2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription Review

Our favorite midsize luxury sedan, hands down.

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Positives: Excellent road manners, ample thrust from the supercharged and turbocharged four, sumptuous and artful interior, killer good seats, one of the best infotainment systems on the planet, it's not a German car.
Negatives: Rear end looks unresolved and inconsistent with the rest of the car, no paddle shifters, ignition button in the wrong place, big touchscreen is a fingerprint magnet.
Bottom Line: If you want something different in a luxury sedan, you can't do better than the S90. It's just beautiful to behold and fantastic to drive. We dare you to find a car company that's doing interiors as good as this. The S90 does just about everything with aplomb and even fully outfitted, it comes across as a bargain compared to BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the models in the S90's crosshairs.
 View Our 2017 Volvo S90 Overview
Volvo is clearly not what it used to be. Now, fully in the hands of parent company Geely from China, Volvo is on an onslaught. Its first wholly new vehicle was the XC90 SUV that bowed earlier this year, and it's spectacular. The second vehicle is this S90 luxury sedan, and it's meant to go after market dominant players such as the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E Class. It's playing in a tough field, but it's a full-on effort by Volvo, so it should be a serious contender. We drove it for a week to see how it held up against the stalwarts. Read on for our full review.

Driving Experience



You might want to laugh at a luxury sedan with a four-cylinder engine, but then you haven’t tried the S90, have you? Volvo did a good job of making the car special in its own right. Though it won't outdrive a BMW 540i, it's still a very capable European sedan.

Ride Quality: The S90 handles roads with skill and smoothness, and though it absorbs bumps well, it doesn’t lose its sporting abilities. At 80+ mph highway speeds, it’s very composed. Enter unpredictable city streets, and it dispatches them with ease and comfort.

Acceleration: The S90 moves off the line quickly and passing at highways speeds feels effortless. This is one quick four-banger, and the 8-speed automatic shifts very fast, indeed.

Braking: Brake feel is excellent with no dead spots and good firmness. These are brakes you’re not afraid to take hard because the smoothness and progression are spot on. In Dynamic mode, the brakes become even more responsive.

Steering: The electrically-assisted steering could use more feedback, but we never felt that we couldn’t place it well into turns. It’s a little bit light initially, but effort does increase as the steering wheel moves..

Handling: The S90 has minimal body roll, and we never upset the chassis in more aggressive turns. The stiffness of the shocks in Dynamic mode is upped, too.




Whoever thought the Swedes would do anything along the lines of slick tech, when it seems they’ve always primarily been focused on safety? Well, the S90 jumps light years ahead of the dated systems found on the current S60 and old S80, and every other luxury automaker should take notice. The big 9” portrait touchscreen is a wonder, and once you get acclimated to its functionality, every other UI system seems stupid by comparison. It reduces button clutter, adds beauty and works seamlessly. Thank goodness, though, that the S90 still has big and simple physical audio controls just below the screen.

Infotainment System: Handsome to look at and very fluid in usage. It took us a bit of time to get used to the newfangled system, but once we got the hang of it, we were hooked. The font is clear and easy to read, and nothing is cryptic. Navigation and AppleCar Play were absolutely excellent on our 2-hour drive from Chicago to South Bend, Indiana..

Controls: The whole idea of virtually eliminating buttons isn’t always a good one, but in the S90 it works. Steering wheel controls were big and easy to use, and the gearshift knob felt great in the hand, too. We didn’t quite like the placement of the ignition button between the seats and would rather have it on the dash where it belongs. The knurled aluminum drive mode selector feels good but is a bit small to use quickly. We also wish the S90 would keep it in the last mode you selected when the engine was last shut off.

Bluetooth Pairing: Quick with no issues. Music streaming also worked very well.

Voice Call Quality: Excellent quality on both sides of the call, and the great sound deadening and noise cancellation make it that much easier to conduct calls on the road.




Take one look at the S90, and you can see that it looks like no other car on the road, nor does it mimic any of Volvo’s last generation cars, not even in the least. Its silhouette can best be compared to the beautiful Audi A7 fastback-style sedan, but it’s even more elegant than that. It’s also lower and wider than many of its competitors, giving it an aggressive stance that doesn’t belie its luxury leanings. We’re just not huge fans of the rear end of the car, but we can live with it, given the fact that the rest of the car is so good to look at.

Front: The large scoop-style grille that’s almost like a Maserati Quattroporte is toothy and draws the eye, especially when it’s flanked by the excellent Thor’s Hammer t-shaped driving lights.

