the unique Swedish take on style and luxury is what sets the Volvo satisfyingly apart from the German competition. There's no denying that the corresponding models from BMW (5 Series), Mercedes-Benz (E-Class) and Audi (A6) offer premium cabins, but this Volvo does 'richly-upholstered' in its own inimitable way tastefully integrating minimalist architecture with upscale design.

Volvo seats are without doubt some of the very best you can get. The S90 R-Design's sports seats are no exception. Power adjustable, beautifully trimmed in soft perforated Nappa leather and Nubuck and contoured for maximum support, they offer all the comfort you could wish for so you can sit back and travel in maximum comfort for hours on end.

Of course there's heating on both front chairs as well as a heated and perforated leather steering wheel rim (it looks swell and it's great to use), all of it three-stage. Every occupant enjoys plenty of space for their feet and legs, elbows, shoulders and heads. Extending seat base cushions provide enhanced under-knee comfort, while multi-directional powered lumbar support is a boon for bad backs.

Needless to say, you'll find the driving position to be first class. Ahead of the driver sits a 12.3-inch TFT customisable instrument and information display panel with crystal clear digitised dials which can be left full-size or shrunk to show more of the navigational mapping and driver's info between them.

Even if you've come across one before, the S90's nine-inch portrait-format tablet-style centre console touchscreen is still an attention-grabber. Sited sensibly high up in the centre of the meticulously trimmed fascia, and flanked by stylish vertical silver 'air blade' vents with knurled metal finish rotary control knobs, it lets you control pretty much all of the S90's major functions by fingertip: tapping plus pinch and zoom and swiping, even when wearing gloves.

Helping to deliver a safer eyes-on-the-road driving environment is Volvo's sophisticated voice-activated system: it understands 300+ naturally spoken instructions that work everything from the SatNav and climate control to the phone and media. Complementing that is the highly visible head-up display that projects your current road speed, posted speed limit and navigation instructions dead ahead onto the windscreen.

Volvo’s On Call app for
your smartphone can
guide you via a map back
to the exact spot where
you left your S90 (what
do you mean, you’ve
never ‘lost’ your car at
Heathrow?). It also lets
you send a destination
directly to the navigation
system so it’s primed to
go the moment you get
behind the wheel, and
will even start the engine
to pre-heat or pre-cool
the cabin before you
climb aboard...”
The minimal amount of core switchgear is arranged on the central console between the front seats. That's where you'll find the illuminated crystal selector lever for the transmission, start/stop twist-switch, electric parking brake (with traffic-friendly auto-hold), and the tactile 'bark'-finish Drive Mode thumbwheel driving programs are: Constant AWD (all-wheel drive); Pure (electric-only eco driving); Hybrid (everyday use); Individual (mix and match your own driving preferences); and Polestar Engineered (max power).

The S90's Sensus infotainment system is totally up-to-speed with the latest satellite navigation and web connectivity tech including a standalone Spotify app that does away with the need to use a smartphone altogether for music streaming, plus a WiFi hotspot for your passengers to use. A wide range of web apps are available from TuneIn (100,000+ Internet radio stations around the world) and Record & Send that lets you record voice messages and email them out. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay guarantee foolproof smartphone integration for those who want it.

You also get Volvo On Call with an app for your smartphone (or smartwatch or tablet) that, amongst other things, will guide you via a map back to the exact spot where you left your S90 (what do you mean, you've never 'lost' your car at Heathrow?). It also lets you remotely check the doors are locked and windows closed, see how much fuel/charge is remaining, flash the lights as you get close, send a destination directly to the Sensus navigation system so it's primed to go the moment you get behind the wheel, and will even start the engine to pre-heat or pre-cool the cabin before you climb aboard. It also provides an emergency and breakdown support system, calling the emergency services if an airbag or seatbelt pre-tensioner is triggered during an accident or connecting you directly to a Volvo On Call operator to arrange roadside assistance.

As consumers demand more of everything, including interior space, some carmakers have been scrimping on in-cabin storage Volvo, you'll be pleased to hear, is not one of them. The S90 provides a home for all your 'pocket lint' with sizeable doors bins that will easily hold a large bottle of Evian along with a number of well-sited cubbies where you can stash everything from keys to phones.

