The secret to looking effortlessly interesting has been a hallmark of Scandinavian design. I admit to being a Scandiphile and there is very little by way of product design that I do not like. There is that absolute knack of fusing the right proportions with an exquisite mix of materials that have become distinctly Scandinavian. Step into the any contemporary Volvo and you will feel this immediately. Unlike the meatier, more Teutonic styling that has been pervasive in the luxury car market, represented by the mighty German marques, Volvo interiors are orchestrated very differently.
The interior of the S90 is swathed with a variety of luxurious materials. Open pore driftwood panels and supple Nappa leather gently lend themselves as a backdrop to the edgier metallic accents found throughout the cabin. As the flagship of the Volvo brand, there is little to fault and a lot to like.
I don’t know about you, but a car’s interior is very important. Feeling good while seated inside is perhaps a little bit more important than looking good outside. A great architect once told me that I should spend more money furnishing a house than building a beautiful exterior. His reasoning is simple: you spend most of your time in your own home.
The Volvo’s dash is dominated by a touchscreen display that’s central to almost all the functions found in the S90, and there are many. If you have ever used a tablet, you should know how to navigate the system on the Volvo, but there is this question about the omission of physical switches to control often-used functions.
Having to wade through the touchscreen means you’ll end up taking your eyes off the road (which you shouldn’t) and this is a disconnect to Volvo’s safety-first DNA. I received a call on my phone (paired to the car via Apple CarPlay) and proceeded to search for the ‘answer’ button usually found on steering wheels, and…I failed to find it (though I’m told later that it can be done). The call was eventually answered through a virtual button on the centre display. I’m aware it’s a matter of getting used to but answering a call should really be simpler.
Inscription Plus specification does bring forth a Bowers & Wilkins 19-speaker premium sound system on the S90. It’s hard to find a better sound system in this class, having sampled Burmeister, Mark Levinson, Meridien and other premium systems in other cars. I would rate the sonic fidelity offered by B&W to be amongst the best in class – low noise floor, palpable sound-staging, tonally neutral with good dynamic range. Now add those comfy seats and I could be lounging at home with the music playing in background.
While Volvo’s iterative design language has been honed over several generations, the latest one is probably the classiest and coolest yet. I caught myself, several times, glancing back at the car to admire the its low-slung silhouette and chiselled lines.
But there’s more to this than meets the eye, well, exactly 407bhp and 640Nm of combined combustion and electric output under the S90’s sculptured hood, which facilitates a sub five-second idle to 100km/h achievement. That said, power isn’t really the point of this car (it weighs slightly over two tonnes, portly for a mid-size saloon), but you can bank on its instantaneous grunt (and all-wheel drive traction) when you need to, yet cruise near-silently and comfortably on pure electric mode on more dignified occasions. The T8 offers that depth in character.
Being a Volvo, the S90 is expectedly packed with pretty much every safety feature you can think of. Lane keeping assist, blind spot warning, pedestrian detection, the list goes on. But that’s minor leagues compared to the semi-autonomous Pilot Assist II system. Yes, you still need to keep your hands on the wheel most of the time (or it’ll shut off after multiple warnings), but it is comforting to know that the S90 is always looking after your back.
Having said that, the high-tech nannies do sometimes get in the way of the driving, and I found myself disabling certain features when driving in town. Your own experience may vary depending on how much you like (or dislike) taking the wheel.
The renaissance brand
The S90 T8 is yet another feather in Volvo’s renaissance cap. The time when Volvo cars only appealed to fans, die-hards and Scandiphiles like myself has come to pass. they are cool and sophisticated these days, yet stay true to the core of being human-centric and approachable. In the S90 T8 Inscription Plus, there isn’t much more I could ask for in a premium executive saloon; whether it’s about reducing carbon footprint through the S90 T8’s 50km zero emission range or being reassured by its moose-avoidance capabilities, there is something for everyone in this Swede that I’d like to take home.
Volvo S90 T8 Inscription Plus
Price: RM388,888 Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder w/ hybrid electric motor, AWD Battery capacity: 10.4kWh Output: 407hp/640Nm (combined output, when available) Transmission: 8-speed auto w/ steering shift paddles Performance: 0-100km/h in 4.8s; top speed 250km/h Wheels/tyres: 255/40 R19 (F&R) Safety: 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control Warranty: 5-year/120,000km