The Harvey Specter of cars: Volvo S90 D5 Review

Over the past few years, the Volvo brand has undergone a regeneration. Combining their reputation of driving safety with swedish luxury has seemed to be their main goal, making sure the vehicles they build are the last word in safety, as well as beautiful in every way. The first vehicle to receive that treatment was the XC90, a luxury SUV which quite frankly blew a lot of people away with its design, styling and technology.

The Volvo S90 is the next vehicle in Volvo’s line up to receive this treatment, a luxury sedan bringing the fight to the likes of BMW’s 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and having driven both of those vehicles, the Germans should be worried.

My first thoughts when entering the cabin of the Volvo S90 were how similar the it felt to the XC90. It has a very clean and elegant feel. High quality materials emphasise the crisp finishings and buttons which are all centered around the 9.3” Sensus Connect Touch Screen. There are few buttons in the S90 thanks to this system which controls everything from the colour of the interior lights to the A/C system and like the XC90, it works very well, it almost feels natural.

If the XC90 is the younger more beefy teenager, than the S90 must be the older man. It’s very elegant, a trait can be seen through the exterior design. It looks beautiful with its long and sleek style. The front end of the vehicle houses a large chrome grill which harkens back to that of the Volvo P1800, as well as the trademark Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights and while the rear end has received some criticism regarding its design, mainly that it looks sad, in the flesh it looks pretty good. A BMW 5 Series looks aggressive and sporty, whereas the S90 has an elegant and executive feel. It is very Harvey Specter — clean and crisp with nothing out of place.

There are various engines available in the Volvo S90 and this was the first of two variants I was testing, the D5 AWD Inscription. This is most powerful diesel engine currently available in the S90 and provides 173 kW and 480 N.m from its 2.0-litre Twin Turbocharged engine, which also features PowerPulse.

PowerPulse is a system currently exclusive to Volvo. It consists of a 2.0-litre canister which forces compressed air into the turbo to decrease spooling times dramatically, thus reducing and eliminating turbo-lag. This system seemed to work well when accelerating hard.

Here’s the thing with the S90 D5, it didn’t make me feel like I wanted to accelerate hard or drive progressively at all. The Volvo made me feel very relaxed behind the wheel, I sort of pottered around everywhere, taking it nice and easy. The calm and quiet D5 gave of a very relaxing aura

At times I felt like a chauffeur, trying to give my passengers the most comfortable ride possible, even though most of the time I was the only person in the car. It was a fantastic feeling, as though I had escaped the South African road rush — I was in my own little luxury bubble and felt like I had all the time in the world. I could not even hear the chaos that usually consumes South African roads, but that probably had something to do with the 19 speaker Bowers and Wilkins sound system (Short video on the system here:

Add this to Volvo’s Pilot Assist, which needs an article for itself, and you have a fantastic vehicle. Driving a car for long distances can add to one’s stress and tension, but driving the Volvo S90 does the exact opposite.

The S90 D5 AWD isn’t badly priced either at R821,200 and also comes with some very good features as standard. One will find features as LED Headlights, Electric seats, Adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist, climate control and Navigation. For an extra R65,000 a buyer can add the Premium Pack, which offers the following:

o Heated front seats with power-adjustable side supports

o Powered boot lid

o Power-folding rear seats

o Auto-dimming side and interior mirrors

o Visual Park Assist incl. 360-degree HD camera

o Bowers & Wilkins premium audio, 19-speaker

o Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert

o Park Assist Pilot incl. Park Out function

o Keyless entry and starting, incl. hands-free boot lid opening & closing

Other options I would recommend are the smartphone Integration with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto — a R4 000 option. The Volvo I tested also had a Head Up Display (R14 500) and Air suspension with the Active Chassis system( R17 500) expensive extras, but are most likely worth it and notably cheaper than equivalent options from competitor manufacturers. Spec an E-Class or 5 Series to the same level as this car and you’ll be truly shocked at the price difference. In terms of value for money, the S90 rules this segment.


The Volvo S90 is a wonderful machine and there isn’t much I can fault. The key could perhaps be made with higher quality materials , but that is the only item that felt a little cheap on this car.

Then there is the issue of who this car appeals to. Have Volvo done enough to attract a younger audience? Maybe. I still feel many buyers around 35 years of age and looking for a vehicle in this segment would still opt for a BMW 5 Series. This does not necessarily mean it’s a better car, because it isn’t. Everything about the S90 would appeal to a younger person, but the brand itself still has to work off its older appeal. Time will tell how this works out. For me, I would take an XC90 everyday of the week because it just has that younger feel.

Stay tuned as next week I compare this S90 D5 to it’s more powerful sibling, the fiery, 235 kW S90 T6.

Originally published at on May 5, 2017.