Up until last week, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I drove a saloon car (that’s sedan, to you in the colonies).
So busy are we buying hatchbacks and crossovers – whatever they are – that the concept of having four doors and a boot (sorry, trunk) feels like something that died with the Ford Cortina.
The thing is, no-one stopped to point that out to your average 3-Series buyer, and that meant BMW shifted more of them than Ford did Mondeos. Even more remarkably, though, this year sees the Mercedes C-Class rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Ford Focus in the top 10 best sellers list.
Suddenly, offering a saloon car looks like a smart thing to do.
And if all saloons were like the Volvo S90, we’d probably buy a lot more of them.
if all saloon cars were like this, we’d buy a lot more of them
There’s no hiding the fact this is a big car – it’s almost five metres long, for a start – but it is also a handsome one, although I think it’s fair to say the design of the rear isn’t what we’d call universally loved.
The advantage of those exterior proportions is an incredibly generous cabin, and even with the tapered roofline headroom for rear seat passengers remains excellent. Clever use of space is coupled with convincing quality and intuitive use of technology, reinforcing our opinion that there currently is no better interior on the market today than Volvo’s 90 series.
The boot’s respectable, too, offering 500 litres as standard, although with the rear seat backs folded forward (easily achieved with just a button press), loads of almost two metres in length can be easily accommodated.
Engines are a choice of two-litre turbodiesels with or without Volvo’s PowerPulse technology that, in the D5, leads to an impressively lag-free sprint to 62mph in seven seconds dead. Arriving soon is the T8 Twin Engine petrol/electric hybrid, its combined 407hp and 640Nm of torque enough to slash that time to just 4.8 seconds. Growing anti-diesel sentiment will hopefully encourage Volvo to reconsider their decision not to offer the T6 petrol unit in the UK.
All make use of a smooth and decisive eight-speed automatic transmission, while the D5 and T8 both offer the added security of all-wheel-drive.
Not that the S90 is short of confidence, even in its entry-level two-wheel-drive form: in common with the V90 and Cross Country, there’s a sense of unshakable stability that makes the Volvo incredibly relaxing to drive. It’s also astonishingly quiet at speed.
there’s a sense of unshakable stability that makes the Volvo incredibly relaxing to drive
We spent a week with a D4 R-Design, and although its lowered and stiffened suspension does leave it a little more susceptible to amplifying large imperfections, we found its set-up to be far better judged than Volvo’s previous efforts. Stiff enough to let you know you ticked the sporty box, but not so hard as to make you regret it.
Plus, of course, it comes with a visually arresting look all of its own, with matt silver exterior trim, a more aggressive front grille, chunkier bumpers, and an enticing pair of exhausts.
While some may prefer their executive express to be tuned to within an inch of its life around the Nurburgring, the nearest most saloons get to a race track is the car park at Brands Hatch. In the real world, they’re far more likely to spend their time schlepping across motorways from one sales meeting to another, and for that the S90 is far more sensibly designed.
Prices for the S90 start at £33,865, and for that you get LED headlights, power boot-lid, heated leather seats, a 330W hifi, European navigation and the most comprehensive array of safety gizmos on the market today – although we do think a reversing camera (£400) really ought to be included. That said, a similarly optioned BMW 3-Series will cost you at least £3,000 more, while a 5-Series with the same toys is north of forty grand.
On the face of it, that makes the S90 look like something of a bargain. And to some extent it is.
But what’s more telling about that comparison is that the Volvo feels like it’s from a segment above. Park a BMW next to an S90 in a typical company car park and while the Beemer says ‘salesman’ the Volvo replies ‘board member.’
- Quality cabin materials, thoughtfully laid out, generous cabin space for all
- Quiet cabin even at speed, hushed conversations with passengers easily possible
- Stiffened R-Design suspension definitely at the sporty end of the ride comfort envelope
- Steering offers decent if not overwhelming feedback, beautifully light at parking speeds
- Eight-speed auto one of the best, diesel engines deliver on eco promise, lack of petrol options might be a problem for some
- Rear-view camera really should be standard
- 51.9 mpg on test
|Entry-level Price||£33,865||Price as tested||£41,315|
|Engine||1969cc 4-cyl turbo-diesel||Transmission||8-speed auto|
|Power||190hp @ 4,250rpm||Torque||400Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm|
|0-62||8.2 secs||Top speed||140 mph|
|Economy||64.2 mpg||CO2||116 g/km|
|Dimensions||4963 x 1895 x 1443 (LxWxH)||Kerb Weight||1680 kg|