Tested: Volvo S90 D5 is an alluring alternative to the herd

By Willem van de Putte Time of article published Sep 16, 2019

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Johannesburg - I had a date after work. With a Swedish model. Attractive lines in all the right places, and curves exactly where you want them.

Her name? S90, Volvo S90.

Unlike the competitors who bring out newer, ever-faster, aerodynamics-defying cars, Volvo in typical Swedish fashion, just get on with it, quietly producing sensible and lately, very good-looking cars.

The S90 executive saloon is clear testimony to that. A brave move in an era where the world is moving ever more towards SUVs. They’ve got that covered, though, with the XC60 and XC90, which have the same underpinnings as the S90.

There’s something to be said, though, for driving around in a big sedan in which top executives and moguls get to spend their day, even though in this country we tend to behave like sheep and don’t look much past the traditional German competitors. The one thing the Germans do have going for them, in this instance, are bigger engines because all Volvos are now powered by four-cylinder 2.0 litre units.

They may be turbo and supercharged power plants but there is only so much you can squeeze out of four pods.

In the case of my date, the 2.0 litre turbodiesel returns 173kW and 480Nm and is propelled by an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

In its defence, at no time did I feel like I needed more power despite the S90s’ impressive size while cruising around town and during a trip to North West where Adaptive Cruise Control again proved to be the best thing since the invention of the internal combustion engine.

The car on test had a bit of plastic surgery in the form of the optional Air Suspension and Active Chassis, which made for an extremely comfortable drive and also impressed with its stability around tight corners.

Also fitted was the Premium pack, which includes, among others, heated front seats with adjustable side supports, powered bootlid, virtual park assist with 360° surround view, keyless entry and starting, park assist pilot and a Bowers & Wilkins sound system.

There’s a gentleman that lives in the same complex as my partner who’s a complete petrol head and always comes to inspect and talk about the cars that we get to test; he’s also a sound boffin, as I found out.

He motioned me to start the car, swiped a couple of times on the tablet-like screen dominating the centre of the car where the sound settings are housed, tweaked things a bit and cranked up the volume.

Crisp, clear sound came out with no distortion.

He explained the effort and materials that had gone in to making it sound the way it does, most of it way over my head. “So you see, this car is more than just about an imposing and stunning grill or Thor Hammer lights; the sound is an integral part of the car’s engineering,” he enthused.

So too are Volvo’s legendary safety features, with a full list of IntelliSafe features that include City Safety. This allows the car to recognise cyclists, pedestrians or animals. It also offers an auto-braking function, forward collision warning (with full braking), run-off-road mitigation, lane keep assist and warning, as well as road signal reading. Advanced Pilot Assist, which allows for semi-autonomous cruising at speeds of up to 130km/* , is standard.

As an executive saloon, the interior reflects the kind of setting you would find when going to discuss your share options, bonus and business plan in the chairman’s office. There’s a lot of plush quality leather and metal surfaces, giving it a premium look and feel that is right up there with some of the best interiors.


The S90 plays in a well-stocked market dominated by the traditional players, but has nothing to fear, and if buyers would care to look around a bit more at very real alternatives they’ll find an affair with a Swedish model to be pretty alluring indeed.

Saturday Star

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