Review :2022 Volvo S90 is luxury you can (almost) afford
It's beautiful inside and out and with a vast rear seat, yet it costs less than 70 grand? It's a bargain.
What is it?
Sweden's answer to the enduring battle of luxury sedans. Titans like BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and Lexus have been duking it out with luxury mini-limos for decades, but there is another option that many fail to register: Volvo. And, for the price alone, it ought to be a serious contender and option for anyone. While Germany's entries will set you back nearly $100,000 for a plus-size saloon, this Swede is a startling bargain at (comfortably) under $70,000 with every option box ticked. It's insanely good value, but also a lovely car to drive (and be driven in).
Quite a lot. Starting with the outside, I'm rather fond of the understatedly handsome exterior design that has become so synonymous with Volvo and Swedish architecture. In the age of grilles that seem to grow like a rat's teeth (looking at you, Munich), it's refreshing to see something so relatively toned down. You don't need a shiny, striped suit to look good and command attention - sometimes a plain, tailored black tux is the best choice.
Open up the doors and you'll be greeted by an interior crafted to artisan standards. The materials, everywhere, are top notch and give the obvious impression that this is a premium product. The seats are particularly comfortable and supportive, and with a raft of adjustments to tailor the leather and padding to your body.
The cabin's overall aesthetic is another high point, following the classy sheet metal's theme to create an unmistakable air of simplified elegance. But perhaps the biggest win for the S90 lies in the back. From the driver's seat, turning my head to glance behind me revealed a shocking amount of rear leg room. With a 6' 2" friend back there, he could nearly stretch his legs all the way out straight and not hit the front seats. Not exaggerating, I don't think I've ever seen this much rear leg room besides an actual Vegas limousine. There's enough space on the floor to have an archaeological excavation. In fact, some paleo archaeologists wish they had this much room to work with; It's huge, in other words. Oh, and the rear seats are remarkably comfortable, too. Duh.
The dash is completely digital and the view can be changed to whatever you prefer to view. My favorite was the implementation of the navigation between the gauges, with a clear and non-distracting map view giving turn-by-turn directions being extremely helpful while traversing through the San Francisco Bay Area's notorious traffic. There are a few gripes electronically inside, but I'll save that for later.
To no surprise, I found the S90 a delight to pilot. On a 300 mile road trip to Bodega Bay for friends' surprise engagement (the perfect vehicle to chauffer the newly engaged couple afterwards, mind you), the S90 was quiet (though not quite the vacuum of space that is a trait of more expensive rivals) and respectfully comfortable, owing to the seats and a plush yet controlled ride from the suspension. Steering is mostly direct (just a tiny bit of inaccuracy due the more relaxed ratio) and has a balance to the weighting to avoid feeling too heavy nor too light like a toy. Sure, feedback through the wheel is non-existent, but this is a luxury car - you don't want to feel vibrations and tremors through the wheel like it's a Porsche GT car. Through some twisting bits, it's happier to cruise, but if you throw some steering input and throttle at it, the S90 will diligently oblige with little fuss and a keenness that belies its mission and size. Overall, a very fine driving machine, but not exactly exciting. Is it the best driving large sedan? No, but it's plenty good on its own. Remember the price difference here...
Under the hood rests a complicated affair, but one that works brilliantly in the real world. It's a 2-liter four-cylinder that's helped by a turbocharger, a supercharger, and a mild hybrid system, accumulating 295 horsepower in the process and a peak torque rating of 310. Power delivery is smooth and immediate thanks to all the assistance the little combustion engine receives, and doesn't even sound all too bad; Unwanted vibrations that are inherent of four-bangers are also minimized luckily. 0-60 MPH, aided also by AWD on this model, happens in a reasonable 5.5 seconds. Performance tapers off once you reach freeway speeds, but the initial punch and response is quite convincing here. The best attribute, though, of this complex powertrain? Fantastic fuel economy. Highway mileage, and remember just how large this car is again, is a stellar 32 MPG at my tested 72 MPH, and overall economy was a fab 27 in mixed driving. Often these little engines are so overworked that they don't deliver in the real world, but this unit delivers.
I just about praised the entire car, didn't I? It isn't that one-sided, however, with a few annoyances cropping up here and there. Actually, it all has to do with the electronics. The center display screen, doing its damndest to look like an iPad, is particularly fussy to use at basically all times. I've had other Volvos this year that had what must have been an entirely new generation of user interface, as the S90's system looked like a blockier and less vibrant edition. I found it similar to the transition from iOS 6 iOS 7, then a substantial update to the overall look of one's iPhone.
Besides the interface design, it was sometimes laggy to downright freezing. When browsing satellite radio, for instance, selecting a new channel revealed it was stuck on displaying the name of a prior station, with the artist and song also frozen in time. That lasted an entire day and many starts and stops to let the car reset. The next day, it just magically fixed itself. The order of operations aren't ideal, too, with constantly going backwards to go forwards in some cases, or having to rely on swiping screens instead of a back arrow. Further, accessing the climate in-screen was a nuisance and proved unpolished with several cases of touches not registering or being delayed and then registering multiple touches as you frantically keep clicking. Oh, and sometimes the air would be on full blast with the fan only on setting one or two? Hmm. The new system is definitely better from the V90 and XC90, so that would be a welcome update. Also strange was an inability to have both the top-view and rear-view cameras on at the same time displaying. Other cars can, it has the screen real estate to do it, so why not? Awkward to have to switch between them in a difficult parking maneuver.
Apart from that, the on/off switch is odd to use as it rotates clockwise for both starting and turning off; Wouldn't it make more sense for clockwise on and counterclockwise for off? It's uncomfortable to grasp, too, and I figure it'd be better if it was rotated 90 degrees for its starting point. And another complaint, this being the case of it being too good, is the heated steering wheel itself. Be careful with turning it on full blast. It will roast your hands.
A worthy luxury sedan regardless of the price.
Going into this, I had no idea what the S90 cost. I actually figured it must've carried a sticker of over $80,000 due to the competition of extended sedans and the quality onboard. To see a substantially cheaper price was greeted enthusiastically. Even better, an S90 starts at barely above $50,000 if you want to forgo a few options. The fact a vehicle this large costs less than equivalently-equipped BMW 5-series and Mercedes E classes rather than their big brother 7s and S-classes speaks volumes. Indeed, the true competition might come from Genesis' G90, another luxury sedan that comes at great value. But, a Volvo customer is a different type of customer, the kind who views other luxury products as vulgar and ostentatious. The Volvo customer isn't the type to have a garish Louis Vuitton bag or wallet with all the little LVs scattered about to remind yourself and others of your supposed superiority. The Volvo driver doesn't need that. The Volvo driver wants a first-class experience, but they know they don't need to shout about it.
2022 Volvo S90 B6 AWD R-Design
As-tested Price: $64,540
Pros: Astounding value, handsome inside and out, HUGE back seat
Cons: electronic gremlins related to center display screen
Verdict: For the price, it's nigh impossible to do better.