Volvo S90 T8 TwinEngine review
Volvo's model range goes from strength to strength as the Swedish company continues to update its line-up using sensible principles and an attention to detail. The 90-Series started Volvo's renaissance, and here we test the S90 T8 TwinEngine - the PHEV executive saloon that competes in a tough market sector.
Review by Chris Lilly
This version of the S90 utilises Volvo's plug-in powertrain that it uses in each of its PHEV models to date. Forthcoming smaller models will have a different set-up, but here we see a 320hp 2.0 litre four cylinder DriveE petrol engine combine with a 65 kW electric motor for a combined output of 407hp and 640 Nm of torque. The numbers stack up to promise plenty of performance then, borne out by the 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. The S90 T8 is quick, and it feels quick too when being driven. There are different driving modes to tailor the S90 towards efficiency, comfort, or sportiness, and put in the latter, the S90 will certainly pick up and shoot off far faster than a non-sports saloon has any right to. The eight-speed automatic gearbox can be a little reluctant to change down a gear or two sometimes, but you can always overrule it by changing yourself if you are in a hurry. The rest of the time, the powertrain and transmission work well together, and provide a smooth driving experience with no fuss at all - all with as much power on tap as you're ever really going to need. The compact petrol engine can sound a bit rough if worked hard, but it settles down to a refined cruise quickly, and this only really happens when accelerating at higher speeds. The rest of the time, the electric motor takes up the slack and wafts the car along. There is more than enough to the electric powertrain to drive the S90 on short trips without ever needing the petrol engine, and if put into eco mode, the S90 will stick to electric power until you stamp down on the throttle.
The Volvo S90 might have the performance of a sports-saloon, but it doesn't have the handling prowess. To be fair Volvo doesn't pitch it as a performance model, and the S90 is set-up well for day-to-day use. Volvo in general focuses on comfort and the S90 certainly scores highly in that regard. Whether it's cruising along at motorway speeds, or pottering around town, imperfections in the road's surface are shrugged off with ease. The S90 won't challenge the Mercedes E-Class as the most comfortable car in its class, but Volvo's challenger has a supple ride, and one that remains stiff enough to prevent excess body roll while cornering. The car on test features Volvo's Active Four-C Chassis, which includes adjustable suspension. This helps keep the car level while cornering, and also means the S90 is a more flexible machine all-round. Tailor the car's set-up to the scenario, and you'll never find the S90 out of its depth no matter the road type.
Of Volvo's 90-Series models, I like the S90 th eleast in terms of design, but that's because there has to be a last place and I prefer the V90 an XC90. The S90 is a handsome saloon, and one that looks well proportioned from every angle. It's more interesting to look at than much of the competition, but it retains a refinement to its design that is essential in the executive saloon class. The design helps with the car's practicality too, with a huge amount of space available for both those up front and passengers in the rear. Four tall adults can travel in comfort, with the only limitation being the car's transmission tunnel restricting any leg space for those in sitting in the centre of the rear bench. This transmission tunnel holds the car's batteries, which means that the S90's boot isn't impacted upon in the same way that rivals are. The boot isn't the largest in its class, but it is far from small. Practical, with easy access and no strange shapes within to pack luggage around, the S90 will be more than practical enough for most. If you regularly need loads of load space, you shouldn't be looking at a saloon anyway - and Volvo has you covered there with the V90 estate - also available in T8 PHEV form.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Volvo's interiors are some of the finest around. Comfortable, stylish, and well-built, the S90 differs in no way from the rest of the 90-Series range. Seats all round are comfortable, but those up front are superb, particularly in R-Design trim with the added side bolsters supporting you through the bends more. The dashboard is beautifully designed, and is as distinctly Swedish in ethos as the Audi's is Teutonic. A large central screen removes the need for many of the controls, offering a high-tech design and one that works well. There are some shortcut buttons for quick access to different elements, and you can change the screen's display to show multiple functions, or just maximise one element. The test car had Volvo's Swedish crystal gear selector which looks and feels special, and the rest of the car's driving controls are located on the transmission tunnel, easily accessible but out of the way. The steering wheel continues the clean design, and the driver's instruments are digital to allow for different information to be configured for display. In all it's a cabin that is certainly worthy of competing at the top of its class.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Since the S90 T8 is a PHEV, the quoted fuel economy figures are largely irrelevant. Nevertheless, Volvo quotes 141.2 MPG as the official figure - though as always real-world economy will depend on how the S90 is driven. There is a quoted 28 miles of electric driving range, which is one of the better figures in its class, and the Volvo can certainly be driven a fair way on electric only power. The quoted figure is a bit optimistic as all official fuel economy figures are, but I managed 25 miles on electric-only power with a bit of careful driving. Without trying, 20-22 miles is easily achievable, and sticking to local trips will see you use no petrol at all if you charge regularly. After covering more than 400 miles, with relatively minimal charging, the S90 showed an average of 55.7 MPG on the trip computer. This would easily be possible day-to-day, and should be bettered by most drivers since I completed some long trips in that time without the ability to charge. As for VED costs, the S90 will cost nothing for the first year, and then £450 annually for year's two to six because it comes in above the £40,000 Premium Rate threshold.
