ROAD TESTED: Volvo S90 D5 – Better than Little Red Riding Hood ever expected

The fairy tale is quite shocking – it probably keeps snowflakes up at night wondering how the old wolf disposed of grandma, but somehow our adaptation of the headline fitted too well to ignore it.

Wide, low and imposing, this Volvo S90 D5 Inscription AWD is set apart by its Thor’s hammer headlamps that glint like I’d imagine the old wolf’s eyes did, and interesting taillights that punctuate each end of its considerable length in chic style. Still a fresh and daringly different car in that spartan Volvo way, that fresh breath blows into a wonderful cabin integrally styled around a cool touchpad interface.

Under the skin, this S90 gets the 173kW 480Nm oil-burning version of Volvo’s modular 2-litre 4-pot for an impressive 7-second rush to 100km/h on our test strip. It also pulled from 80 to 120km/h in a most impressive 4.8 seconds while Volvo reckons it sip just 4.8l/100km, which is a bit presumptuous, but it’s enough of a miser anyway as it returns lower 7 litres per hundred every day.

Surefooted AWD

V90 is however quite lardy versus certain modern rivals – partly thanks to its all-wheel drive hardware, but its performance more or less matches lighter and less powerful rivals of similar ilk. Surefooted standard all-wheel drive certainly brings its own advantages though, easily offsetting any disadvantages elsewhere.

S90 is impressively dynamic on the road, albeit that it displays a more exclusive, more luxurious demeanour than some popular rivals, while its plush and welcoming cabin is a pleasant place to ride.

That big screen car control system – basically a tablet mounted on the dash to work most of the car’s faculties via touch control; audio commands or satellite controls without many knobs, however splits opinion.

I like what Volvo is trying to do there, but the Swedes have not really improved this system since it first appeared in the XC90 back in 2015. In those five years, the Germans have probably updated or completely renewed their systems five or six times each, which puts them on another infotainment planet.

So this system seems archaic in comparison to that glitzy latest Benz MBUX, BMW’s hugely interactive iDrive 7 and Audi’s most intuitive haptic MMI, which grace their most recent models. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Volvo’s system but it’s last season now and touch screen and voice alone has its issues – all factors that become patently clear once you’re used those more modern rival systems.

Still, I enjoyed the swipe aspects of that pad-like screen, but then it gets grimy from being touched too much and is too sensitive to the natural jarring movement of the car in motion, so you inevitably finger the wrong function, which is both annoying and disturbing on the road. Come on, Volvo – we’re waiting to witness what comes next in the form of top Swedish in-car infotainment…

Brim full of spec

Interestingly, our tester came brim-full of spec, which pushed the price from the sticker of under nine-hundred grand to just north of a bar. A 68 grand Premium Packadded keyless entry, splendid Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound, heated front pews and power operation for both the folding rear backrest and handsfree tailgate, a Park Pilot with a 360˚ Camera and auto dimming on all mirrors, as well as blind spot warning with cross traffic alert.

Add the R18K Enhanced Luxury Pack for 4-Zone Electronic climate control, heads-up display and smartphone integration and rear sun curtains and seventy-five grand’s worth of single options. That includes a perforated Nappa leather clad tailored dashboard and massaging front seats, a power sunroof with lack roof lining, a 230V power outlet, air suspension, those cool 19” 5-Triple Spoke wheels and metallic paint, too.

All in all, that makers for a hell of a lot of car for a bar. Don’t be scared by all those options or their cost – that’s all regular fare in this neck of the car woods amt it’s fun to specify and even more so to enjoy it all.

Overall, this big, luxurious, yet efficient and quite quick enough sexy Swede is a most likeable car – a glad car that certainly does beg attention in a neck of the woods dominated by the Hun. Time for a change? This Volvo is a really worthy candidate for just that – Michele Lupini

Images – Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Volvo S90 Geartronic D5 Inscription AWD
Engine: 173kW 480Nm 1969cc turbodiesel I4
Drive: 8-speed automatic AWD
0-60km/h       3.03 sec 
0-100km/h:     7.07 sec
0-160km/h      17.08 sec
400m:          14.9sec @ 151km/h              
80-120km/h:    4.89 sec
120-16okm/h    7.39 sec
Vmax:          240km/h
Fuel:          4.8 l/100km                           
CO2:           127 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y 100Kkm/5y 100Kkm
PRICE:         R898K
RATED:         7