2017 VOLVO S90 T6 AWD HITS AND MISSES

Focusing in on Sweden’s flagship sedan

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A near identical twin of this gorgeous Volvo won a comparison test last November based on the strength of its bold, unique design, Scandinavian minimalist luxury interior, and impressive value proposition and on the robust performance of its twin-charged 2.0-liter engine. That car was also a strong contender to take home our Car of the Year calipers, but it came it up a little short in a few areas—one biggie being the tire noise emanating from the optionally upsized 255/35R20 Pirelli P Zero tires. Well, five months on we borrowed another S90 T6, again in Mussel Blue Metallic, and burned a tank of gas crisscrossing lower Michigan on a variety of different types of roads to see how those initial impressions are holding up.

More on the Volvo S90:


STILL 2 LOUD!

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD Michelins

To make this drive more interesting, we managed to wrangle a test car fitted with one of Volvo’s alternative all-season tire offerings: Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+ in the same 20-inch size. It’s hard to generalize about tire brands, but we often find Michelins to deliver a slightly better ride and lower noise than their direct competitors. Not here. Perhaps Volvo’s performance specs are so stringent that every OE fitment tire is destined to roar on aggregate asphalt surfaces. The aggressive tread pattern is probably partly responsible, but the folks who signed off on the level of sound deadening on the wheelhouses deserve plenty of blame here, too. We recommend test driving the standard 19-inch tires to see if cushier sidewalls reduce the din at all. (The 19s will also save $800.)


Start Me Up

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD key fob

One of our favorite things about the S90 is how un-German it is, how fresh and original so many aspects of its design are. Even the key and the start and drive-mode buttons are unique. Buy a T6, and the key is swathed in leather matching the interior upholstery. (This one is “keyed” to the “linear walnut” wood—an accessory item that costs about $50 per key.) The fob not only looks cool, but it also features buttons placed on the skinny edges, not the broad flat front or back. This makes it vastly less likely that crouching or maneuvering with the key in a pants pocket will set the alarm blaring or lock/unlock the car inadvertently. It’s also cool to twist the start/stop button and roll and press the barrel-shaped mode switch.


Knurly

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD Knurly

These beautifully sculpted knobs control the flow from all the dash vents. Twist them 90 degrees clockwise to shut off flow; slide them left, right, up, or down to direct their flow. They’re highly intuitive, attractive, and pleasant to the touch.


Insta-Hot

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD climate controls

It should come as no surprise that the Scandinavians are exceptionally adept at producing effective seat heaters. We knew the front seats were speedy to heat up (the folks up there are the ones making the payments), but on this trip our rear-seat passengers also reported very quick response to the request for full-strength heat. After all, most of Sweden enjoys a subarctic climate (five to seven months of below-freezing average temperatures).


Throwing Shade

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD window shade

What the Scandinavians are less accustomed to is bright light—much of the country is dark most of the day in the dead of winter. And maybe Swedish paparazzi are also less aggressive. In any case, the S90 Inscription trim grade includes rear sun curtains for the main side door glass (which don’t cover the windows thoroughly) but not for the rear quarter windows or for the main rear window where a lot of the sun comes in to bake an interior in the summer.


Long Legged

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD rear interior seats

The 2018 Volvo S90’s biggest update is that the car will only be offered in a new-to-the-U.S. long-wheelbase form. The car will be built in China, just as the S60 Inscription long-wheelbase model is, but whereas the S60’s 3.1-inch wheelbase stretch improves legroom from 33.5 to 36.9 inches, the 2017 S90’s legroom starts out at a mighty generous 35.9 inches—sufficient for our 6-foot-plus-tall rear-seat occupants. This begs the question, how tall are these Chinese plutocrats?

Learn about the 2018 Volvo S90 HERE.


Where From?

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD VIN

Let’s all face it. Even though Volvos are likely to be designed in Sweden by Swedes for the foreseeable future, more of them are going to be assembled in China in the years to come. Perhaps looking forward to that day, it’s a little tough to figure out where this car was born just by looking at it. Mind you, all the glass is proudly emblazoned with its source country—Poland—for the windshield and backlite, Sweden for the acoustic laminated front and rear door glass, and Czech Republic for the little rear quarter windows. But look on the main VIN plate on the driver’s B-pillar, and there are no clues. A glance at the parts content box on the window sticker confirms that this car was assembled in Gothenburg with parts contents coming primarily from Sweden (40 percent) and Germany (15 percent) and a Swedish engine and a Japanese transmission.


Swedish Leather

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD leather

There’s certainly no question where the soft Nappa leather was sewn together, as evidenced by this precious little Swedish flag sewn into the front passenger seat back rest.


Poky Camera

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD camera

We love 360-degree camera views. They really simplify maneuvering in tight spaces, and they make for humorous views of matchbox-size S90s parking amid sky-scraper-tall vehicles. This peculiar drone’s-eye view is of course stitched together from four wide-angle camera lenses that aim downward at the ground. Well, apparently the processing power to stitch this image together doesn’t wake up instantly. And it also seems that the Volvo’s computer systems are a little like a laptop—key off, and it sleeps; leave it off for an extended time, and it hibernates, from which it takes longer to resume. Jump in, key on, and engage reverse quickly during a sleep incident, and the 360-degree image appears on the screen in about a second. Wake it from a deep slumber, and it can take a good five count (by which time I’m out of my parking space and engaging Drive).


Sound Sculpture

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD speakers

Most luxury cars blend wood, metal, and leather in their interiors, but the way Volvo sculpts its wood, laser-drills its aluminum speaker grilles, and forms its door pulls seems special. Even more special is the sound quality coming out of this $3,200 Bowers & Wilkins sound system. Sampled back to back with the fabulous Bose Panaray setup in the Cadillac CT6 and the Burmester option in the Mercedes E-Class last November, I found the B&W system to deliver the richest, clearest, and best separated sound of the bunch.