The S90 T8 has a large number of green credentials to its name. The PHEV system is an efficient one, with a good electric range on offer, thanks to a 10.4 kWh battery - located in its transmission tunnel for improved space and weight management. The engine and transmission have been designed from the outset to deal with electric components as part of Volvo's DriveE programme. Charging uses a Type 2 cable and will top up the S90's battery in a few hours from a home or public charge point. Volvo's drive mode select system also allows the driver to pick various configurations. Setting the car in Eco mode will improve efficiency across the board, while the hybrid system can be specified to different requirements too. The Volvo will drive only in eletric mode under the 'Pure' setting, or the car's computers can work out a blend of petrol and electric motoring in Hybrid mode. You can also set the S90 to hold it's battery charge for use at a later time - such as when driving on a motorway but heading into town. The PHEV system will top up the battery under braking, while engine stop/start is used and supported by the electric motor. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 43.
In T8 TwinEngine specification, the S90 can be picked in one of two trim levels, Inscription Pro and R-Design Pro - the top two rungs on Volvo's trim ladder. Inscription Pro is set-up to be a more comfortable, premium option, while R-Design is tailored to a sportier design and features. Driven was the R-Design Pro trim, which gives the S90 a more agressive design and is my preference of the two. Whichever trim level picked though, the levels of standard equipment are high. Every S90 is fitted with items including the 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which includes sat-nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity. S90's also come with a Sensus audio system, LED headlights, climate control, powered tailgate, PilotAssist semi-autonomous driving technology, and Volvo's excellent suite of safety systems. Heated front seats, 17-inch alloys, leather trim, and keyless entry are also standard. T8 TwinEngine models include features such as the crystal gear selector, 19-inch alloys, charging cables, and pre-conditioning. In R-Design Pro tested the equipment runs to a sporty styling pack, digital driver's display, heated washer nozzles, windscreen, and steering wheel, rear privacy glass, 20-inch alloys, active headlights, and sports seats. Options fitted to the test car included Park Assist Pilot with all-round camera and sensors, glass sunroof, keyless start, heated seats all-round, Bowers and Wilkins sound system, and the dynamic chassis.
The Volvo S90 might not initially be considered by those in the marked for a mid-sized executive saloon, with options from the likes of BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz, and Jaguar perhaps more likely. However, said buyers would be missing a trick since the Volvo S90 is an excellent option. It offers something different to its rivals, with a distinctive set of attributes to make it stand out from the crowd. Volvo's use of its top-notch PHEV powertrain makes the S90 even better. It's a more accomplished all-rounder, with the capability to switch between performance to efficiency, speed to comfort - all with a few adjustments from the driver. It's pricy, but then the S90 T8 TwinEngine could be seen as multiple cars in one.
Model tested: Volvo S90 T8 TwinEngine R-Design Pro
Body-style: Executive saloon
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre petrol with electric motor / 46 g/km
Trim grades: Inscription Pro, R-Design Pro
On-road price: T8 Range from £54,805. Price as tested £63,880.
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4 Stars