First Drive: 2017 Volvo S90 T6 R-Design

First Drive: 2017 Volvo S90 T6 R-Design

Olifantskop Pass is the one of the last punctuation marks in the journey from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth on the N10. The (often misty) ribbon of road gives weary long-distance drivers a second wind. It’s fun to negotiate — if you time those trucks properly — and you know that once you get to the bottom, it won’t be long before you are soaking up the sleepy coastal vibe at Summerstrand Beach.

I descended on that stretch at a pretty ungodly hour, when darkness veils all manner of creatures. And those creatures must have been intrigued as to why the driver of a black Volvo S90 T6 R-Design was playing serpentine on an imaginary slalom for at least a kilometre. The reason was good: I was testing the reflexes of the IntelliSafe lighting system, trying my best to catch it out.

Yeah, the beams of this Volvo are darn good — enough to warrant an entire paragraph. Directional lighting and adaptive high beams are not new technologies, but the execution by Volvo seems to be better than that of its competition. Not totally surprising, I guess, given the brand’s relentless quest to ensure people are death-proof while inside a Volvo.

And the fact that this S90 derivative was built with sporting intentions shouldn’t raise eyebrows either. Volvo is no stranger to the genres of swift saloons, wagons — and even hatchbacks, for that matter. Even though most shoppers in South Africa will scan the German shelves first before glancing in the direction of the Swedish carmaker.

Earlier this year the regular S90 version finished second in our D-segment luxury sedan comparison, beating the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6 and Jaguar XF. But it was outclassed by the BMW 5-Series. Interestingly, the duo will battle it out in the 2017 South African car of the year competition. It will be intriguing to see what the result will be.

I really bonded with this svelte sedan on my recent 2500km round-trip. To be quite honest, aside from my Olifantskop Pass antics, I was very laid back with the car on the long drive. And that comes down to the efficiency of the Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving aids. Oh, and before we forget, our test car also boasted some seasoning from Volvo’s Polestar division.

This T6 feels acceptably rapid, as you learn when accelerating from the tollbooths. Volvo claims a sprint time of 5.8seconds. You would think it could be even quicker, however, given that sizable output of 235kW and 400Nm from the turbocharged 2-litre four-cylinder engine. But the S90 is a hefty thing. This one has all-wheel drive too. It’s brisk and confidence inspiring. But to say it’s as scalpel-like as its nemesis from Bavaria wouldn’t be entirely accurate.

I doubt prospective owners will care, if what they want is a dignified racer, a stealthy athlete of sorts.

The interior of the S90 is downright gorgeous. Even the sombre, charcoal hues of our test car did little to diminish the familiarity and warmth that defines new Volvo cabins.

Over our test stint, the car returned around 8.7litres per 100km — not terribly far off Volvo’s claim of 7.2litres per 100km.

All things considered, this sportier execution of the S90 makes the sumptuous Swedish sedan even more alluring. Of course, you can expect to pay more for the accoutrements. The basic list price of our vehicle was R874600, but equipped with options the final figure came to R1026300. Extras included R65000 for the R-Design package, R13000 for Polestar optimisation and R15000 for 21-inch wheels.

We suppose that this is where brand affinity comes into play.

Will you spend your million here, or with the traditional premium set? – Brenwin Naidu