The bright brigade

The four-door flag­ship shows dis­tinc­tive Volvo qual­ity and style

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - CRAIG DUFF

THE prob­lem with flag­ship mod­els is that car mak­ers in­vest all their ef­forts into ve­hi­cles very few peo­ple get to drive.

The prob­lem for Volvo will be con­vinc­ing peo­ple to drive the S90 when the same money will put you be­hind the wheel of some­thing with a more cred­i­ble pres­tige badge, from Audi’s A6 to the Lexus GS.

Volvo Cars Aus­tralia boss Kevin McCann con­cedes that mak­ing in­roads will be tough and fore­casts 15-20 sales a month for the large lux­ury sedan, in a seg­ment that has av­er­aged about 320 sales a month this year.

McCann is much more am­bi­tious about the wagon ver­sions that ar­rive next year. “We’ve al­ways done well in wag­ons and the V90 will give us a chance to push that seg­ment and re­claim some of the SUV buy­ers,” he says.

The S90 still shows what Volvo can do in terms of de­sign and tech­nol­ogy, with a dis­tinc­tive Scan­di­na­vian out­look on what con­sti­tutes lux­ury.

That trans­lates into clean tex­tures and a sense of spa­cious­ness in­side. The S90’s tablet-styled touch­screen has en­abled Volvo to ditch most of the phys­i­cal switchgear and the cabin ben­e­fits from the un­clut­tered look.

The lat­est driver aids are in­stalled across the range, though some won’t ap­pre­ci­ate hav­ing to pay $3000 for Ap­ple CarPlay con­nec­tiv­ity as part of a tech pack bun­dle. An­droid Auto is “com­ing”.

The 500L boot is long and deep and looks ca­pa­ble of swal­low­ing a swag of suit­cases. There’s also four-way air­con­di­tion­ing and fit­ting vents into the pil­lars is an op­tion.

ON THE ROAD

Turn the start but­ton be­tween the seats and the 2.0-litre tur­bocharged and su­per­charged petrol engine whirrs into life with a pur­pose­ful note. That sound be­comes more ag­i­tated as the revs rise with­out ever be­ing coarse, even if there’s not much au­di­tory char­ac­ter.

The engine copes well with the weight of the big sedan though ac­cel­er­a­tion is steady rather than scin­til­lat­ing.

There’s plenty of char­ac­ter in­side the car, from the at­ten­tion to de­tail in the speaker fin­ish (ask the dealer) to the leather-wrapped dash and seats.

Sur­pris­ingly for a car of this ilk, the steer­ing wheel ad­just­ment is a man­ual, rather than mo­torised, op­er­a­tion. A first-world prob­lem, I know, but first im­pres­sions count and ad­just­ing the tiller should be one of the first things drivers do in a new car.

Once un­der way, Cars­guide tests and then turns off the Pilot As­sist func­tion that is de­signed to help the car fol­low the road. When it works it works well, keep­ing the car on a con­stant ra­dius around the bends and adapt­ing speed to the ve­hi­cle in front.

When it doesn’t work it wants to hug the left side of the lane and in some cases puts the tyres on a rum­ble strip be­fore I in­ter­vene.

The sus­pen­sion works well on the test route but I sus­pect some of our more pock­marked back roads may in­ter­rupt the oth­er­wise serene cabin am­bi­ence. No fault­ing the brakes though, with good ini­tial bite and sav­age re­tar­da­tion if the pedal is pressed to the floor.

The diesel sounds like an oil­burner on start but is hard to pick once un­der way.

There was only one oc­ca­sion where it and the eight-speed

VOLVO S90 IN­SCRIP­TION

PRICE $96,900$98,900 plus on-roads WAR­RANTY 3 years/un­lim­ited km CAPPED SER­VIC­ING $2930 over 3 years SER­VICE INTERVAL 12 months/15,000km SAFETY Not rated, 7 airbags ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl twin-charged, 235kW/400Nm; 2.0-litre 4-cyl twin turbo diesel, 173kW/480Nm TRANS­MIS­SION 8-speed auto; AWD THIRST 5.1L-7.5L/100km DI­MEN­SIONS 4963mm (L), 1890mm (W), 1443mm (H), 2941mm (WB) WEIGHT 1843kg SPARE Space-saver auto failed to synch, re­sult­ing in a mo­ment’s lag.

VER­DICT

Volvo still knows how to build a qual­ity car. The S90 shows its com­pe­tence in all ar­eas and the fit and fin­ish are hard to fault. It is also priced ac­cord­ingly, which may de­ter some prospec­tive own­ers from tak­ing it for a spin. That will be their loss.

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