Chic Volvo S90 sedan offers personality, distinction, elegance

Who says that midsize cars aren’t still chic? Judging by my tester this week, not only are they still viable, they are, in fact, quite chic.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I was behind the wheel of a luxury brand like Volvo and was driving the underrated and under-appreciated S90. My previous experience with the Volvo brand has been positive, too. I admit I was concerned when a Chinese company bought Volvo a couple years ago that it would affect the quality or the overall brand integrity of Volvo.

Judging by the S90, the Chinese influence is not noticeable, and the Volvo brand remains intact and is well represented by this midsize car.

On looks the S90 can be best described in one word: classy. The grille is understated, and the hood has an elongated appearance. Of course, the prototypical hammer-shaped headlights are elegant and give the S90 personality and definition.

The back end is a little dull, but I do like the rear taillight shape that mimics the hammer-like appearance of the front headlamps. The rear lights dominate the back and carry over from the back corner, over the trunk and lead to the Volvo nameplate.

For 2020, Volvo has discontinued one of its engines, known as the T5. As such, the T6 engine, which is a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged 4-cylinder engine, makes adequate power. While the overall performance won’t induce goosebumps nor be considered sporty, it is very typical for a luxury car in today’s segment, leaning more toward refinement than sportiness. And that’s OK with me. Even though it lacks athleticism, the engine still makes 316 horsepower and 295 lbs.-ft. of torque. The 8-speed automatic transmission is ideal and does a great job, with no noticeable lag of any kind.

For 2020, all-wheel drive is now standard with front-wheel drive being discontinued. As such, this bigger sedan is smooth in its handling and would be outstanding in varying road conditions.

For the life of me, I don’t know why midsize cars aren’t selling well. The back seat of most midsize cars, including the S90, are more comfortable and more spacious than many of smaller crossovers. The S90′s interior is high quality and has personality and distinction. It has high-quality touch points; the leather seats are soft and plush.

The back seat has ample leg and head room, even for taller adults. That’s a rarity these days.

The cargo area is limited, and that’s one of the drawbacks of the S90. The trunk has 13.5 cubic feet of cargo room, which is on the small side for this segment.

The 12.3-inch touchscreen is vibrant, and attractive. It has a lot of neat technology on it. However, overall, the infotainment system is complicated and is not overly intuitive. There’s a real learning curve with it, but once you master it, you grow to appreciate it.

There’s a hands-free parking feature that is great, plus loads of safety elements like collision prevention, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and rain-sensing wipers.

There are three trim offerings for the S90: Momentum, Inscription and R-Design. My tester was the top-of-the-line R-Design. The 2020 Volvo S90 has a base price of $50,550 while the R-Design, which includes such niceties as Nappa leather, illuminated door sills, metal mesh décor inlays, 19-inch alloy wheels and Harmon-Kardin Premium sound system, carries an MSRP of $64,290.

This is a pricey sedan, indeed, putting it near the top of the segment. But the Volvo also has a personality and distinction while so many others in the luxury sedan segment do not.

Now with AWD only, the S90 has an EPA rating of 21 mpg/city and 31 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of mixed driving, I averaged nearly 25 mpg.

I keep coming back to the word chic when thinking about the Volvo S90. And that really does describe it well. And for a luxury sedan, that’s what you want.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.


2020 VOLVO S90 R-DESIGN

  • Price/As-tested price................................................ $50,550/$64,290
  • Mileage.......................................... 21 mpg/city; 31 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower................................. 316 hp/295 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission................................. 8-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Daqing, China

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