First Drive: 2017 Volvo S90

First Drive: 2017 Volvo S90

Many of us bemoan conspicuous consumption. Yet we all secretly lust for a slice of the good life. Volvo picked a rather formidable house in Franschhoek as the setting for the local unveiling of the S90. This chariot screams “La dolce vita” but panders to the sensibilities of those who shy away from the ostentatious.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that certain people prefer to shun the stigmas that accompany German car ownership. And the S90 is a left-field luxury choice for buyers of that ilk.

We first sampled the model at its global launch in Spain last year. And our sentiments were positive. Unlike previous attempts at the genre, such as the staid S80, the newcomer appears to hold great appeal when viewed in the company of the popular Teutonic pickings. It is armed with aesthetics. You will spot cues from the bigger XC90 adapted to this format.

Volvo S90

The S90 cuts a prominent profile, especially in darker hues. With a handsome visage and a chiselled physique, it wields a redoubtable presence. What descriptors could we use for that questionable backside? To say it is peculiar would be diplomatic. But I heard vivid interpretations unsafe for print from fellow hacks.

Luckily, owners will not spend much time staring at the posterior. In typical Volvo fashion, the lounge of the S90 elicits warm and fuzzy feelings. These people have a knack for building cars that cosset, making the clinical functionality of German cabins seem downright cold.

There are four derivatives. On the diesel front, it’s the D4 (140kW and 400Nm) or D5 (173kW and 480Nm). Those partial to petrol can opt for the T5 (187kW and 350Nm) or T6 (235kW and 400Nm). All feature an eight-speed automatic transmission. We sampled the D5 and T6 through the sweeps of Franschhoek Pass.

Volvo S90

Volvo seems to understand that trying to emulate the characteristics of certain peers would be fruitless. Instead, it goes for a cushy driving texture. We will forget the aged Audi A6 and soon-to-be-replaced BMW 5-Series for a second. If athleticism and dynamic poise are what you seek, perhaps look at the Jaguar XE. The S90 has heft, which is no bad thing.

This Volvo is more agreeable and fluid than what Mercedes-Benz, once the master of dignified cruisers, has managed with the E-Class. However, the vehicles we sampled were equipped with (optional) air suspension.

Volvo S90 Interior

Any Volvo assessment will be incomplete without expounding on safety. Volvo has included its semi-autonomous driving system as standard. It functions at speeds up to 130km/h and requires that the driver keep at least one hand on the wheel. This fascinating and handy (handless?) technology is yet another reminder that driving as we know it will soon be relegated to the history books.

The marketing folk at Volvo admitted that they will not steal a large chunk of sales from the usual suspects in this segment. Nobody expects them to. But for buyers whose place in the sun errs towards the dark side of the moon, this is an assuredly competent alternative.

Pricing for the Volvo S90 ranges between R698 500 and R857 400, before options. – Brenwin Naidu