Car News: Oversteer
The New Volvo S90 Is a Pretty Good Luxury Car -- for Short People
Volvo's new flagship luxury sedan, the S90, is quite a gamble for the company. Their previous offerings in the segment (namely, the S80) never really sold well -- and even if the midsized luxury-car segment is dying, the Swedish automaker wants to show the world it can build a true competitor to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the BMW 5 Series. After driving the S90, I can tell you that they're very close, but they're not quite there.
The S90 is a beautiful car. The exterior styling is stately, refined and beautiful; it befits a true luxury car. The bold styling makes the car look a lot bigger than it actually is, and props to Volvo for not resorting to chintzy styling cues to sell the fact that the car is expensive. Inside, it's even better, with a decidedly simple, functional Scandinavian design. The S90 I drove was fitted with cream-colored Nappa leather seats that were comfortable and adjustable in a seemingly infinite number of ways. I'm also a complete sucker for natural-wood finishing, and the S90 has tons of it, from the dashboard to the key. There are other subtle touches I also enjoyed, like the little Swedish flags on the seats and the yellow Kevlar speaker cones you can actually see in the doors.
Speaking of speakers, the S90 has 19 of them. The car's amazing optional sound system, made by Bowers & Wilkins, is set up to mimic the audio environment of Gothenburg Concert Hall.
Driving the S90, on the other hand, was an interesting experience. The model I drove used a 316-horsepower 4-cylinder that's both turbocharged and supercharged, and it's certainly powerful enough. I was encouraged to drive it in Dynamic mode, and while it made the car quick and sporty, it never felt like the S90's heart was really in it. The 4-cylinder sounds brash and decidedly unrefined, which erodes the experience a bit. It was much more content in Comfort, just cruising along, but I still found a little more engine noise than I was expecting. I guess you could always just turn up the music. Did I mention the S90's audio system?
Of course, the S90 is loaded with safety features. When the driving-assistance features are on, the car is constantly trying to make you a safer driver, which feels a bit like driving around with your parents when you first got your license. If you get too close to the lane lines, the wheel vibrates, and you'll receive a little nudge towards the center of the road. If you follow too closely to the car in front of you, the heads-up display will tell you that you're tailgating, and if you're speeding, it will flash the speed-limit sign next to how fast you're going.
Unfortunately, I had a major issue with the S90: I didn't fit in it. I couldn't move my seat back far enough to keep my leg from being constantly bent at an uncomfortable angle. I'm only 6 feet tall, and while I admit that most of my height comes from my legs, I know there are definitely people out there (like Doug) who have even longer legs than I do. Even after fiddling with the S90's giant, Tesla-esque touchscreen for about 5 minutes, I still couldn't get the seat into a position that was comfortable for me to drive.
So the S90 isn't perfect for me -- which is sad, because I'd love the chance to have a wooden key that matches my wood dashboard. But if you're on the shorter side of the population and looking for a pretty great luxury car, it's absolutely worth swinging by the Volvo dealership to check out the S90.