A week with a Volvo S90

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Want a large-ish saloon that isn’t German? Good news! Here’s a large-ish saloon that’s Swedish

Day one:

Here comes the S90. It looks big, which it is, being longer and wider than an E-class or the new 5-series. It’s made from the same box of bits as the equally unsmall XC90 and has a similarly smashing Scandi-tastic interior, all light leather and portrait aspect touch screen. First impressions are slightly undermined by the cheap clack of the central locking and then immediately repaired by the niceness of the insides which look and feel expensive, from the softness of the leather to the real metal on the door releases and the stereo volume control. Also, as in the XC90, the S90 has keyless start operated by a sweet little metal twist knob between the seats. It’s an unusual and interesting way of doing something very mundane. Very nice. Very Volvo. What’s more remarkable is that this press demonstrator is the base model in the range and yet it feels upmarket, in a cleverly minimalist sort of way.

Day two:

The last XC90 I drove had a very bumpy ride and this was a disappointment. The S90 is better, but not perfect which is a shame because in all other respects this is a very comfortable car. It’s also not a sporty car. There are no paddles for the autobox. There is no sense that it wants you to hare about the place like a nutcase with a wasp in his vest. It is calm and sensible and relaxing, which is why the ride should be better. On the plus side, the massive touch screen through which most functions are controlled is excellent. In the XC90 it could seem a bit sluggish. Here it’s fast and smooth and as logical as one of those Swedish television detectives who spends 80 percent of his working day sighing at a lake.

Day three:

I have to go somewhere that requires use of the sat-nav. Like every other function in the S90 (except, weirdly, the fiddly buttons on the remote key) the nav is exceptionally easy to use and contains the two greatest things any car can offer, which are an easily accessed button for unilaterally muting the nav voice and a very clear, very simple way to cancel guidance. Bravo.

Day four:

This S90 has some semi-autonomous ability. You can set the cruise control and the lane keeping thing and it’ll almost drive itself, though it shouts at you if it senses your hands are off the wheel for too long. As these systems go, it’s about as good as I’ve tried to date. Which is to say, you can let it run on a busy stretch of London’s wretched North Circular and only once or twice feel that it’s going to plough you into the central barrier. Later today I get stuck in a jam on the M1 and discover that it works like a charm in nasty stop-start traffic, bringing you smoothly to a halt when the car in front stops. To move off again you have to dab a button on the wheel or tap the accelerator which, given the generally effortless and relaxing atmos, feels like a bloody imposition. It’s only after a while I realise that it’s made particularly necessary by the effortless and relaxing atmos. You might have nodded off at a stop. If the car could set off on its own, the next thing you know you’re accidentally in Reading. And I’m sure Volvo doesn’t want that on its conscience.

Day five:

I’m so impressed with the way all the tech on the S90 functions that today I decide to go all out and try the voice control. This sort of thing never usually goes well in cars because they have to do all the processing in their little brains, unlike your phone which can beam everything to a more powerful mothership and back again. But maybe the S90 is the car in which it’ll actually work? Sadly, it isn’t, and after a hopeless attempt to programme the nav, this Volvo becomes the latest in a long line of cars to which I have shouted, ‘OH FUCK OFF YOU FUCKBOT’. Shame.

Day six:

There’s something curious about this car; everyone is interested in it, and everyone likes it. Pretty much every person from my office has not only asked me what it’s like but also then asked if they can nab the keys to have a poke around it, up to and including the Grand Tour presenters themselves. TV’s Jeremy Clarkson is especially keen. He even likes the rear lights which, for me, are inexplicably wide and badly resolved, making the rear look like a bad impression of an underbaked American car from the ‘80s. It’s the only styling clanger on the whole thing. Everyone who looks around the Volvo is impressed except for our runner who claims not to like it, probably because he is about 12, but then asks to sit in it on two separate occasions, probably because he knows he won’t be 12 forever and one day he too will experience the interesting in Volvos that age and wisdom brings.

