Volvo S90 review 2020

Find out more about the Volvo S90 in the latest MOTORS Review

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Out of 5


  • Spacious
  • Excellent build quality
  • Suite of safety assistance systems


  • Can be expensive
  • Larger wheels can cause a firm ride
  • Other rivals are more involving to drive
Model review

The Volvo S90 takes the place as the flagship saloon in the Swedish firm’s line-up. Packed with safety and assistance technology, it’s yet another example of Volvo’s commitment to driver, passenger and pedestrian safety – all wrapped up into one car. It may be an unconventional alternative to the likes of the BMW 5 Series of Mercedes’ E-Class, but rock-solid build quality and plenty of standard equipment mean that the Volvo can easily counter against the norm.  


It actually shares its underpinnings with the XC90 – it uses Volvo’s ‘Scalable Architecture’ which allows multiple vehicles to spawn from one underpinning – but that means that the S90 can offer loads of space both in terms of legroom and boot area, providing just what those after a large executive saloon are after. Add in the S90’s understated looks, and you’ve got a rounded package which will no doubt appeal to many. 

Current model

The current model S90 comes into the Volvo range alongside the estate V90. Out on the road, even those S90 models specified with air suspension can feel a touch too firm over unbroken surfaces, though this can be helped ever so slightly by specifying a smaller alloy wheel size. 


The S90 also can’t quite offer the involvement that you get with rivals. Vehicles such as the 5 Series, for instance, offer a little more in the way of driver feedback. That said, the S90 does such a good job of providing a relaxing, hassle-free driving experience that few will worry about less-than-bristling steering feedback once up and running.  


Those looking for lower running costs will undoubtedly warm towards the hybrid S90, which gives drivers the option of plugging in the car to charge up the vehicle’s batteries. That said, the diesel options available with the S90 will likely remain the go-to choice for those travelling long distances where outright refinement and engine efficiency rule supreme.  


Though the V90 model does offer the best option in terms of outright capacity and practicality, that’s not to say that the S90 doesn’t offer a good amount of space. Those sat in the back will welcome plenty of legroom, while the bright and airy forwards section means that people up front won’t feel constricted.  

Value for money

There’s no getting away from it, the S90 is a relatively pricey car. It sits in the premium saloon segment after all, so it’s likely be no surprise that this luxurious vehicle is accompanied by a higher price tag.  


Prices kick off from just under £39,000, but this will rise considerably as you scale up the trim levels and engine choices. Go easy with the optional extras and the S90 will be far kinder on the purse strings, but even with just a smattering of additions the price of this Volvo will quickly skyrocket.  

Looks and image

If you’re after look-at-me styling then the S90 is unlikely to be for you. It’s a masterclass in understated Scandinavian style, lacking that many out-there features used by rivals. In our eyes it’s one of the best-looking saloon cars on the market, in fact, with just the right amount of presence that people want from a car like this. 


It’s mirrored inside. The clean-cut, minimalist design plays well in the S90’s cabin, turning it into a relaxing and calming place to be.  


And though Volvo has often been accompanied by a somewhat fusty, older image, it’s quickly shedding that feel. As a company it has been knocking it out of the park with recent vehicles, offering excellent levels of comfort and technology that buyers love.  

Video review

Space and practicality

As we’ve already mentioned the S90 utlises a platform which is also shared with the larger XC90. As a result, there’s loads of space to play with, and even taller passengers won’t find it hard to get comfortable wherever they’re sat.  


When it comes to boot space, the Volvo offers 500 litres of room. Though this isn’t quite the largest in the class, it’s more than enough for most occasions and should swallow up a family’s worth of luggage with ease. Should that 500 litres not quite be enough, then it can be extended further by folding the rear seats flat – they spilt 40-20-40, so there are plenty of options when it comes to loading.  



There are a variety of engines available with the S90, all based around four-cylinder units. It’s also one of the last Volvo vehicles to feature a diesel engine option, which have gradually been phased out across the range in favour of petrol or hybrid powertrains.  


It’s available with one of two diesel engines – pushing out either 187bhp or 232bhp – with the latter getting a small electric compressor to aid the turbocharger in spooling up. Two four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines are also available, which are somewhat smoother than their oil-burning counterparts. Expect to use a little more fuel over longer distances, but not an awful lot more.  


Up top sits the T8 Twin Engine, which combines a petrol four-cylinder with an electric motor. It’s a plug-in, too, and it’s sprightly as well with a 0-60mph time of just under five seconds – not bad for a heavy, larger saloon.  

Running costs

Running costs for the S90 are unlikely to be sky-high, thanks to an efficient range of engines and a good track record when it comes to reliability. Arguably the best option for those driving around town will be the hybrid, where around 20 miles of all-electric range will mean that the combustion engine can remain untroubled for some time. 


Those diesel engines will be great choice for long-distance drivers, however, and shouldn’t rattle through the petrol too quickly whatsoever.  

Things to look out for

Given that the S90 is relatively new, there shouldn’t be too many causes for concern when it comes to reliability. As always, with larger wheels expect to pay out more should the worst happen and a puncture occur 



As we mentioned earlier, the S90 has a series of established rivals. Cars such as the BMW 5 Series enter the fray here, alongside rivals like the Mercedes E-Class and the Audi A6. All three offer the premium badge that buyers often look for, alongside plenty of driver involvement. The Volvo remains a great option, though, and the addition of the hybrid model at the top of the range helps to bolster its appeal even further.  



Again, given that the S90 is still a relatively new car, we’ve yet to see how hard depreciation hits it. Volvo vehicles do tend to hold their value well, however, and the S90’s plentiful amount of standard equipment should help keep used prices up. The efficient engines should help future-proof the S90 against further emissions regulations – for some time, at least.    

Trims explained

Volvo has kept things simple on the specification, with just three distinct trim levels available on the S90. In reality, all three trims available offer enough standard equipment to keep most happy – it just depends how many creature comforts you’re looking for.


Up first is Momentum, which kicks off the range. Even these cars get key features such as adaptive cruise control, 18-inch alloy wheels and electronic climate control among the standard equipment you get from the off.

Priced from £37,835


Up next is R-Design, taking a sportier take on the saloon. Firmer suspension means a firmer ride but better body control, while sporty R-Design touches have been applied to areas such as the grill to bolster its look. The alloy wheels have been bumped up in size to 19-inch over the Momentum specification, too, giving it a far more dynamic visual appeal.

Starts at £41,285


Finally, there’s Inscription. This is pitched as the most luxurious trim level available, bringing 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, sun blinds for the rear doors, and a high-performance sound system.

Available from £42,035


  1. The S90 is the largest Volvo saloon in the range
  2. It’s available with a series of four-cylnder engines
  3. Three trim levels help keep choosing easy
  4. Hybrid T8 models are the most powerful in the line-up
  5. Prices start from just under £39,000
  6. Larger alloys give the S90 a firmer ride
  7. Diesel engines may be the best option for high-mileage drivers
  8. Understated looks mean it doesn’t stand out too much
  9. The S90 sits alongside the estate V90 in the range
  10. All cars get plenty of standard equipment

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