The 2017 Volvo S90 is far from the Swedish automaker’s first attempt at breaking into the big luxury sedan segment, but it has to be its most credible effort yet.
This is a 41-year-old ad for the Volvo 164, pretty much your average Volvo sedan that was loaded up with a six-cylinder engine, leather seats and essentially every option available from the factory. And it was trying to compete with the most prestigious luxury sedans available in the U.S. at the time. Short story made shorter: Volvo’s attempt to make intellectual luxury work didn’t take.
The 2017 S90 launched at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show has so much more going for it. What helps its case most is the success of the redesigned XC90 crossover that Volvo launched last year. That three-row SUV has been proof people will pay $65,000 for a Volvo and consider it a luxury vehicle.
And the S90 shares a lot with the XC90. There’s a clean design which looks elegant in just about every setting. If you like big slabs of chrome or an aggressive chin spoilers and air intakes, Lincoln and BMW have similarly sized sedans they’d like to sell you, too.
The interior is also covered in roughly the same appointments as you get in the XC90. That means it’s dominated by a vertical touch screen that controls navigation, radio, climate and vehicle settings. It’s quick to use, has great visual quality and is accurately compared to something like an iPad. But the real luxury inside is the high-quality leather, wood and metal you can get in the Volvo. The S90 can compete with anything Audi throws at it.
What will likely appeal to the intellectual luxury set are the engines. The S90 T6 will be offered with a four-cylinder engine that puts out 316 horsepower, while the T8 straps and electric motor to that, effectively turning the S90 into a plug-in hybrid and offering around 400 horsepower. You can have your performance and economy, too.
If your impression of Volvo is a dirty wagon that smells of children and dogs, it’s worth heading to a dealership this spring when the 2017 S90 arrives. Or go now and look at an XC90. But the S90 is a sign that the company known for making practical boxes can also do seductive curves well. And they’ve finally found a balance between both common sense features and luxuries you’d want to indulge in.