2018 Volvo S90 T5-AWD

The Anti-240

Full disclosure:  I think this car is one of the better looking new vehicles out there today under $100,000.  I was optimistic that driving it would live up to the classy exterior good looks.

“Oh c’mon, a great looking Volvo?”

I’m not alone, the S90 received the North American International Auto Show (Detroit) Production Car Design of the Year award for 2015.  The decades long stereotyped 240’s, 740’s, et. al “boxy Volvos” are long gone and won’t be missed.  Well, I really did like the 780 coupe from the late 1980’s and still do a double take when I see one on the road.



From all sides this appears to be a huge sedan because this IS a large vehicle and it needs every bit of the turbo 4-cylinder’s 250hp it can muster to haul this 2 ton beast.


I had the driver’s seat back almost all the way and even 6’6″ rear passengers would have more than enough legroom.  The overall length (201.4″) of this S90 is comparable only to the S80L that was only sold from 2009 to 2015 in China.  I didn’t get to experience being a backseat passenger, but I’d confidently assume that the rear seats are just as inviting as the driver’s seat.  The leather was very soft and supportive in all the right places and nearly impossible to not find the perfect setting with the 12-way power seat.


I don’t usually pop the hood on a rental, mainly because most engines have at least several plastic covers masking what really makes the car tick.  I was intrigued what a 4-cylinder turbo would look like under what seemed to be an abnormally huge front end.  After taking a minute to figure out the odd double latch, I couldn’t believe the SHEER SIZE of that hood!  A boy scout troop could camp out under that thing!  As expected, the engine bay is full of plastic covers.  I know that some covers/guards are used for channeling air for cooling, but why cover up the windshield washer reservoir?


As with all Volvos as of late, well thought out ergonomics are always prominently displayed.  The center stack is no exception in the S90, although there is a learning curve.  The center screen is large and easy to use, but not overpowering.  I found it odd that after changing A/C settings, radio, or NAV settings, it doesn’t default back to another screen unless it’s manually changed.  I think the screen shown in the picture above would be a good ‘default’ screen, but hitting one of the 4 buttons changes the screen until someone pushes the ‘home’ button above the volume knob.  The base stereo system was better than most high end sound systems in other cars.  I’m led to believe the optional 19-speaker, 1400 watt Bowers & Wilkins must be a religious experience.  The A/C vents on each side are of extraordinary quality and weight that would blend in just as well in a vehicle twice the cost.  All the interior materials are very well presented and shouldn’t look dated even 20 years from now.


Since steering column ignition keys are becoming relics, Volvo has created its’ own version of engine start and stop with a left/right toggle switch.  Is this a slight Swedish tribute to the now defunct Saab’s old way of the ignition key next to the driver’s seat?  Electronic parking brakes are the future, but the circled “A” below the parking brake button is for [apparently] sitting in traffic.  If you don’t want to keep your foot on the brake, you can use this instead.  Similar to the Audi A4 the S90 has an auto on/off fuel saving feature that stops the engine after sitting for barely a second at a light or in traffic.  I thought the A4 shuddered a lot at start up, but it was seamless compared to the S90’s jarring vibration when you take your foot off the brake.


Unlike the drive select mode in the Audi A4 I wrote up about on July 21st, the drive mode has 3 very distinct settings:
*Eco makes the 8-speed transmission shift a lot sooner than anyone would considered normal.
*Comfort seems like a natural fit for a luxury car until the turbo kicks in and makes your spine get a little more cozy with the seat backs.
*Dynamic makes the gas pedal sensitive to the point the RPM gauge freely hits 4000 even though the throttle is barely depressed.

Each setting also changes the layout of the dashboard.  On Eco mode, the tachometer makes way for a ‘eco drive’ gauge that slightly resembles a hybrid charge/assist.  If I had the time I would have like to reset the trip computer in between 3 full gas tanks and changed each setting per tank to see if that would make much of a difference in gas mileage.


Looking for speedometer or tachometer needles?  Keep on looking because all the dash data appears via a customizable LCD screen.  The setting combinations are endless with 15+ different displays at once possible or just the bare minimum to keep distractions low.  Next to the clock in the upper center of the dash, is the lane departure warning symbol that will light up and flash orange if you drift a little too much out of your travel lane.  Then in the lower left corner is the adaptive cruise control symbol that will automatically slow you down if you get too close to the vehicle in front.  I understand this is a safety feature that is made for drivers that can’t resist texting while driving, but it’s something I want to immediately disengage when in the driver’s seat.  Volvo knows that their dedicated fan base expect the latest and greatest tech and the S90 doesn’t disappoint.


I didn’t get to enjoy the open sunroof on this drive mainly because the heat and humidity were unbearable on this particular day.  Sitting in the cabin it’s impossible to ignore that the sunroof is HUGE on this S90 and goes nearly the distance of the entire roof.  Although when it’s open, the front half of the glass covers the back half of the glass so it’s not really an open air experience for the rear passengers.    I LOVED the power sunshade that spanned the entire length.  It enabled a little light along with heavily tinted glass into the cabin even when it’s closed.


The left rear passenger door is very basic and expected . . .


. . . but the right side obviously has chauffeured passengers in mind.  With those extra buttons, the ‘client’ or ‘executive’ has full control over the front passenger seat, both rear windows, AND the sunroof.  Could this be the back seat of a poor man’s Rolls-Royce?


The temperature and fan speed controls for each back seat passenger plus the incredible legroom would be an inclination that this could be a viable option for a limo service company to replace aging Cadillac and Lincoln fleets.


Would that be so terrible?

I did really enjoy my afternoon with the S90 and wouldn’t think again about renting one for a cross-country trip or just a night on the town with 4 other friends.  If this is the new direction of a Geely led Volvo, I’ll be on the lookout for one of the 7 other Volvo models to rent as well.

Things of note:
Very classy LED , daytime running lamps, headlights, AND high beams.
32.6 MPG on my highway trip was right on par with the EPA stated 26CITY/32HWY
The 4-cylinder turbo AND supercharged T6 version with 66hp extra is calling my name.

Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
Good luck finding one with a MSRP <$50K and the hybrid is inches away from $80,000.  Impending repair costs of new advanced technology always makes me nervous in the first few model years.  Volvo has been in the forefront of all things safety related for as long as I can remember, but I counted at least 11 sensors over the car and one slight fender bender could be very costly in labor repairs alone.   I’d rent it again, but only after disabling all the ‘safety features’ that really take away from the driving experience.
Volvo if you’re listening . . .
20″ wheels, stiffer suspension, 6-speed manual, matte black paint, 2-tone contrasting interior. . . a missed opportunity for a 90th anniversary 2017 model S90.
On a scale from 1-100: (1-bicycle is fine, 100-I’ll work 2 full-time jobs to get one)
Buy it now – 60
Buy it later at half the current price – 55
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 50
Oooh and ahhh factor – 75
Recommended – (60 to buy / 80 to rent)

2 thoughts on “2018 Volvo S90 T5-AWD

  1. Volvo has its own cult following and for good reason. These cars command so much “presence” on the road. And comfort definitely appears to be a priority – 12 way passenger seat, if you can’t get cozy in there, it’s your own fault. Interesting to see how a turbo-4 has ample oomph to get a sedan that large up and running. I get a kick out of the ignition start sequence, down there on the console. Being in the rental business you get acquainted with all those quirks. Meanwhile, I’d get in there and look like an idiot for a few minutes hunting for where to begin. Nice observations! Sweet car for the money.


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