Day seven:

It’s not just colleagues who like the S90. Tonight while driving home a man in an old shape S60 pulled up next to me at some lights, waved to get my attention, and then gave a massive smile and a thumbs up. But in a very pleasant way. Obviously.


My time with the S90 is at an end. It’s not perfect, but then what is? I don’t like the smallness of the key buttons. I think there’s a piece of metal trim on the passenger side dash that looks weirdly glued on. And I wish the ride was a snadge better. But that’s it. Everything else about this car is excellent and I like it very much indeed. It’s calming and cheering, all at the same time. I feel like I could happily use one to drive around Sweden solving crimes, the inherent ennui of my surroundings and the grisly nature of my work effortlessly balmed away by the understated good nature of my thoughtfully designed and beautifully made car. There’s something else that draws me to the S90, something that’s beyond the car itself, and it’s the fact that it’s a Volvo. With SAAB now gone, it’s fallen to Volvo to act as a magnet for nice people and it’s a job they’re well equipped to do. Pricks, twats, shits and ne’er-do-wells don’t buy Volvos. And that in itself is one of the things that makes the S90 attractive. It’s a nice car for nice people. Nice.

The car talked about here is a Volvo S90 D4 Momentum. It has a 2-litre twin turbo diesel engine making 188 horsepower. It can go from 0-62 in 7.9 seconds and on to 140mph, though it would probably consider both things unseemly. In this spec, it costs £33,650.


  1. Ahhh, I do like a big Volvo. They reward a wafty driving style, unlike the German trio (and to some extent a Jag), making you drive less like a tit. And the heated seats are always very very good.

  2. I passed a nice V60 which only took note of because of the leather armchairs with which it was equipped. Looked very comfy. End up in Reading…could be worse…could be Slough…

  3. I can’t decide how to spell the plural of Volvo. Is it Volvos or Volvoes?

    The Volvulum I normally see have huge trailers nailed on the back carrying 30 tonnes of goods made in China. It’s refreshing to see one without. Did you try out the bunk bed in the rear?

  4. Very nice.

    I think the estate version is a better resolved design. But this is nice.


  5. I believe the plural of Volvo is Volvii.

    1. I like to think of them as the Swedish Mercedes.

  6. I looked at these a couple of months ago. Did you find the engine ! How many ”good luxury ” vehicles have a bobbing for pot .

  7. It’s Volva. At least, that’s how I explained the search history to my wife.

  8. But that rear-end though…


  9. Just to clarify that last comment, that shudder was not a good one.

  10. Nice car. Pity you didn’t thrash it a bit, just to see. Made me look up the press pics to check, and a V90 could well happen here. Those seats are what I imagine an Imperial Stormtrooper looks like when it’s sitting down.

  11. They were chucking these things away on lease deals a month or so back. Very tempting.

    Pity it’s a 4-cyl diesel, but then what isn’t nowadays?

  12. I always thought it was vulva.

    Or am I thinking of something else?..

  13. Volvii sounds rather too Latin, is the Scandiwegian translation not actually Volvï?

  14. I saw one of the new V90s the other day. It looks like a big car and could possibly be the most stylish big estate on the market? Like an enlarged Montego Countrywagon?

    Looked like the perfect car for middleaged fathers of 2 kids with latent wannabee rockstar urges looking for a car big enough to transport all the amplifiers in, whilst still being able to use it to drive to the office during the week.

  15. The first test car ran into a Maserati head on and decided it liked itself better this way. The second test car got thirsty, reached for the fridge door and said “well that’s the interior done”. A bit of a closet lover of right-angled triangles lurking underneath all that trying not to get noticed. But I’d give it a shot just not to disappoint the V40 which I’m happy to report has been fed after midnight and is to be found absolutely everywhere around here. Absolutely tons of those little Volvœ going round.

    Also Mr Sniff I have a question for you. You mention fuckbots and I have a friend who says his broke down and he can’t find spare parts and if you don’t mind telling me where I can find them so he can repair his that is broken and then I can tell him where to get spare parts. Thank you.

