2017 Volvo S90 D5 Inscription: A Wheel Thing Car Review.

The Swedish car company renaissance continues with the Volvo S90 being released in late 2016. A long, lithe, well proportioned machine, it places the S90 firmly in the large luxury saloon mix, and has both the British and German based manufacturers clearly in its sights. A Wheel Thing reviews the Volvo S90 D5 Inscription.

The range kicks off at $79990; the car tested, the D5 Inscription has a manufacturer’s list price of $96900 and with options fitted tops out at $118555 (plus on roads). The options include heated front seats (again, ventilation for Australian spec cars should be a must) at $650, Head Up Display at $1900, and the superb B & W sound system at $4500. Oddly, Apple CarPlay is also listed as an option ($300) when seen as standard fitment in cars a quarter of the price. Also, it’s said elsewhere that DAB (digital radio) is fitted as standard yet the the test car does not have it.The exterior is a mix of desireable influences; at one angle the view forward of the windscreen is very much BMW 7 series, the grille nods towards Maserati, there’s hints of Jaguar XF in the profile and rear pillar. There’s bendy LED headlights and indicators plus the Hammer of Thor inserts for the headlights. At the rear…well, it’s here things go squiffy. The tail light design is square, angular, blocky, and in A Wheel Thing’s opinion, just not pretty and at odds with the lithe look anywhere forward. A smoother curved style would, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, be more suitable and balance the rear to the front. But by no means is the S90 an unattractive car, far from it.It’s a big car, with a length of 4963 mm and wheelbase of 2941 mm offering plenty of leg room straight up with 1071 mm and 911 mm front and rear . Width, sans mirrors, is 1879 mm, providing 1423 mm and 1416 mm in hip room, and an overall height of 1443 mm sees head room of 1027 mm and 961 mm.

Inside it’s familiar territory from Volvo. LCD driver’s display, the tablet style touchscreen centrally mounted in the dash, the powered seats, separate aircon controls for the rear seats, an elegance that’s understated yet subtly appreciated pervades the cabin. There’s a two tone mix for the material, with a lighter colour for the pillars and roof lining that provides a light and airy feel.Switchgear is minimal, thanks to just about every operation being controlled via the touchscreen. Although it sounds like a good idea, something like the aircon should still be operated via tabs or buttons, as it’s more likely to be something more often to be adjusted. Using a touchscreen can be advantageous but can also be fiddly and possibly beyond the ability of some drivers. And that’s another thing; althought there’s plenty of safety tech built in, a driver can easily get lost in using the screen’s menu and as a result lost focus of the primary pary of driving (observation) happens.Seats are controllable, as mentioned, electrically, and even something such as a lumbar adjustment pops up on the touchscreen. You can change the look of the driver’s display via the onboard menu, compared to other models which allow you to do so via an option accessible from the left hand (in Australia) stalk attached to the steering wheel. There’s Head Up Display fitted, as mentioned, and it’s a proper 3D display too, with speed and speed zones clearly visible AND appreciably different in depth. Again, any changes to the display are made via the touchscreen.

There’s plenty of features such as Auto headlights, rain sensing wipers, adaptive cruise and forward collision alert. It’s this last one that gave A Wheel thing a few moments, due to the sesnor being somewhat sensitive, activating the stacatto audio alert and applying the brakes simultaneously…to no vehicle in front. In turns and curves the sensor would read a vehicle roadside and mistakenly think it was directly ahead. Not good for the heart.

Moodlighting is restricted to LEDs softly glowing in the doors and in the sills. It’s subtle, unobtrusive at night, and manages to become a backgound, almost subconcious, part of the drive.Sounds come courtesy of that truly beautifully tuned Bowers and Wilkins system, with the English brand fitting their renowned speakers to the S90. There’s AM/FM/Bluetooth and a single vertically mounted CD slot in the centre console along with Apple CarPlay.In the rear, there’s window blinds and the previously mentioned aircon controls, plus a port that allows access to the boot. Ah yes, the boot. The S90 is a big car, but comes with a spacesaver spare and a boot that is lonnnnnng, but not deep, providing 500 litres of space. Yes, there’s plenty of room for a week’s shopping, but in order to do so, it’s a stretch in towards the back of the rear seat in order to utilise the boot. At least the lid is power operated.It’s on the road, not unexpectedly, that the S90 gets a chance to show off its acting chops. There’s that two litre diesel up front, with an amazing peak of 470 torques covering either side of the 2000 rpm point. There’s a technology called PowerPulse, Volvo’s attempt to mitigate the off boost lack of urge that turbocharged cars have. In essence, it’s a form of air injection (from air that’s constantly recharging a two litre tank) that gets fed into the system that feeds the turbo and spins the turbo up quicker than waiting for the normal gases. The result is a quicker throttle response and aids greatly in driveability. Plant the welly at the traffic lights and instead of the one…..two….threee…it’s one..two..wow!

Tank size varies between 55 or 60 litres, depending on which engine you buy with your new S90. Volvo claims a combined figure of 5.1L/100 km for the diesel engine; impressive given the dry weight of just under 1850 kilograms. A Wheel Thing finished with 8.1L/100 in mostly suburban driving.Working hand in hand with the eight speed auto (sans paddle shifts, mind you), the S90 fairly motors along. Factor in that all wheel drive system (sitting on MacPherson struts and multi-link rear) and it’s an intoxicating mix of powerrrrrrrrr, drive ability, handling, and that underlying Volvo bloodline that no longer needs to shout safety. You have a lightly yet well balanced steering feel, with only a slight sense of numbness on centre.

There’s a ride that has been worked on to within an inch of its life, offering up the ideal compromise, especially with the size of the car, between luxury and sports and what most would consider to be normal. That’s aided by Pirelli’s excellent P-Zero rubber, fitted to (optional) 20 inch diamond cut eight spoke alloys. Brakes? Oh my. Near nigh perfect; there’s feedback as soon as you touch the pedal, allowing you to sense EXACTLY how much pressure you’re applying and how much more needs to be.Tip it in to a hard and off camber corner. Meh, says S90. A long sweeper? Natch. A series of switchbacks? A shrug of the shoulders and the Volvo sits flat and firm through them, with the occupants almost unaware of the situation. Undulations on Sydney’s freeways? Up, down. No float, no uncertainty, no….anything. It’s as if the road varied by a centimetre, not six inches. It’s also easily controlled via the throttle; lean gently on the go pedal in a turn and the rear hunkers down whilst the front searches for the right line. Punt it hard, throw it into a series of turns and it genuinely belies the bulk in its nimbleness. Is it a driver’s car? Ohhhhh yessssssss.

At The End Of the Drive.
Sweden has taken on Germany and has the weapon to front up with confidence. There’s no doubt at all of its ability, its driveability, its technological prowess. From most angles it’s a devilishly handsome thing and it looks good from where it counts: the driver’s seat. No, it’s not perfect but it also provides a better than viable alternative to Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Maserati, and Jaguar. And it spearheads the charge that Volvo has underway to claim it’s the world’s fastest growing luxury car brand.

For more on the Volvo S90 D5 Inscription and the relatives, go here: 2017 Volvo S90 range

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