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Volvo S90 T5 Inscription: Stylish, smooth and safe

By Ghaith Madadha - Jun 12,2018 - Last updated at Jun 12,2018

Photo courtesy of Volvo

Introduced in 2016 as the second of a new generation of a car, the Volvo S90 is the Swedish manufacturer’s most concerted effort to secure a more grounded footing in the mostly German-dominated executive saloon car segment. 

A thoroughly more convincing luxury midsize car than its S80 predecessor, the S90 puts emphasis on a sharp new design language, comfortable, welcoming and luxurious interiors and high tech equipment. And in keeping with Volvo’s long-standing commitment to safety, the S90 is offered with an extensive suite of standard and optional driver assistance systems.


Imposing presence


Positioned somewhere between its Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6 rivals, the S90 design may be new, cutting edge and futuristic, but its character is rooted in a sense of no-nonsense solidity, conservatism, grand presence and tradition, not too unlike the E-Class. However, as one of very few convincing executive cars offered with front-wheel-drive — including the featured T5 Inscription model, as driven in Amman — and optional four-wheel-drive for range-topping petrol and hybrid models, the S90 follows a similar path as Audi, with design, safety and technology firmly in the foreground.

With its upright fascia and broad chrome ringed grille with dominant Volvo emblem and concave vertical slats, the S90 strikes and imposing presence vaguely hinting at past designs, but with a thoroughly modern direction. Elegantly stylish and with flowing and rakish roofline, the S90 featured sculpted surfacing and dramatic U-shaped boomerang style rear lights and signature “Thor’s Hammer” LED elements to its slim front lights in a nod to its Scandinavian provenance. Long, wide and low, with elegantly long wheelbase and rear overhang, the S90 sits on the road with an elegantly luxurious demeanour.


Effortless and efficient


The S90’s short front overhang, long bonnet and distance between wheel arch apex and A-pillar suggest classical rear drive proportions. However, Volvo’s flagship saloon in fact rides on the brand’s new transverse engine and front-wheel-drive based Scalable Product Architecture platform. Powered by 2-litre turbocharged petrol or diesel engines (or hybrid powertrain) mated to a slick 8-speed automatic gearbox across the range (and optional four-wheel-drive), the tested front-drive T5 model sits in the middle of the petrol-powered model range, between 187BHP T4 and 316BHP T6 variants.

Smooth, refined and with a broad, willing and muscular mid-range providing effortless and accessible versatility, the S90 T5 developing 250BHP at 5,500rpm and 258lb/ft throughout 1500-4800rpm. Tractable from low-end and with a hint of torque-steer at full throttle, owing to so much power going through the front wheels, the T5 is quick through 0-100km/h in 6.8-seconds, and tops out at 230km/h. At its best riding on its bulging mid-range torque plateau, the T5 is brisk in town, on highway and through winding inclines. Meanwhile, its quoted 6.7-litres/100km combined cycle consumption is reflected with real world fuel efficiency, as observed.


Confidence and comfort


Resolutely stable and quiet at speed, smooth and comfortable in town and ergonomic inside, the S90 character is one that inspires — and rewards — a less harried and more relaxed and careful driving style. Not that it lacks the power to whoosh past slower traffic with flexibility and authority, but one drives with a sense of confident ease and comfort in its classy cabin. Not rising to the bait of being irked as other less pertinent drivers overtake even, the S90’s indulgent ride and ambiance even perhaps imbues one with a hint of self-satisfied and detached arrogance.

A thoroughly modern midsize luxury car with an old school sense of substance and relaxed comfort rather than over sports saloon, the S90, however, handles with better confidence than expected of a large 1755kg front-driven luxury saloon. Responsive, alert and tidy in turn-in and body control when driven briskly, the S90 T5’s instinct is for slight initial understeer if driven too brashly in such a situations, while light lift-off oversteer helps tighten a cornering line, as stability controls kick in decisively. Brakes are meanwhile reassuring and steering accurate with three levels of assistance to choose from the driving mode menu.

Unpretentious luxury


Comfortable, smooth and settled ride over most imperfections, the S90 well absorbs road textures and bumps, while stylishly big 19-inch alloy wheels with 255/40R19 tyres offered good steering and braking control. However, one felt that smaller base model 17- or Inscription trim entry-level 18-inch tyres would be better suited for some local roads, and would likely provide an supple ride quality and added layer of comfort over the more sudden and jagged cracks, lumps and bumps on Amman roads. Meanwhile, slightly firmer damping would have been nice through such mid-corner imperfections for slightly sportier and more tautly buttoned down handling.

Well finished inside, the S90’s cabin in upscale Inscription specification level features stylish and user-friendly layouts and infotainment system, well-adjustable leather seating and quality materials, including lovely matt wood trim for a warm and welcoming and luxurious, yet, unpretentious ambiance.

Cabin space is mostly generous front and rear, including rear legroom, while boot volume is well accommodating at 500-litres. Visibility is also mostly good despite thick safety-minded pillars, but nonetheless, the S90’s blind spot warning system, parking assistance, sensors and camera help one manoeuvre in even the tightest spots. Meanwhile, equipment levels are generous in terms of convenience, comfort, safety and assistance.



Engine: 2-litre, turbocharged, all-aluminium, transverse 4-cylinders

Bore x stroke: 82 x 93.2mm

Compression ratio: 10.8:1

Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC, direct injection, variable valve timing

Gearbox: 8-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive

Ratios: 1st 5.25:1; 2nd 3.029:1; 3rd 1.95:1; 4th 1.457:1; 5th 1.22; 6th 1:1; 7th 0.809:1; 8th 0.673:1

Reverse/final drive ratios: 4.015:1/3.075:1

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 250 (254) [187] @5500rpm

Specific power: 127BHP/litre

Power-to-weight: 142.4BHP/tonne

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 258 (350) @1,500-4800rpm

Specific torque: 177.7Nm/litre

Torque-to-weight: 199.4Nm/tonne

0-100km/h: 6.8-seconds

Top speed: 230km/h

Fuel consumption, combined: 6.7-litres/100km 

CO2 emissions, combined: 152g/km

Fuel capacity: 55-litres

Length: 4,963mm

Width: 1,879mm

Height: 1,443mm

Wheelbase: 2941mm

Track, F/R: 1,628/1,629mm

Ground clearance: 152mm

Luggage volume: 500-litres

Unladen weight: 1755kg

Steering: Speed sensitive electric-assisted rack & pinion

Turning Circle: 11.4-metres

Suspension, F/R: Double wishbones/integral axle

Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs

Braking distance, 100-0km/h: 35-metres

Tyres: 255/40R19

Price, on-the-road, third party insurance: JD46,900

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