Home / Reviews / First Drive / Volvo S90 D4 Inscription First Drive Review – Understated No More



Bold new styling, a resurrected badge and new power with future-proof tech make the Volvo S90 an elegant but substantial force to be reckoned with. Do the Germans have to worry?

Story: Jim Gorde
Photography: Sanjay Raikar



Style. Luxury. Beauty. Evidently, the meaning of each of them differs from one person to another. Some things evolve, yet some are recreated altogether. Volvos are boxy and boring. Who said that? Once you’re done picking your jaw up from the floor and popping your eyes back into their sockets, allow me to elaborate. ‘Boxy’ is certainly not the first word, nor any of the next few words to come to anyone’s mind when they look at the all-new S90. It’s here and it commands a closer second look; lasering the eyes of prejudice.

What Volvo have done is not given the S80 a hot-stone massage with their SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) but rather breathe new life, new chassis, and a completely new character into their erstwhile understated executive sedan. The last S90 was a far cry from this one and, so far as the S80 is concerned, Neil Armstrong would consider this step much larger than his own.

You have to give it to the Swedes. Göteburg was certainly busy these past few years, with their 2020 vision not deviating, but branching. The XC90 laid the foundation, and a good one at that, and the S90, V90 and the V90 XC all get a sharp new face, glowing eyes and a steadfast demeanour. Unshaken. Unstirred. Applies to the lot of ’em.


Bold new face it is indeed. Similar to the XC90, but only so much. Inspired by the P1800’s concave grille, the S90 sports a reminiscent chrome cage and a new iron-mark to go with it. They have arrived indeed. Over half-a-million cars sold last year — a record for them — and going strong, Volvo have got the formula right one more time. Do more with less and make it outstanding. Or seemingly so. There’s a lot going on under that luxury yacht-inspired exterior.

Staying true to the gorgeous Concept Coupé, while adding more length and two more doors, the S90 boasts of a longer bonnet and longer roof-line. It is a longer car, at 4,963 mm; much more than all of its rivals, including the two nascent ones that are yet to arrive from Stuttgart and Munich. The Thor’s Hammer — ‘Mjölnir’ as I urge myself to refer to them — headlamps continue on this saloon as they do on the SUV. The LED tail-lamp clusters too deviate from the flowing top-to-bottom-S design we’ve become accustomed to seeing and, again, are true to the Concept.


Inside is where the magic happens, or, has happened. Large glass windows, a sun-roof and an infra-red reflective windscreen make for a visibly bright and airy interior. The effect was furthered with top-shelf blond Nappa leather upholstery. The all-leather dashboard, single-piece machined aluminium — what Volvo used to call ‘silk-metal’ finish — trim and inlays of wood around the cabin, responsibly sourced from the Walnut backyards, all add to the posh luxury feel.

The seats are ergonomic marvels. Though not as substantial or supple as those in the S80 — or so my memory and rear lead me to believe — the weight-saving seats are immensely comfortable and there’s more support from the side bolsters and the extendible thigh support: a welcome feature. They’re perforated, ventilated and heated/cooled, too. Sink the seat to its lowest, raise the cushion-base high and adjust the thigh support and your throne of conquest is at the ready. Unless you prefer the back seat.

The rear gets more room and knees have their freedom. The centre tunnel is no small mound, being a provision for the prop-shaft or battery pack, when needed for the AWD and Twin Engine models. It makes the back seat ideally suited for two; which is great because then the centre-arm-rest is freed for use, adding to comfort. The touch-panel controls for the rear air-vents also make life easier in the back.

Modern equipment-wise, the S90 inherits bits big and small from the XC90. From the large centre touchscreen with a smartphone-like interface to the twist-to-start/stop knob and crafted drive-mode selector, there are familiar elements that make things easier to get used to. The new bits — the classic American grille-like air vents with more crafting on the knobs — reflect the specific focus on the saloon.

We were in Rajasthan for the drive, and after getting out in the near 40° Celsius heat, the air-conditioning was, almost literally, put through a baptism of fire. Effective it was. The pollen and anti-allergen filter ensure none of the unwanted elements from the surroundings plague the inner sanctum. Off we went under the late afternoon sun.

More on page 2 >


About the author: Jim Gorde


Automotive Correspondent at Car India and Bike India.
Believes that learning never stops, and that diesel plug-in hybrids are the only feasible future.
t: @CarIndia/@BikeIndia
IG: @carindia_mag/@bikeindia


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