  16. Does it have a broken Vulvoe?

  17. This is very nice. I see the S90 as the modern day version of an 80’s XJ in the ‘waftiness’ stakes. But without the Arfur Daly image.

    I’m not anti-diesel but its a same we don’t get a petrol. Even a 4-pot turbo would be fine with me, ala early 90’s 740 TURBO.

  18. Wait. Systems Overload. Priority AI rewrite.

    Didn’t mean to pee in someone’s garden while the party was on. My apologies but the light is always on in the net.

    Back to finding that Sarah girl then. Sorry…

  19. I’ve got the current XC90, which uses a lot of common components with the S90.

    It’s shit.

    I’ve had the car 18 months and covered 50,000 miles and the durability is awful, squeaks rattles, worn out and broken bits.

    The infotainment system is full of bugs, resets itself randomly, drops connections with phones and is sloooow.

    The whole thing is shoddily executed and it’s the details which let it down. There are too many detailed design errors or omissions for a car in this category.

    I could bore you with all my stories… but I won’t.

    I regret buying the car though and can’t wait to get rid.

    Regrettably, I’ve joined the pricks, shits and ne’er do wells and ordered an Audi (with a heavy heart) but the Volvo has been a near total disappointment.

  20. And just in case I offended anyone other than a Skandinorwarkian on his bad coffee day (which was never my intention) (I tend to put things on the table and hit them with a mallet until I trust it to do it’s job without breaking when a mosquito farts on it, and perhaps that’s what comes out as harsh) (nothing against Volvlings) (or Yellow Saabmarines) (bracket overload?) (try LISP) (don’t go there).
    Anyway If I offended anyone other than that, and perhaps they’d had a bad day after being pelted with rocks by quarter-bred halfwits who could eat a LARD lp and not taste the irony, and perhaps they didn’t need a hi-poo-bye that sticks to the window for way too long, then well…

    Well pride of the country, probably the best interviewers in the world, and dripping with more humanity than the Greenwich Local Mother Theresa Appreciation Society. So yeah gg no re except re 🙂 Ha!

  21. So, it purports to be a big, wafty luxury car and it comes with a massive choice of 2 litre tractor engines? But wait, in the good ol’ US of A you can have a T5 or T6 petrol with added power, interestingness and spark plugs.

    Is this revenge on us for Brexit, or just those Swedes and their crazy sense of humour?

    Oh and the rear lights are hideous. And I used to drive a Ford Scorpio so i know a thing or two about hideous rear lights.

  22. I’m almost certain I’ve mentioned this in a previous comment (on the MG6 review, from memory), but this (like the MG6) is going to be a MASSIVE bargain on the used market in a few years time.

    Volvo estates and 4x4s hold their value reasonably well, whereas Volvo saloons drop cash like Trump drops clangers.

    For evidence of this, set Autotrader to stun, and compare used S80s to used V70s of similar age and specification.

    This is EXACTLY the sort of car I’ll be knocking around in a decade from now. After it’s done 80,000-ish miles at the hands of a careful and considerate architect. Obviously.

  23. Plural? Well, considering that “Volvo” is Latin for “I roll” (as some of them do), perhaps the plural should be “Revolvet Nobis…” or, “We Roll.” Or perhaps not, that’s clumsy.

  24. Well done, Roland! Another spectacular report. Huzzah!
    You’re prose is exciting. An incredibly … um … car-like car, as reported by you! Smashing!

    But, my big same-sex lover, you’ve left something out; how many sheep fit in the back? Canadian sheep. Live Canadian sheep.

  25. Volvo and vulva are etymologically related… Rolls and folds, etc.

  26. The height of the S90 Bonnet is designed specifically to be the ideal height to stand on for having sex with a Moose

  27. My Dad took one look and thinks they’ve forgot to put a bumper on the front, (in chrome, presumably)

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