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2019 Volvo S90 Review

The 2019 Volvo S90 is a superlative and comfortable mid-size luxury sedan with a brain.

The 2019 Volvo S90 is a mid-size luxury sedan seemingly without pretense.

Its dynamite shape is complemented by an interior that’s spa-chic and technology that’s impressive, but not in your face. This year, the S90 adds an Excellence trim level that may tempt six figures but even it’s not gaudy.

The 2019 Volvo S90 earns a 7.2 on our ratings scale thanks to its superlative looks, soft ride, and welcoming interior. Official safety scores—and one showing up in our driveway for free—could drive it higher. 

From the outside, the S90 takes an elegant, sedan shape made better with a longer hood, upright grille, and sharp rear end, and molds its own minimalist look. The S90 takes a different tack than other luxury mid-sizers; aggression via a high-performance model isn’t in Volvo’s playbook for the S90 for now.

Inside, that means standard leather hides draped over comfortable seating for four adults. Last year’s S90 added roughly four inches to the interior, a boon to rear-seat riders’ legs.

Under the hood are a trio of turbo-4s, with or without a supercharger, with or without hybrid batteries. The base engine, called T5, is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 250 horsepower, which drives the front or all four wheels. The T6 adds a supercharger that bumps the output up to 316 hp, and it’s all-wheel drive only. The T8 powertrain adds hybrid batteries and a plug, and although its net output of 400 hp doesn’t register as high performance, it makes the 0-60-mph dash in less than five seconds.

All powertrains mate to a standard 8-speed automatic transmission.

Volvo includes a long list of luxury features as standard equipment: leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, a 9.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, and a suite of advanced safety features. Those safety features include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and semi-autonomous software that can help drive the car on long-distance road trips or stop-and-go slogs.

The Volvo S90 starts around $50,000, although top trims can tempt six figures.

The 2019 Volvo S90 is business-class transportation—even for grocery store runs.

Mid-size luxury sedans like the 2019 Volvo S90 may not get as much attention as crossovers but they snap more necks.

The S90 looks so nice we’ll say it twice—its exterior and interior aren’t just good, they’re great. We give it a 9 out of 10. The last point is reserved for angels of the road, although the Volvo comes close.

The S90’s trick is in its long hood, that’s nearly unnecessary. (Cars with front-wheel-drive powertrains like the S90 don’t necessarily need long hoods.)

In front, the S90’s grille is abrupt and upright, but not profane. The concave grille and swept-back headlights are more elegant than our dinner speeches, and LED headlights arranged in Volvo’s corporate “Thor’s hammer” array are more profound too.

From the side, the Volvo S90 looks lower than it is, a trick of its body lines and creases. Big, 20-inch wheels fill out the arches impossibly full; they look great but ride worse than the rest of the wheel combinations.

Around back, the S90’s look is contemporary without looking dated. The upright, boxy trunk lid is a modern touch, bookended by C-shaped taillights that are another trendy look. A classic “Volvo” badge finishes the rear end off with a retro flair.

Inside, the S90 is chic without being cliche. It’s a Scandinavian sanctuary and darker hues don’t ruin the airy feel. Inscription trims add more glitz without too much glam. Matte wood trims are on the offer sheet and we’d pick them in a hurry. They look great.

The Volvo S90’s ride is as supple as its top-end leather seats.

The 2019 Volvo S90 boasts a lineup of efficient and advanced powertrains, but we’re more enamored with its splendid ride and competent handling.

We give it a 6 for performance with a caveat that power gets better, and more efficient, with more money.

The base engine in T5 models is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 250 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to an 8-speed automatic that drive the front wheels, or optionally all four.

The base engine doesn’t sound the part of a luxury car, it’s a little coarse and lacks punch on mountain passes.

The initial remedy may the T6 version, which adds a supercharger to the 2.0-liter turbo-4—yep, supercharged and turbocharged—and the output jumps to 316 hp and 295 lb-ft. The T6 is all-wheel drive only, and it feels more confident in passing and lugging the S90’s 4,800-pound weight around. Volvo estimates that the S90 T6 AWD takes 6.0 seconds to accelerate up to 60 mph, which is fairly brisk. Good news: The T6 doesn’t significantly dent combined fuel economy. Bad news: The T6 significantly dents most wallets by asking nearly than $4,000 more above base.

The top of the pile for the S90 isn’t significantly faster, it’s just more efficient. The T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain is all-wheel drive only, but subs in a 10.4-kwh hybrid battery that can drive the S90 for up to 21 miles on electricity alone. The net power from the electric motors and gas engine is 400 hp, but Volvo estimates that it can sprint up to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, thanks to immediate torque from the electric motors.

Regardless of powertrain, the S90 is tuned for a soft and compliant ride that excels when riding atop 18- or 19-inch wheels that are standard on most trim levels. Opting for the 20-inchers makes the ride somewhat harsh. We’d highly suggest the optional air suspension if big wheels are a necessity. The standard drive modes—Comfort, Dynamic, and Individual—are especially pronounced with the optional air suspension.

Although there are a few cues, like the Dynamic drive mode, that would hint at a sportier life for the S90, the car is mostly a paper tiger. It’s tuned more for comfortable driving than corner blitzing, and Volvo’s cadre of smaller sedans and wagons do a better job in the twisties than the S90.

