DENVER, COLORADO – Just one year after the introduction of Volvo’s flagship sedan, there are some serious changes in store. Based on the same SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform as the existing 90-series cluster, the 2018 Volvo S90 gets new powertrain options in Canada along with a wheelbase extension, well deserved for this vehicle. We were invited to Denver, Colorado for a drive through the mountains to sample the latest Swedish brute, which happens to be manufactured in China.
The S90 is a bit of an oddball with regards to the segment in which it plays. Sharing its rough dimensions with the BMW 5-series (reviewed here) and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, it’s more of a direct competitor to the Genesis G80, and loosely cross-shopped with the Cadillac CT6 (reviewed here) and Lincoln Continental. The challenge when being shopped against the latter two was rear seat legroom, which was more in tune with the Germans. The 2018 model extends the wheelbase for an extra 4.5 inches of rear legroom, making it a segment leader in this regard.
For the most part, the S90’s styling is unchanged, which is for the best, because subjectively, the car is gorgeous. A palette of interesting yet conservative colour choices is offered, as well as an array of wheel designs. The S90’s fascia is unmistakably that of a new Volvo product, and the Thor’s Hammer headlights are very nice to look at. Only the very keen will be able to differentiate the 2018 model by either the slightly elongated wheelbase or the new wheel designs, as the car is otherwise largely unchanged. The previous “short-wheelbase” S90 is now gone, as it’s only available in one body configuration.
New for the 2018 model year are two new powertrains, the least expensive of which is the T5. This engine is a 2.0L turbocharged inline four-cylinder, which pushes out 250 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 258 lb-ft. of torque between 1,500 and 4,800RPM. Power delivery from this engine is very adequate for the vast majority of buyers, though the volume selling S90 will be the T6, which carries on unchanged with 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque. The T6 is the super and turbocharged variant of the 2.0L four.
What’s really special is the top-trim S90 T8 plug-in hybrid, which employs the same engine only hooked up to an electric motor and 10.4 kWh lithium ion battery. Output here, just like the XC90 T8 (reviewed here), is 400 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 472 lb-ft. of torque between 2,200 and 5,400RPM. All S90 models sold in Canada are equipped with all-wheel-drive as standard equipment, and send power to all four wheels via an eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission.
The interior of the S90 is slightly updated, with a standard panoramic sunroof across all trim levels and some new upholstery options. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is also standard, as well as a four-year subscription to Volvo on Call. The top-trim Inscription model still offers a luscious interior with beautiful Scandinavian design and excellent materials used throughout. Fit and finish is also flawless, and the S90’s cabin remains one of the best currently offered anywhere in the automotive industry.
For safety, Volvo has expressed their vision that by the year 2020, nobody should be killed or seriously injured in a Volvo vehicle in the event of an accident. As such, Volvo is actively working towards autonomous drive on their products, which is previewed through Pilot Assist. As previewed before in other applications, the Pilot Assist system on the new S90 is being continuously updated to bring these vehicles closer and closer to full autonomy. Currently, the system employs radar, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and blind spot monitoring to allow the vehicle to hold the road without driver input. It also can use Traffic Jam Assist to minimize input in gridlock, as well.
Volvo Canada prices the 2018 S90 at $54,950 for the T5 AWD Momentum, a very aggressive entry price. Stepping up to the T6 AWD is $58,400 for the Momentum and $64,550 for the Inscription. The T8 eAWD is only offered in Inscription guise and stickers for $74,950 before green vehicle incentives from the government. The 2018 Volvo S90 is an extremely competent sedan and despite not being a volume seller either within its class or for Volvo Cars as a whole, is one of the most understated and elegant sedans that is available for sale today. This is one that’s sure to age gracefully and timelessly.