Entertainment-wise you get a very respectable 330W, 10-speaker sound system along with a DAB tuner and Bluetooth handsfree connectivity. However, if music for you is truly 'the food of love' then you can sound-off to the max by ticking the box for the optional 1,400-watt, 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium HiFi. Given the excellent cabin isolation from the outside world, the S90 is the perfect place to indulge in your own personal music festival.

“For those who enjoy
chauffeur-style travel,
Volvo’s Pilot Assist —
a semi-autonomous drive
system optimised for
motorways and dual-
carriageways — takes
care of steering inputs
up to 80mph and keeps
the S90 within lane
markings while
maintaining your desired
cruising speed,
all while braking and
accelerating with the
flow of traffic...”
All S90 models come as standard with just about everything you might want but the sportier R-Design Pro is particularly well loaded and brings, in addition to all the equipment mentioned throughout this review, the likes of keyless access (on all four doors), keyless Start, multicolour theatre lighting, head-up display, road sign information, dual-zone climate control with a CleanZone air quality system and pollen filter, powerfolding heated door mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, a handsfree powered bootlid, powerfolding rear backrests and headrests, one-shot-op laminated windows, electric front seats with memory function, ally sports pedal set, active bending headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels and, for those who enjoy chauffeur-style travel, Volvo's Pilot Assist.

This semi-autonomous drive system, optimised for motorways and dual-carriageways, takes care of steering inputs up to 80mph as is necessary to keep the car within lane markings and, partnered with adaptive cruise control it maintains your desired cruising speed (or set distance from the vehicle in front) all while braking and accelerating with the flow of traffic. Operated simply from the steering wheel, it's close enough to being an 'auto pilot' (until fully-fleged self-driving cars arrive) to totally de-stress long-distance road trips.

Volvos are considered to be the safest cars around and the S90's reassuring safety 'assists' include City Safety (this can sense potential collisions with pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals even in the dark and will brake for you if you don't), Oncoming Lane Mitigation (automatically provides steering assistance to guide you back out of the path of any oncoming traffic should you drift out of your lane), Lane-Keep Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Cross-Traffic Alert, and Run-off Road Mitigation.

The S90 will also auto brake for you at junctions if you have accidentally turned in front of an oncoming vehicle, and takes care of switching between main and dip beam to ensure other road users aren't dazzled while affording you the best visibility at night. And don't forget that there's four-wheel drive to maximise control and keep you moving safely in seriously tricksy conditions.

Rear passengers expecting their own personal 'salon' aren't short-changed the S90's rear cabin looks and feels sumptuous, and the liberal legroom is enhanced by decent head and elbow room. It more than meets its brief to provide plush, über-comfortable first-class travel you absolutely won't hear a murmur of complaint. Those riding in the back are further cosseted with their own ventilation, a wide and comfy central armrest (with two trays, one of which is lidded, and the best type of expanding pop-out cupholders), rear window sun blinds (integrated into the doors), large netted magazine pouches, dark tinted rear glass, and heated seats.

Economy can be
anything from our hard
week
s driving average
of 44.7mpg to the
officially-quoted
best
of 128.4mpg.
It all depends on how
disciplined you are about
plugging-in to maximise
the electric motor
s
battery pack and the
distances you need to
cover. If you are able
to limit your trips
to around 25 miles before
recharging you could
easily see 100mpg+...”
R-Design models employ a lower and stiffer suspension set-up for a sportier feel but don't let that put you off because the S90 T8 rides the tarmac with aplomb; noticeably compliant in town, it glides over 'sleeping policemen' without jolting or jiggling your passengers while smoothly ironing out humpty-dumpty blacktop. Added to the agreeable ride quality, the well insulated and very refined cabin ambiance and the hushed electric power, it makes usually tiresome motorway marathons in this big saloon something to be enjoyed.

Forget, for a moment, the hybrid set-up powering the accurately named T8 'Twin Engine' (petrol-electric hybrid); in fact you don't even need to know how much power it produces but for those who do, it's 298bhp from a 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol engine driving the front wheels plus another 85bhp from the electric motor driving the rear wheels along with the combustion engine's 295lb ft of torque plus 177lb ft from the electric motor. For good measure, our test S90 had the Polestar optimisation pack that boosts the petrol side of the twin-engine 'team' to 312bhp.

