Wheels (Australia) - - 2017 Car Of The Year - BY­RON MATHIOUDAK­IS

IF PROOF proper was ever needed that Volvo has suc­cess­fully tran­si­tioned from Ford’s decade-long Swedish play­thing to se­ri­ous lux­ury player un­der Chi­nese own­er­ship, then surely the S90 is it.

The big sedan from Gothen­burg (along with the al­lur­ing V90 Es­tate com­ing mid-year) is gate­crash­ing the BMW 5 Se­ries/mercedes-benz E-class/audi A6 big league with a num­ber of in­no­va­tions, in­clud­ing semi-au­ton­o­mous driveras­sist and ac­ci­dent-pre­ven­tion sys­tems. All are on top of the com­pany’s renowned pi­o­neer­ing oc­cu­pant-pro­tect­ing crash struc­tures.

Ef­fi­ciency, too, shines, with the S90 gain­ing a bevy of high-out­put low-con­sump­tion/emis­sions 2.0-litre four-cylin­der forced-in­duc­tion petrol and diesel pow­er­trains, the lat­ter in stri­dent 173kw/480nm D5 guise also ush­er­ing in a lag-slash­ing patented air com­pres­sor sys­tem for the tur­bocharger called Pow­er­pulse. The 235kw/400nm T6 range-top­per (for now) re­lies on a turbo and su­per­charger to de­liver its sub-6.0sec 0-100km/h sprint time.

Of course, pre­mium buy­ers re­spond with their hearts as much as with their heads, and here the big Volvo obliges with strik­ing aero-cheat­ing de­sign and beau­ti­fully crafted in­te­ri­ors. From the classy swipe-able cen­tre screen to the del­i­cate metal ig­ni­tion twist, you can sense the high-tech op­u­lence in­fused into this car’s grace­ful cabin pre­sen­ta­tion.

Ac­tual steer­ing feel, how­ever, is a re-volve­la­tion, frankly, since at last the helm feels con­nected to the front wheels, mak­ing the most of the pro­fi­cient han­dling and pre­dictable road­hold­ing. Whether on dry roads or dirt, the S90’s poise and agility makes it Gothen­burg’s best driver’s car in gen­er­a­tions. Bril­liant brak­ing fur­ther boosts our ad­mi­ra­tion.

Off­set­ting the chas­sis’ new­found cornering con­fi­dence, though, is too much steer­ing tug. Even the lowly D4 has a heady 400Nm cours­ing through to the front wheels; this diesel is also a lit­tle on the loud side. Two ail­ments the up­per-spec In­scrip­tion AWD al­ter­na­tives with avail­able lam­i­nated side glass don’t suf­fer from.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the chas­sis’ sporty bias comes at the ex­pense of ride com­fort. On the D4’s stan­dard sus­pen­sion set-up, the qual­ity de­te­ri­o­rates as the sur­faces do, re­sult­ing in an an­noy­ing, un­set­tled lumpi­ness that un­der­mines the model’s lux­ury in­tent. Con­versely, both pleas­ingly fleet (though at times strained­sound­ing) In­scrip­tion T6 AWDS boast rear air springs, for pal­pa­bly bet­ter bump ab­sorp­tion prop­er­ties.

So the S90 re­ally only works as a com­plete lux­ury car in the more up-spec mod­els, which then poses value ques­tions, since Volvo charges six fig­ures for spec that the some Ger­mans al­ready stan­dard­ise – in­clud­ing sur­round-view cam­era, Ap­ple Carplay/an­droid Auto, and dig­i­tal ra­dio. At least the Swedes aren’t as stingy as the Brits…

The dis­tinc­tive and charm­ing S90, then, is a small step for its class, and a mas­sive one for tran­si­tion­ing Volvo. But in the year where your di­rect op­po­nents in­clude the seg­men­tre­defin­ing E-class as well as the lush-rid­ing Jag XF, noth­ing less than a quan­tum leap for­ward is re­quired.

SPECS BODY Type 4- door sedan, 5 seats Boot ca­pac­ity 500 litres Weight 1718 – 1848kg DRIVETRAIN Lay­out front en­gine ( east-west), FWD/ AWD Engines 1969cc 4cyl turbo (187kw/ 350Nm); 1969cc 4cyl turbo + su­per­charger ( 235kw/400nm) 1969cc 4cyl turbo-...

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