Volvo S90 Profile Shot

Five Reasons You Want to Drive the New Volvo S90

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Volvo unveiled its sexy new range-topper S90 sedan last week. Before you can even see it in person at any auto show, we can tell you there are at least five reasons — and probably many more — you should want to take one for a drive.

1. It’s all about the powertrains.

Volvo S90 T8 emblem
Photo: Volvo Cars

Volvo’s powertrain game has been on point the last couple of years, in case you haven’t noticed. The company hasn’t made a lot of noise about it, necessarily — that wouldn’t be very Swedish of them, after all — but their new T6 turbo- and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is among the best in the business. The turbocharged-only T5 variant of that same engine is a compelling option, as well.

I had an opportunity to experience both in the Volvo V60 wagon and S60 sedan.

The T5 Drive-E engine I drove had kind of a split personality. Stay out of the boost, and it was docile — but prod the throttle and spool up the turbo, and it rewarded with surprisingly strong pull. It was capable of achieving good fuel economy while maintaining a power reserve to get me out of trouble when needed.

The T6 Drive-E engine I drove took the T5 Drive-E’s mannerisms, dialed up the overall horsepower a bit, and added a little more urgency at the low end courtesy of the supercharger.

Volvo S60 T6 Engine photo
This is the T6 Drive-E engine under the hood of the 2015.5 Volvo S60. This engine will be available in the all-new Volvo S90, the automaker said. Photo: Lyndon Johnson

Both the T5 and T6 will be nice in the S90, no doubt, but the real superstar is likely to be the all-new T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid powertrain. Despite its name, it is not two engines — more like an efficient turbo- and supercharged T6 engine operating alongside an electric powertrain.

Some who have been lucky enough to drive the T8 Twin Engine in the Volvo XC90 say its fuel economy isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind, though it surely offers a welcome boost in efficiency over non-hybrid XC90s. It also gives drivers the option to utilize electric power to either boost low-end torque off the line or to allow zero-emission commuting in city centers.

In the Volvo S90, this powertrain has even more potential. The S90 should be lighter than the Swedes’ largest SUV, and it’ll be a darn sight more aerodynamic. It will be interesting to see what kind of fuel economy numbers it can return because of those factors alone.

2. Just look at the thing.

Volvo S90 Profile Shot
Photo: Volvo Cars

The S90 reportedly will take the place of the S80 as Volvo’s top sedan. Several sources are quoting BMW 5 Series as the size target. There will be no mistaking this sexy Swede for anything related to Bavaria’s beauties — and that’s a great thing.

Featuring a number of hallmarks set to become Volvo signature design elements, the S90 will be instantly recognizable as Swedish as it approaches you thanks to its “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlight design also seen on the new XC90. The rear of the S90 will feature a completely new bracket-like taillight design that I would expect to see on future Volvo sedans of all denominations.

Volvo S90 Rear Shot
Photo: Volvo Cars

The S90 will have a long, low hood leading the way to Volvo’s signature taut, understated lines as one’s eye progresses down the rest of the car. A tidy greenhouse design and short decklid put the bow on the attractive package.

In short, I wouldn’t mind a bit if you saw me driving a Volvo S90 thanks largely to its good looks.

3. That interior.

Volvo S90 Blond leather interior
Photo: Volvo Cars

I’ve gone on-record in the past to admire Volvo’s Swedish interior design sensibilities in the last couple of model years. The V60 and S60 feature one of the cleanest, most user-friendly interior designs in which I’ve had the pleasure to drive.

From the photos Volvo shared, it appears the S90 will take things up a notch. There’s a broad, simple dashboard and the vertical-oriented tablet-like Sensus Connect infotainment screen mounted in the middle. The wood trim is matte finish and light in color, adding a touch of natural luxury without making the interior too dark or dour.

True to Volvo, the controls look as if they’ll be both simple to operate and pleasing to the touch — right down to the matte silver knobs protruding from the center of each thoughtfully sculpted air vent. And of course, one should expect the seats to be the most comfortable in the business. Though we’re not given a good photo view of them in the official Volvo press release, what we’re able to see looks like perforated leather with extendable seat cushions — presumably heated and ventilated, at least optionally.

4. It’s Volvo’s safety tech halo car.

Volvo S90 Animal Detection
Animal Detection promises to spotlight animals in the roadway and help the driver avoid colliding with them in the Volvo S90. Photo: Volvo Cars

Volvo has boldly proclaimed it doesn’t want anyone to be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo car by the year 2020. Perhaps you’re saying that’s a pretty lofty goal — and perhaps I’m silently agreeing — but you gotta give Volvo credit for trying.

Anyway, part of Volvo’s pursuit of that goal is a gentle roll-out of near-autonomous drive technologies. To wit, the Volvo S90 should include semi-autonomous driving tech such as pedestrian detection, auto braking for collision avoidance, lane-keeping assistance, radar cruise control with the capability to stop and start in heavy traffic, and a full complement of the usual suspects like airbags and traction control.

Bottom line: Volvo sedans have built much of their reputation on being the safest you can buy, and the newest sedan in the family looks set to continue that tradition with the most advanced safety tech ever available in a Volvo. If you want a taste of the gee-whiz safety and autonomous driving technologies that we keep hearing are just around the bend, the Volvo S90 will be a car you’ll want to take for a test drive.

5. Volvo hasn’t ruled out a Polestar performance model of the S90.

Volvo S60 Polestar 2016
This is a 2016 Volvo S60 Polestar. Imagine this sporty treatment on the new S90’s sexy sheet metal. Photo: Volvo Cars

After the world spent a couple days buzzing about the S90’s unveiling, someone had to ask the question: Would Volvo be building a Polestar performance model of the range-topping sedan?

According to Britain’s Autocar, Volvo head honcho Hakan Samuelsson said, “You could have a high-performance variant [of the S90] without leaving the brand. You could still have a nice car with smart design and functionality, but what’s wrong with a little performance?”

Not a thing, in our book.

Volvo Research and Development Chief Peter Mertens agreed with his boss and even suggested an S90 Polestar might be based around the hybrid T8 Twin Engine powertrain.

“Polestar will still be sophisticated performance; it’s not just a case of doing a ‘boy racer’ by dropping a big engine in there,” Mertens said. “Hybrid power is the direction that Polestar will go in. In a way, Tesla has legitimised electric performance, although Polestar will be more sophisticated again. We want to be able to offer high performance without regrets.”

Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson is a husband and father of two who has now spent more of his life as a journalist than as a non-journalist. He serves as assistant editor at his hometown weekly paper in rural Tennessee and freelances in the automotive journalism world.