Now we've mentioned the power and torque we may as well give you the rest: emissions are genuinely green at just 49g/km, top speed is 155mph, and 0-62mph acceleration takes 5.1 seconds. Far more important than any of these numbers is the physical experience you enjoy whenever you lean on the accelerator pace is potent right from take-off, even if you're not being brutal with the pedal, the eight-speed autobox making great use of the stump-pulling torque from very low revs.

We regularly review electric cars so are somewhat inured to the instant-hit of torque electric motors deliver, but this T8's thrillingly-responsive electric power still brings on a big smile as it whooshes forwards, pressing you back in your seat. So when you need to dart past slower traffic you can, secure in the knowledge that there's all the performance you'll need to get past safely.

Economy can be anything from our hard week's driving average of 44.7mpg to the officially-quoted 'best' of 128.4mpg. It all depends on how disciplined you are about plugging-in to maximise the battery pack, and the distances you need to cover. If you are able to limit your trips to around 25 miles before each recharge you could easily see 100mpg+.
While you can charge the battery pack while driving (using the Twin Engine's Charge and Hold settings) you'll burn more petrol doing so although if you've already used up your battery power and are en route to an emissions-free zone then it's a convenient way to reset your zero-emissions range without pit-stopping for a charge.

The R-Design’s sports
suspension makes for a
stable and satisfyingly
controlled drive; it steers
true, grips keenly and for
a big, luxurious car the
S90 is easy to drive and
easier to place than
you might expect.
Should you have cause
to cane it, this well-
mannered Twin Engine
saloon will happily
play along...”
And there's another incentive to stay topped-up — in pure electric mode the performance is addictive; seamlessly fast and stunningly silent, it strongly underlines the S90's inherent upscale refinement. That said, in thee normal-running hybrid mode it's a supreme mile-eater and the powertrain's switching between electric and petrol is pretty much undetectable.

More good news you won't need to stop for refuelling that often: with a full tank and a full battery the T8's driving range is around 500 miles. When you do need to juice up the battery pack, plug-in charge-ups take 2.5 hours from empty to full using a 16kW fast charger. Even done at home using a relatively slow 240v 3-pin plug only takes an extra hour.

The R-Design's sports suspension (lowered by 15mm) makes for a stable and satisfyingly controlled drive; the S90 steers true, grips keenly and you can feel it working for you especially when you apply power in the apex of a bend. The regenerative brakes are also strong (the selector lever offers a 'B' setting for simulated engine braking and more intense battery-boosting brake energy harvesting) but they're also well modulated so stop-start use in heavy traffic is hassle-free. For a big five metres nose to tail and luxurious car it's easy to drive and easier to place than you might expect. Should you have cause to cane it, this well-mannered Twin Engine S90 saloon will happily play along; Yes, ride and comfort do just edge out sporting prowess, but it's a performance accommodation that you'll willingly accept.

At 500 litres the S90's boot offers all the luggage space necessary for four adults. Loading, thanks to the wide opening, is straightforward. There's even some extra space under the floor as well as a handy ski-hatch. Press the switch to drop the 60:40-split rear seatbacks and the versatility increases with a flat and seamless floor that lets you to carry items up to 197cm long. Should you need to tow, the T8 will haul a braked 2,100kg without raising a sweat (helpfully, a retractable towbar is on the options list). Pro versions have another trick up their sleeve a handsfree feature for the fast-acting powered bootlid; if your arms are full, simply waving a foot under the back bumper opens (and closes) the bootlid.

Splendidly relaxing to drive, this hybrid T8 is a Very Good Thing indeed for our stress-fuelled roads. It's also exceedingly comfortable and refined and a pleasure to drive and ride in and has what it takes to go grille-to-grille with its Teutonic rivals. While the S90 range kicks off from £34K, even £57K for a top-tier T8 Twin Engine R-Design Pro will not stand in the way of Germanophile buyers turning Scandi. ~ MotorBar
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Volvo S90 T8 Twin Engine R-Design Pro AWD | £57,305
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.1 seconds | Test Average: 44.7mpg
Power: 398bhp | Torque: 472lb ft | CO2: 49/km

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