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It’s no secret that Volvo has stepped up its game in the looks department. They’ve been subtly refining a shape that gets better with each iteration. In 2015, the S90 got a face lift. The aggressive looking grille and predatory looking headlights were a departure from the handsome but relatively sedate aesthetic of the previous model. Fast forward to 2017 and we’re still looking at the same body work and it’s holding up nicely.

The press car featured a creamy off-white leather interior trimmed with beautiful materials and excellent fitment and finish. Oddly, the driver and passenger can have the heated and cooled seat functions turned on at the same time. Volvo’s commitment to clean, contemporary design really shined through in the cabin. The symmetrically designed dash features walnut trim and so does the console.

Cleverly concealed LEDs illuminate the interior door panels after the sun has gone down. The interior is roomy, the front power seats are comfortable, and there’s evidence of top-notch build quality throughout. One thing that could use improvement is the smartphone-inspired infotainment interface. It’s distracting to use, and it’s the only option for adjusting the climate controls. The system uses a nine inch touch screen and is rather nice, and the sound quality from the stereo is exceptional.

As previously stated, the S90 is no slouch when it comes to looks. It’s a physically imposing vehicle from the outside. The grille is made up of vertical pillars that remind one of the toothy maw of some predator. The headlights, which work stunningly well, look like eyes which have narrowed to slits in preparation for attack.

In profile, the car’s body lines work to give it a slightly forward raking appearance, and the 19 inch wheels fit into the big-car aesthetic. The long hood and graceful roofline are complimented by a tight, relatively short trunk area. The back of the car is a lesson in simplicity and symmetry. There are contemporary blocky taillights bracketing the simple lines of the rear sheet metal. Dual outlet exhaust tips round out a remarkably elegant posterior.

Under the hood resides a two liter four cylinder engine that makes 316 horsepower at the flywheel. The dual overhead cam mill uses a supercharger fed by a turbo to cram air into the intake side of the engine. This set up allows drivers to feel the off-the-line pep of a super charger and benefit from the efficiency of a turbo set up. This is backed up by Volvo’ s smooth shifting eight-speed transmission.

The drive is predictably smooth and quiet. Acceleration is good, as is fuel efficiency. The EPA estimate for this car is 25 combined mpg. Overall, the ride and driving experience is very good. However, the steering is quite light and insulated from any road feel. The lane keeping assist is also somewhat obtrusive on anything but the wide lanes of the interstate. It can turn a Sunday cruise into an arm wrestling match. Thankfully, it’s easily switched off. Our press car featured Volvo’s parking assist feature. It’s designed to allow the driver to pull up to an open spot, punch a couple buttons and hey presto the car parallel parks itself. I only tried it once and the right rear tire ended up on the curb. On a lighter note, the radar cruise control worked flawlessly.

Volvo has put together a wonderful machine. As a car its shortcomings are greatly outshone by its beautiful body, luxurious interior, clever engine, and overall quality feel. There is a common thread among its few faults, they’re all related to the technology. I understand that many cars offered today feature what is essentially “bridge technology.” Cars can’t quite drive themselves yet, but they’re on their way.

The lane keeping assist that indiscriminately follows the lines even to the point of heading the car down an exit ramp, the parking feature that curbs the car are clever ideas and work well the majority of the time. Until they work all the time though, features like the impossibly complicated touch screen A/C controls should be made simpler so driver’s eyes can stay on the road rather than swiping through an infotainment screen. I recognize the value in new tech, but until it can do the job of driving as well or better than I can, I’ll still be switching it off.

Aaron V Starnes
Aaron V Starnes

Car guy, small business owner, award-winning writer and proud papa.