2017 Volvo S90 D4 review: Long-term report one - introduction

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There are a few really good reasons why the Volvo S90 D4 Momentum is a great addition to our growing Melbourne long-term fleet.

The Swedish sedan is a bit of an unknown quantity, being so new to market against an established competitor set. Moreover, we’re yet to put this lower-level variant through the wringer.

We’re keen to explore how this $80,000 luxury car compares to base versions of the Audi A6 and Jaguar XF, as well as the forthcoming new-generation BMW 5 Series and just-launched Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Sure, it’s not going to be a big-seller, but the S90 represents something seismic for Volvo – it’s billed as a passenger car that can truly compete with the best of the Germans and Brits. How better to determine the veracity of this claim than by living with one?

But it doesn’t stop there. There’s another reason why yours truly couldn’t be more delighted to be the proud custodian for the next few months, and that’s because I own a Volvo 240 sedan with about 400,000km on the clock.

My beloved old box – surely designed by ruler – has long served as a 'palette cleanser' between press cars, and while the S90 is sure as hell a million steps removed from my old bus, I couldn’t be accused of not ‘getting’ the brand.

Which will make me all the harsher if the S90 disappoints…

The S90 D4 Momentum is the entry diesel point to the range, at $82,400 plus on-road costs. This pits it against the aforementioned rivals, and $2500 pricier than the identically equipped S90 T5 with its 187kW petrol engine.

Under the D4's bonnet is a relaxed 2.0-litre Drive-E common-rail twin-turbocharged diesel making 140kW and 400Nm, enough to propel the S90 to 100km/h in an acceptable 8.2 seconds while sipping a meagre 4.7 litres of fuel per 100km – or so the Scandinavian company claims.

For those enamoured of old school Volvo reliability, the promise of a basic diesel will inspire more confidence than its newfangled turbocharged and supercharged petrol T6 higher up the range. Adding to the allure, it may well be the last generation of Volvo diesels at all.

The engine is matched to a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The AWD system comes on higher grades only. In classic style, there’s no Sports button, and no paddle-shifters. No pretences here.

Under the body is MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear independent suspension and a new electric-assisted power steering system (giving a 11.8m turning circle). The car’s weight is 1738kg, which ain’t bad for a car just under five-metres long.

It’s a bit of a looker, don’t you think? Not exciting exactly, but classically proportioned with a short front overhang with a long bonnet, plus a distinctive grille beset by 'Thor’s Hammer' (yes, that's Volvo's name for them) full LED headlights with cornering function.

Though, the V90 wagon is endlessly cooler, if we’re honest.

The cabin is also a lovely place to be, with upmarket materials and a simple and clean design, dominated by that signature portrait screen with Tinder-esque swiping function. The rear seats are also spacious and have integrated child boosters, which is typically clever and safety-focused.

Standard equipment is okay on first impression, though Volvo isn’t selling the S90 by offering class-topping equipment like Lexus might have done.

There’s satellite navigation with road sign information, a very shmick 12.3-inch digital driver display, park assist, electric leather seats with memory, four-zone climate control with intense air filtration, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Volvo being Volvo, there’s also a heap of safety gear to go along with its remarkably good Euro NCAP/ANCAP test result.

There’s vehicle/pedestrian/cyclist autonomous braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and the Pilot Assist semi-autonomous software including a lane-keeping aid and adaptive cruise control that stops speed to zero.

Our long-termer has a few extras, led by the $3000 Technology Pack (head-up display that shows speed, navigation and speed limit; a 360-degree camera; DAB+; an extra USB point and Apple CarPlay). You can buy these features individually, but really they should all be standard. Ours also has front seat heating ($650) and metallic paint ($1900).

There are a few really glaring omissions on first impression, including hands-free keyless entry (a $975 extra), auto-dipping rear-view mirrors, and a sunroof (which costs $3000). Some other rather desirable options look to be the $4500 Bowers and Wilkins audio system – though our car’s standard unit is pretty good nevertheless – and ventilated Nappa leather seats ($2950).

We’ll be living with this S90 for a while, so you can expect a stream of content to roll out. However, I have some first impressions after a few days at the wheel.

The urban ride is supple over sharp hits; noise suppression is excellent; the engine is relatively relaxed and refined, and used 8.2L/100km on a mixed route; the steering is inert but easy to use around town; and the Pilot Assist semi-autonomous system is generally good at steering the car itself for short periods before making you to take over, but at night occasionally got confused – it feels about 80 per cent as good as the E-Class’s systems.

But this is all preliminary. Expect a more detailed analysis of the driving dynamics soon, as well as separate shorter spin-off pieces on the car’s infotainment (by tech guru Mike Stevens), plus others on the full suite of active safety tech, how it works as a back-up family car, and maybe even a "glamour" shoot with my 240.

Can’t wait for the ride… Any questions for now?

2017 Volvo S90 D4 Momentum

  • Price: from $82,490 plus on-road costs
  • Engine: 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel
  • Power: 140kW at 4250rpm
  • Torque: 400Nm at 1750-2500rpm
  • Transmission: eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
  • Claimed fuel use: 4.7 litres per 100 kilometres
  • Weight: 1738 kilograms (tare mass)
  • Seating: five
  • Country of origin: Sweden
  • ODO reading at pick-up: 4096km