The 2019 Volvo S90 is fighting the good fight for luxury sedans as armies of crossovers continue their relentless advance. Classified as a midsize car, the S90 is almost as spacious as a full-size sedan. The quality of materials is of a suitably lofty standard and equipment levels are generous, especially in terms of safety equipment. Prices, meanwhile, aren’t quite as daunting as the German competition.
After years of producing good vehicles, Volvo is now making great vehicles, yet remaining true to the company’s traditional values such as safety and comfort. There are no high-performance S90 variants along the lines of BMW’s M cars, just increasing levels of sumptuousness as we ascend the trim levels.
What’s New for 2019?
The entry-level T5 version loses its leather seating surfaces, which are replaced by simulated leather, or can be reinstated through an individual option. In the "gains" column, the previous 8-in digital driver information display makes way for a 12.3-in unit, plus heated windshield washer nozzles, a 12-volt outlet in the trunk, a garage door opener with a compass set into the rearview mirror and all-wheel-drive versions now have heated front seats as standard.
Inscription models lose their full LED exterior lighting and high-pressure headlight cleaning system, which become part of a new optional Advanced Package, but gain a Harman Kardon audio system upgrade. The optional Luxury Package for S90 Inscription cars now includes a heated steering wheel. See the 2019 Volvo S90 models for sale near you
What We Like
Impressive safety features (a Volvo hallmark); tasteful yet luxurious interior design; impressive fuel economy for a large sedan; great infotainment system
What We Don’t
The least powerful engine sometimes struggles with such a hefty car
T5 versions have a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine developing 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in combined driving (front-wheel drive) or 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined (with the optional AWD).
T6 models have a 4-cylinder 2.0-liter engine that is both turbocharged and supercharged to develop 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. AWD is standard in the T6 and fuel economy is 21 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined.
The T8 plug-in hybrid also has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with turbocharging and supercharging, which is augmented by an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. System output is a muscular 400 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, driving all four wheels as standard. In EV mode, maximum range is 21 miles. The EPA estimates a combined miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe) of 71 when using both power sources. As a regular hybrid, it’s rated at 29 mpg combined. The quickest battery charging time at 220 volts is 2.5 hours.
All versions of the S90 use an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Volvo S90 is available in Momentum trim with a choice of all three drivetrains. Inscription trim offers just the T6 and T8 setups.
The T5 Momentum ($48,345), the T6 Momentum ($55,525) and the T8 Momentum ($64,895 before any federal or state tax credits) versions have a panoramic sunroof, 18-in alloy wheels, a 12.3-in driver information display, keyless entry/ignition, heated windshield washer nozzles, rear parking sensors and camera, heated front seats (optional in front-drive T5/standard in T6 and T8), dual-zone automatic climate control, adjustable drive mode settings, simulated leather upholstery, birch wood inlays, 10-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory settings, power-folding rear headrests, a self-dimming rearview and side mirrors, infotainment system with a 9-in touchscreen, navigation, satellite radio, 330-watt/10-speaker audio system with 10 speakers, a USB port, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration and a comprehensive array of driver-assistance features detailed in the Safety section below.
The new optional Advanced Package ($2,900) adds full LED headlights with automatic high beams, high-pressure headlight cleaning, a self-steering parking feature, a 360-degree camera arrangement, a head-up display and a power-operated trunk lid.
The T6 Inscription ($60,445) and the T8 Inscription ($69,995 before any federal or state tax credits) include automatic high beams, high-pressure headlight cleaning, quad-zone automatic climate control, a chilled glovebox, heated/ventilated front seats, front passenger-side memory settings, powered rear window sunshade, manual sun shades for the rear passenger-side windows, Nappa soft leather upholstery, walnut wood inlays and 19-in alloy wheels.
Inscription models are eligible for a Luxury package ($3,450) that consists of a Nubuck headliner, a heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated outboard rear seats, massaging front seats and an extra-wide deluxe rear center armrest.
Individual options include a 19-speaker/1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound system ($3,200, but one of the best car systems there is), rear air suspension ($1,200) and child booster seats ($420).
Trunk space is 13.5 cu ft., on the low side of average for the class. But still good enough for three sets of golf clubs.
Volvo specializes in safety features. Each S90 comes with adaptive cruise control in Pilot Assist (Volvo’s semi-autonomous drive system), City Safety (collision avoidance, low- and high-speed collision mitigation and pedestrian/cyclist/large animal detection), blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, run-off road protection and mitigation, lane-departure warning, road sign recognition and rear collision mitigation.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet crash-tested the S90, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has made the car a Top Safety Pick.
Behind the Wheel
Supremely comfortable and gently supportive seats are another Volvo speciality. Slide into the driver’s seat and the well-designed dash spreads out in front.
Operating Volvo’s Sensus Connect infotainment system quickly becomes intuitive, with pinch/pull zooming, swiping and other functions that will be second nature for people with smartphones, which is most of us. The display’s contents are easily customized and reward users who are willing to put in a little setup time.
The S90’s comfortable ride and impressive fuel economy make it ideal for road trips. The car soaks up any pavement imperfections. Highway performance is pleasant and relaxing, especially once the driver is fully acquainted with Pilot Assist’s subtle intervention. The 8-speed automatic transmission, meanwhile, is almost imperceptible in its operation.
Performance from the T5 is adequate, the T6 is more energetic, but neither setup could really be called sporty. Curvy roads and tight turns also bring something of a challenge, as this big sedan is more of a natural cruiser than a corner carver. The majority of drivers, however, should be perfectly satisfied.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Acura RLX — Always worth considering for the equipment/cost equation.
2019 Audi A6 — All-new for this model year. The previous model was one of the best in its class. This one is even better.
2019 Genesis G80 — Comes with a lot of equipment for the price, but doesn’t seem quite as "fully baked" as most contenders here.
2019 Lexus GS — Getting old now, but still spacious, luxurious, well put together and enjoyable to drive.
Used Mercedes-Benz S-Class — The trouble with buying a pre-owned car is that it won’t have such up-to-the-minute technology. But the S-Class has never been short of great features. That’s one reason why it’s the best seller in its segment.
Is anyone really going to buy a base version of the S90? Look first at a T6 Momentum and work out how much more equipment, if any, might be required or desired. Find a Volvo S90 for sale