Rear: Though the back end is by no means unattractive, it’s our least favorite view of the S90. We think the bracket-style taillights and the vast expanse of nothingness in between seem like an afterthought. The rear of the upcoming V90 wagon is far better. Expect changes when the S90 will probably get refreshed in a couple of years.

Profile: One of the car’s best views is the profile, largely due to the steeply raked front and rear glass, as well as the shoulder line that runs the full length of the S90’s svelte body.

Cabin: No one is doing interiors like Volvo, and the S90 in Inscription trim is positively stunning. The matte wood trim is well-sculpted, and the use of brushed metal all over the cabin is tasteful and artful. The vertical “airblade” AC vents are functional and slick, and every aspect feels good to the touch. Each of the S90’s interior surfaces is beautiful to look at, and it’s a cabin that you’ll find hard to grow tired of. It’s a refreshing place to be.




We’re thrilled to see that in the pursuit of a stellar interior, Volvo didn’t lose its renown for supreme comfort. Though the rear seats are quite good, it’s the front seat occupants that get treated like Swedish royalty. The visual feast within adds to occupant comfort because it’s like a minimalist but still breathtaking atmosphere. Nothing is overdone, but it’s all visually relaxing. From the great visibility to the quietness, coupled with the interior functionality and styling results in one of the best automotive environments we’ve ever come across.

Front Seats: The front seats are supportive and cosseting at the same time, and we especially loved the near-infinite adjustment, along with the thigh bolsters that kept our backsides fresh on our road trips.

Rear Seats: Plenty of headroom and legroom, and the rear seats are quite comfortable, but the rear seat cushion sits a little bit low for our tastes.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The S90 has a very quiet cabin, and there’s no vibration that we noticed, even over some pretty rough pavement.

Visibility: The excellent seating position provides good forward visibility, and even though the windshield and rear glass are aggressively angled, there are no sightline issues.

Climate: Cools and heats like a champ, and unlike many other cars that do on-screen climate control, these were a cinch to use.




Though the S90 hasn’t been crash tested yet, there’s no way Volvo would let its flagship sedan be anything but bank vault safe. Plus, it gets a robust set of active safety technology that is class-leading. Every S90 gets Volvo’s full set of safety features.

IIHS Rating: Testing has not yet been conducted on the S90.

Standard Tech: Every S90 gets a low speed collision avoidance system, Pedestrian/Cyclist/Large Animal Detection that automatically brakes, whiplash protection, lane departure warning and driver alert control and great corner illumination lights, just to name a few.

Optional Tech: The Inscription trim level gets Active Bending Lights, super-bright LED and Thor’s Hammer headlights. The Vision Package adds a 360 camera, the Convenience Package adds Park Assist Pilot Front, and the Climate Package adds a graphical head-up display and heated washer fluid wiper arms.




The S90 does a solid job of providing good storage space throughout the vehicle, and the cargo room is not only spacious but easily accessible and well-shaped. There's ample space for small items in the center console, and enough room for a road trip with luggage for all occupants.

Storage Space: The center armrest is sculpted on the outside but roomy inside. There's a very small storage cubby just in front of the cupholders, but it's only good for tiny items like coins and keys. Door pockets are deep and long.

Cargo Room: Trunk space wide and fairly tall, taking on big bags and items. The power trunklid is hands-free, and you can wave your foot under the bumper to activate it.

Fuel Economy



Turbo four-cylinders are generally more fuel-efficient than their V6 counterparts, and the S90 does well in this regard without suffering for power. It bests the V6 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic by 1 City and 3 Highway, so the mileage gains are there but not huge.

Observed: 27.6 mpg in combined driving

Driving Factors: Our driving was a mix of highway and urban conditions, with two long 2+ hour highway drives during the course of our review. We drove in Dynamic mode the entire time, so owners who use Eco or Normal will easily experiene mileage gains.




Our tester came with the spectacular 10-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium system that costs a pretty $2,650. That being said, the system is worth it because it sounds as beautiful as it looks. Crisp, clear and distortion-free even at high volumes, the system is a pleasure to listen to.

Final Thoughts

We wanted to love the S90 before it even arrived since we love Volvos and have for a long time. But this one surprised us beyond words. It stepped up the luxury in a huge way and also managed to do as much in the way of style and brand cache as it did in aesthetics. It's also a pleasure to drive, and we would consider the S90 over its German competitors in a heartbeat. It's distinctive, functionally awesome and very fetching. Volvo is doing big things, and the S90 is more evidence that they've hit the high notes very well, indeed. Watch out everyone else in the luxury segment. The S90 has arrived, and it's taking names.
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