Comfort & Quality
The 2019 Volvo S90 is supremely comfortable for four adults.

The 2019 Volvo S90 is an 8 for comfort, we suggest that you get comfortable and stay a while.

Last year, the S90 grew several inches—especially its rear seat—to better accommodate people and cargo.

Starting from an average score, the 2019 S90 earns points above average for its luxury fittings and good front- and rear-seat space. 
The rear seats might be the best seats, we say. According to Volvo, the rear seats feature more than 40 inches of leg room, which is about right, according to our knees. When optionally equipped, each rear seat passenger gets their own climate controls and rear seat heaters with plenty of stretch-out space to accommodate an NBA front court.

Front-seat riders don’t get to sit out in the cold, either. The S90 is equipped with standard power-adjustable front seats wrapped in leathers. For a price, they can be heated, cooled, and massaging (all three at the same time, if you like) and they afford front-seat riders a great view forward thanks to thin roof pillars and a low window line.

Top Inscription or Excellence trims heap on the soft hides, extra adjustability, and decadence like crystal-wrapped gear shifters and swanky dash materials. Even the base versions feel special, which is a relative rarity among competitors’ base models that can feel thin.

The S90 features 15.4 cubic feet of cargo space in its trunk, which is roughly average for its class. Opting for the plug-in hybrid T8 powertrain doesn’t eat into trunk space either, those versions have the same cargo capacity as those without hybrid batteries.

The Volvo S90 lacks comprehensive crash-test data.

Federal and independent testers haven’t yet ruined a Volvo S90 in the name of science. Without any official data, we’ll withhold our safety rating.

Short of official crash scores, the S90 comes equipped with some of the most advanced technology for keeping a car safely on the road.

Volvo’s standard driver-assistance features include adaptive cruise control, active lane control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitors, and a semi-autonomous system that can pilot the car hands-free for several seconds.

Those systems, which Volvo calls Pilot Assist, can reduce fatigue on long drives or stop-and-go traffic. Volvo’s system was one of the first among automakers, and we’ve found that it’s helpful in relieving the burden of slogging drives partially, but it’s not a replacement for a driver or a hands-free system for longer than a few seconds. The system has difficulty with limited visibility, poorly marked lanes, or without a car directly ahead to follow.

A surround-view camera system and automated parking assistance are optional extras on the S90.

An Excellence trim level tops the 2019 Volvo S90, but even base models are well-equipped.

The 2019 Volvo S90 doesn’t have a look we don’t like.

This year, the S90 gains a high-luxe trim level, Excellence, to complement its already impressive features in any guise.

Starting from a base score, the S90 gets points for its excellent base features, good infotainment system, and another for its superlative trims that rival anything from Germany—at nearly any price. We give it an 8 out of 10 for features—the S90 could only do better if it were free. 

This year, the S90 is offered in Momentum, Inscription, and Excellence trim levels.

The Volvo S90 starts at about $50,000 and goes up exponentially from there. Volvo hasn’t said how much Excellence editions will cost yet, although those are likely to be close to six figures.

Every Volvo S90 starts with 18-inch wheels, a panoramic moonroof, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, power adjustable front seats, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a 9.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a suite of active safety features that we cover above.

Volvo hasn’t yet detailed what will be on S90 Excellence editions, but the XC90’s Excellence edition includes 21-inch wheels, softer hides, a crystal-tipped gear shifter, in-seat massagers, premium audio, heated and cooled seats, four-corner air suspension, and a heated steering wheel. The S90 Excellence version is likely to be available only with the top T8 powertrain that includes plug-in hybrid batteries and all-wheel drive.

We’re all-in with the lavish S90 but acknowledge that it may be a little rich for some.

Instead, there’s better value at the Momentum trim level with a handful of add-ons. After picking our powertrain (all-wheel drive adds $2,200, the higher-power T6 adds $3,800 on top of that), heated seats and a heated steering wheel adds $750, air suspension costs $1,200 more, and a $1,000 upgrade adds four-zone climate control, LED headlights, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

Inscription versions go further with cooled seats, nappa leather, contrast stitching, 19-inch wheels, and real wood inlays.

The T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain starts at more than $64,000 for the Momentum trim level, although it’s eligible for federal tax credits and applicable state or local credits that can take the sting out of the initial cost.

Fuel Economy
A small, but powerful, engine helps the 2019 Volvo S90 stay relatively fuel efficient among competitors.

A trio of small engines (and one hybrid) helps keep the 2019 Volvo S90 relatively fuel efficient among competitors.

The least expensive 2019 S90 T5 rates at 23 mpg city, 35 highway, 27 combined by the EPA with front-wheel drive. That earns a 5 on our green-o-meter. 

Adding all-wheel drive doesn’t dent combined fuel economy much: 22/31/26 mpg for the T5 AWD. The T6 is only available with all-wheel drive and it rates 21/31/25 mpg, according to the EPA.

The most efficient Volvo S90 is also the most expensive. The plug-in hybrid S90 T8 AWD travels up to 21 miles on electrons alone, 29 mpg combined otherwise.

Among luxury mid-size cars, the Volvo is near the top of the class. The 2019 BMW 530i rates 27 mpg combined by the EPA, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class rates up to 25 mpg combined in its most popular configuration.

The Volvo S90 requires premium fuel.


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