Serenity on wheels.
  • Serene interior
  • Usable infotainment
  • Great fuel economy
  • No panoramic sunroof
  • Eyesore smoking accessories
  • Tight egress for short drivers

Volvo really is working magic these days.

Though Canadians have only one powertrain option, it’s a good one

It started with the XC90, the SUV that marked the beginning of the company’s styling renaissance under its new ownership. Its stately refinement at a reasonable price saw it pick up awards left and right.

The 2017 Volvo S90 sedan, new for this model year, is second in line to join the new Volvo order. While it hasn’t garnered quite as much attention – the reason for that likely lying somewhere between lower surprise factor and steeper competition in its segment – it shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s one of the better luxury sedans on the market, even before factoring in price.

For starters, it’s beautiful inside and out and boasts an elegance that’s arguably unmatched at the moment within its segment. A number of design cues have flowed in from the XC90 including the concave grille, Thor’s hammer daytime running lights, jewel-like crystal starter knob, and interior open-pore wood trim alongside available Nappa leather.

That refinement and serenity extends all the way to the exceptionally calm and quiet interior framed by comfortable seats, a clear and easy to read instrument cluster, heated front seats with optional ventilation and massage function, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel. If you’re looking for signs that Chinese ownership has somehow translated to compromises in quality, you won’t find any. The only downside is a lack of available panoramic sunroof, plus it did seem strange to find a working cigarette lighter and ashtray in such a modern vehicle.

Though Canadians have only one powertrain option, it’s a good one: the 2.0L Drive-E turbo- and supercharged I4 delivers 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed transmission that’s largely on point. While the Dynamic drive mode significantly alters the gear mapping, steering feel, and throttle response to give far more energy to the S90’s sharp and comfortable handling, it would be nice if the combination had just a little bit more gumption off the line. But truly, this is nitpicking. The S90 isn’t labeled a sports sedan but it could pass for one at times, which is a pleasant bonus. Handling might be improved even more by the available rear air suspension that wasn’t equipped on this test model, but I was also suitably happy without it.

The combination also delivers remarkable fuel economy of 10.8 L/100 km city and 7.6 highway, particularly notable given the standard all-wheel drive. My real-world reading after a week was on the higher end of that at 10.4, but I enjoyed playing in Dynamic mode a fair bit more than Eco or Comfort. (It’s worth noting that there’s no function for individual settings in the S90 as there is in the XC90.) That said, this engine is an easy-going cruiser in any drive mode on the highway, hanging out at around 1,750 at 100 km/h and 2,050 at 120.

On the technology side, the infotainment system in the S90 is the same portrait-set tablet-style setup that debuted in the XC90. It’s beautifully done and very easy to use with every mode offering plenty of information presented in a format that can be skimmed at a glance. The full screen maps and detailed satellite radio station information are especially nice, though I must admit that I get so giddy at having all of the song information on screen for ten stations at once that I sometimes get a little too immersed when making a selection. For those who prefer to use their apps, compatibility is available for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Volvo’s hallmark has always been safety, and this car is no exception. The active cruise control system works all the way to a stop, the lane keep assistant gives a gentle nudge without being overbearing, and features such as post-collision automatic braking and built-in child booster seats with extended side curtain airbags for extra head protection are a great comfort on top of the long list of more typical features likes blind spot information, rear collision warning, and cross-traffic alert. If you shift into park, take off your seatbelt, and open the driver’s side door, the S90 will even cut the engine for you. It’s missing some of the more advanced features like autonomous freeway lane changes that are appearing in some competitors, but since no car is yet at the point where the person at the wheel can relinquish attention, that’s more party trick than driver aid at this stage.

For the S90’s price, even at this top Inscription trim, there’s no reason whatsoever not to consider it within the same league as its German competitors – and in many cases by the time you’re done building your ideal setup you’ll end up spending less for a vehicle that in a number of ways is easier to live with.

Volvo has created another winner here, and there’s no reason to believe that the hits won’t keep on coming.



Engine Displacement 2.0L   Model Tested 2017 Volvo S90 Inscription
Engine Cylinders 4   Base Price $63,000
Peak Horsepower 316 hp @ 5,700 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 295 lb-ft @ 2,200 – 5,400 rpm   Destination Fee $2,015
Fuel Economy 10.8/7.6 L/100 km city/highway   Price as Tested $76,040
Cargo Space 500L  
Optional Equipment
$10,925 – Convenience Package, $1,500 (park assist front and rear, HomeLink, rear-view mirror compass, trunk 12V outlet); Climate Package with HUD, $2,300 (heated outside rear seats, heated steering wheel, heated washer nozzles, head-up display); Vision Package, $2,000 (auto-dimming mirrors, power-retractable mirrors, blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert, visual park assist); metallic paint, $900; 20” 8-spoke alloy wheels, $975; Bowers & Wilkins sound system, $3,250