Wheels Asia - - First drive - TEXT BEN CHIA PHO­TOS AARON HIA

The new S90 pushes Volvo onto a whole new level of el­e­gance, class and lux­ury

olvo has al­ways sat in a rather queer po­si­tion in the mar­ket­place. They’re not quite a main­stream brand that com­petes with the likes of Volk­swa­gen or Ford. But they’re also not quite at the same level as the tra­di­tional pre­mium mar­ques such as BMW, Audi or Mercedes-benz. The Swedes have nom­i­nally oc­cu­pied the mid­dle ground of sorts, be­ing sort of nei­ther here nor there.

The new S90 aims to change that though. With this car, along with the XC90 that was launched last year, Volvo seeks to el­e­vate it­self into the pre­mium cat­e­gory at last, chal­leng­ing the Ger­mans for ex­ec­u­tive supremacy and break­ing out of its mar­ket quandary.

The S90, which re­places the S80, is tar­geted squarely at the likes of the 5 Se­ries and E-class. That’s a high ask, cer­tainly, but one which Volvo is con­fi­dent of con­quer­ing, or at least make a de­cent fist of it to be com­pet­i­tive in this seg­ment. And on the face of it, the Swedes do have some­thing on their hands which will give buyers in this class some­thing to think long and hard about.

If you equate Volvos with dull and bor­ing cars, then you should prob­a­bly take a good look at the S90 and bring your­self up to date with the 21st cen­tury. The S90 is far from un­ex­cit­ing, and in­deed, boasts looks that will cause on­look­ers to take a sec­ond glance. The sleek pro­file, the dis­tinc­tive front end fas­cia with its con­cave chrome grille book­ended by the head­lights which in­cor­po­rates Volvo’s now-trade­mark “Thor’s Ham­mer” LEDS, and the uniquely-de­signed rear end all com­bine to give the S90 a look that is in­stantly recog­nis­able, traits that will cer­tainly fare well for the youth­ful set who al­ways seek to stand out from the crowd.

The in­te­rior con­tin­ues from the XC90’S theme of modern Scan­di­na­vian de­sign, with the large ipad-like touch­screen dom­i­nat­ing the cen­tre con­sole, and is home to most of the ma­jor con­trols. They con­trast well with the in­te­rior trim­mings, a mix­ture of classy wood, gloss black plas­tic and soft leather. You al­most feel like you’re in a rather comfy Swedish wood cabin, but one that is packed with the lat­est modern tech­nolo­gies so that you don’t get bored and dis­con­nected.

But much more than am­bi­ence, the S90’s great­est tricks are the unseen ones un­der the skin. Volvo may have un­der­gone a de­sign revo­lu­tion in the past decade, but they have never ne­glected the un­der­ly­ing core phi­los­o­phy which have made them so fa­mous over the years:

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