There’s little room to doubt that Volvo’s has designed some of the most beautiful vehicles in recent times. Its design language is simple yet sophisticated at the same time, something the Scandinavians have excelled at. And just as how the XC90 improved Volvo’s SUV image, the S90 is the exemplar for the line of sedans.
Upright grille and “Thor’s Hammer” headlights appear to broaden’s the S90’s shoulders and its confidence. Where other makers might fill up the sides with contrasting angles, Volvo has kept it simple with one low waistline that sweeps from fore to aft. It ends with signature taillights that act as brackets to the chiselled rear. The Inscription Plus trim brings chrome elements selected parts of the sedan’s exterior, as seen on the gleaming frame, door handles and dual integrated tailpipes.
The interior is just as classy as the exterior, if not more. Open-pore walnut inlay brings texture and brings character to the sleek, monolithic dashboard. Leather gets heavily leaned on to soften the interior, finding itself wrapping most touch-points and the upholstery. Illuminated Orrefors Crystal gear lever and diamond-cut engine start/stop knob are jewellery for a well-dressed cabin.
The cabin’s spaciousness is inviting, even for the taller ones among us. Good headroom and ample knee room score top marks. Still, the transmission tunnel — which really is the battery housing — runs through the middle. This limits the middle seat to persons of a particular size; small. As with all recent Volvo vehicles, the rear seats can be configured to fit children who have outgrown their child seats.
In front, the driver need not stretch to engage the car’s functions. The steering may look simple, but it feels meaty and hides the usual media and cruise control functions. It also homes controls the instrument cluster digital display. Drop the left arms to find the gear lever, start/stop switch and drive mode wheel close.
Standing tall and proud in the dashboard is the portrait-oriented Sensus Connect nine-inch touchscreen, which is the only way to interface with a majority of the S90’s features. You’re greeted with a simple ‘home screen’ but swipe right, and a deluge of icons fill the display. Although the icons are arranged logically, it isn’t as intuitive as Volvo would have hoped. Your attention is still required to avoid making mistakes in engaging the car’s various functions — like accidentally adjusting the passenger’s seat instead of charging the car’s battery.
The car’s 10.4-kWh lithium-ion battery is part of what makes this S90 a T8 Twin Engine car. As its name suggests, the S90’s drivetrain consists of an engine aided by an electric motor, mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is twin-charged (turbo- and supercharged) to produce 320hp and 400Nm of torque. Over on the rear axle, the electric motor contributes another 87hp and 240Nm to the drive. Put both power plants together to have a total output of a convincing 407hp and 640Nm.
With all systems go, the S90 T8 goes from standstill to 100kph in a stately 4.8 seconds. Acceleration comes at an instant, and quick gear changes are unobtrusive. Even when the battery is drained, the S90 continues to push forward with speedy confidence. At the other end, the S90’s efficiency performance is respectable. A calm drive on pure electric will net you a range of about 40km.
On the move, the Volvo S90 provides a hushed cabin and a comfortable ride at lower speeds. Yet, the opposite comes to light as the S90 approaches higher cruising speeds. The body wobbles whenever the sedan runs over undulating roads, something that is unavoidable. Despite best efforts of the air suspension, you’ll feel all of the S90’s two-tonne body rolling around corners and diving under brakes when driving with spirit. Putting the car in Constant All-Wheel Drive mode cures the affliction, and there is where it stayed for the duration of the test.
The ride is a reminder that the S90 isn’t a sports sedan; the steering only emphasises the point. Volvo has muted the steering but counters that with making it weighty at speed. Nevertheless, the S90 is quick to react and remains grippy at all times. And the sedan is loaded with safety tech that helps you keep it in between the lines, or even drive itself in some cases.
Although the S90 will gladly oblige using all 407hp, 640Nm and its electric charge, the Volvo was never meant to be driven with its pedal firmly on the metal. Its deficiency in dynamism is telling. Instead, the Volvo S90 T8 Inscription Plus will serve better as a comfortable, spacious, efficient, safe, hushed and good-looking executive sedan.
Specification: Volvo S90 T8 Twin Engine Inscription Plus
Engine 1,969cc, 4-cylinder, inline-4, supercharged & turbocharged, plug-in hybrid, electric motor, 10.4 kWh lithium-ion hybrid battery | Transmission 8-speed automatic with Geartronic, all-wheel drive | Engine Power & Torque 320hp / 400Nm | Electric Motor Power & Torque 87hp / 240Nm | Total Output 407hp / 640Nm | Performance 0-100kph in 4.8s, max speed 250kph, 2.0l/100km, 46 CO2 g/km | Price RM368,920.00