Remember the Volvo cars of yesterday? They were all boxy and conservative, meant for those that believed luxury was the antithesis of vehicular safety. Thankfully, those days have changed – as have the vehicles currently being produced by Volvo. It’s metamorphosis any butterfly could appreciate.
Late last year, this writer drove the Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription SUV and truly loved it. More than “just another big SUV”, the XC90 has character to go with its infinite luxurious traits. The same holds true for the 2018 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription, a more traditional look for Volvo, albeit with swooping and aristocratic body lines, traits Volvo (or any manufacturer) might have difficulty achieving in an SUV.
The 2018 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription all-wheel-drive sedan is powered by a turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder, directly-injected 2-liter engine that makes a whopping 316 horsepower at 5,700 rpm together with 295 lb-ft of torque at a heady 5,400 rpm. Volvo matches this engine to an eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission featuring start/stop and adaptive shift.
With this start/stop shutoff feature the Volvo’s engine disengages at full stop, helping to save money on fuel. The 2018 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription is rated at 22/31/25 mpg from its 15.9-gallon tank; premium fuel is specified for the boosted engine in this five-passenger sedan.
Volvo uses double-wishbone/multi-link front and rear suspensions for its top-of-the-line sedan and fits rack and pinion power steering with electric assistance. Large disc brakes front and rear haul the 4,135-pound AWD sedan to an easy halt. Gorgeous 20-inch eight-spoke alloy rims attach to 255/35R tires that add a bit of firmness to the ride.
For the 2018 model, Volvo increased length by four inches on this sedan, benefitting and pampering rear-seat passengers. Last year’s S90 was made in Sweden; for 2018, Volvo owner Geely transferred manufacturing to China and the change is seamless. Quality is superb; seams and closures are, as you would expect, uniform throughout the sedan.
The Scandinavian design of this Volvo is chic, with the concave vertical waterfall grille recalling heritage models without resorting to their ponderous emphasis on safety at the cost of design. The high accent line just below window openings and the sloping rear deck look svelte. Wraparound rear tail lamps halt centrally at the sedan’s Volvo nomenclature.
The stem to stern exterior elegance of this four-door mid-size sedan can’t be overstated, even though the Volvo itself whispers understatement and chicness. It doesn’t scream its intent to coddle both driver and four passengers, but that’s exactly what this machine is built to do. And achieves.
From the keyless entry to its surfeit of wood, leather and soft-touch surfaces throughout, the Mussel Blue metallic Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription offers complete luxury. Let’s start with the blond perforated Nappa seats that offer a plethora of adjustments that are sure to keep anyone comfortable front or rear with full leather accommodations.
There are four drive modes for this Volvo S90: Eco, for efficient driving; comfort; dynamic for the racer in all of us and individual, which allows personal driving preferences, controlled by a wheel in the central tunnel area. This driver prefers the dynamic setting for around-town. Nearly every other adjustment on the S90 T6 Inscription is controlled through the central screen, a 12.3-inch LED display that replaces central stack gauges.
It doesn’t take long to become accustomed to working through various screens to get the information desired, but it does feel like you’re maneuvering a computer. The screen is like a notebook, allowing swipes left and right to access a variety of screens. While some functions are redundant on the multifunction steering wheel that has cruise control on the left and audio/trip info on the right, other functions are controlled through the trip info button.
Among the many features on this 2018 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription are a lengthy sunroof that has a beautiful netted cover; it allows a tilt opening that lets in air but not a huge amount of noise. Volvo also fits a head up display that shows current speed and the speed limit. This info is also on the main screen in front of the driver and flashes when the driver exceeds the legal limit. Speed limit is also accessed through a red line on the speedometer.
While Volvo states this S90 holds five occupants, there is so much space at the rear of the cain that you could almost hold a party back there. With the extra four inches length on this year’s model and with air flow, 12V and USB in the back seat, along with a tray, cup holders and powered privacy screens for all three back windows, this is truly an elegant place to sit.
All of the goodness here comes at a price, a lofty one at that, but definitely in line or lower than many European – and some American – competitors. The 2018 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription – as driven – comes out of the gate at $55,095 including freight.
Add to that $4,500 of Inscription features: active bending lights, LED headlights with Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights and auto high beams, high-level interior illumination, luscious linear walnut wood inlays, heated and ventilated front seats, tailored dashboard and upper door panels, power side support front seats with power cushion extension, those sun curtains in the rear window and rear side doors, 4-zone electric climate control, cooled glovebox, laminated side windows, the Nappa leather upholstery, interior colored Nappa leather key fob and an “Inscription” badge at the rear trunklid.
There’s more, like the convenience package ($2,550) that includes heated washer nozzles, power operated trunk opening, useful 360-degree surround view camera, HomeLink®, 12V power outlet, compass in the interior rearview mirror, park assist and front park assist.
Volvo charges for the metallic paint ($595), for the graphical head-up display ($900), for the 20-inch Inscription alloy rims ($800), the exceptional Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system ($3,200), a heated steering wheel at $300 and premium air suspension in the rear of the car ($1,200), bringing this listing to a grand total of $69,140.
Yes, it’s a lot of money, but this is a lot of car, readily needing all that space above to note the options, none of which I’d do without. The sound system, while expensive, does replicate an opera hall in Sweden with its array of 10 speakers; Bowers and Wilkins makes some of the finest audio available on the market and Volvo was smart to partner with this brand. I enjoyed every note.
The Volvo and I traveled throughout Florida; it was the second car I evaluated during a two-week trip in pre-springtime March. We started in Sarasota, went to Sebring, then to Gainesville and finally back to Orlando for the transcontinental trip home. I found the mileage as stated and absolutely filled the 13.5-cubic-foot trunk to the gills with accumulated gifts going from one place to the other.
I liked the fact that the connections to phone and Apple CarPlay were easy to access, that each screen’s multiple functions were arrayed in an orderly fashion, making it easy to use or dismiss functions as desired (like lane departure – you can keep it). The navigation was exceptionally helpful when traffic backed up on Florida’s Turnpike and I needed to find a different way to get to Gainesville; it was probably a quicker trip thanks to its assistance.
While the 2018 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription is a wee bit above my pay grade, were I in the market for a Euro-spec sporting sedan of impeccable character and minimal cost for the garden of delights offered, the local Volvo dealer would be my first stop and, perhaps my last.
By Anne Proffit