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Volvo S90 long-term test review: going On Call

Published: 30 April 2019

► Volvo S90 joins our fleet
► Not hybrid, not diesel
► Not very Volvo, then?

Even before the sleep deprivation, I could never really remember where I parked our car. Now, running on empty 10 weeks into becoming a family of three, I'm often unsure whether I've showered and I definitely don't have a bloody clue where I last left the S90.

Step forward Volvo's On Call app, which has a map to remind you where your car is. You can turn on the lights too, in case you're really struggling – and sound the horn if you're an arse. It also lets you lock and unlock the doors and start the engine remotely on cold mornings. I'm not sure I want another car idling in London, but knowing where it's parked is a literal step in the right direction.

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Volvo S90 T5 R-Design Pro

Price £44,920
As tested £49,370
Engine 1969cc 16v 4-cyl turbo, 247bhp @ 5500rpm, 258lb ft @ 1800rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, front-wheel drive  
Performance 6.8sec 0-62mph, 140mph, 156g/km CO2
Miles this month 158
Total miles 744
Our mpg 28.1
Official mpg 42.2
Energy cost 20p per mile

Living with a Volvo S90 T5: hello and welcome

Volvo S90 LTT hello

Hot on the heels of one new arrival, a diminutive milk tyrant, comes another addition to the Pulman household: a sensible Volvo. As a panicked new father, faced with a mountain of paraphernalia inversely proportional to the baby's size, it's the obvious solution.

I am though, in my early 30s, and reluctant to embrace the traditional Volvo estate, so my Swede is the big S90 saloon. It's a handsome car, all clean Scandipure lines and subtle presence, and in my corner of south-west London it scores bonus points for the novelty of not being another XC90 or XC60.

The S90 may not be an everyday sight in the UK, but globally it's a big deal, especially in China. Worldwide sales were up 22.6 per cent to 57,142 in 2018 – and it outsold the V90 and V90 Cross Country combined.

Beneath the unassuming skin it's Volvo's Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), the modular platform that underpins all the 90- and 60-series SUVs, saloons and estates that have been built under Geely ownership, while inside it's the same infotainment system Volvo has cleverly rolled out across its range without all its models feeling like a set of matryoshka dolls.

A diesel engine is an option, but I've gone for the 2.0-litre four-cylinder, another bit of tech that proliferates across the Volvo range. In the S90 you can have a turbocharger and a supercharger plus hybrid gubbins for the near-400bhp (but near-£60k) T8. Ours, though, is the new T5 version, which means a single turbo like the entry-level T4, but 59bhp and 37lb ft more for 247bhp and 258lb ft totals. Only the D5 and the T8 hybrid power all four wheels, so drive goes through the front via an eight-speed auto.

Volvo S90 long-term side pan

The cheapest S90, in T4 Momentum guise, comes in at £36,120, and for that you get everything from adaptive cruise control and heated front seats, to tyre pressure monitoring and LED lights – but you need the £41,620 R-Design or £42,3070 Inscription trims for the T5 engine.

Inscription is the posh trim with walnut interior inlays and chrome exterior trim, while R-Design is Volvo's equivalent of BMW's M Sport. A host of detail tweaks inside and out including sportier seats, silver mirrors, swathes of metal across the dash and doors, and perforated leather for the steering wheel, gearstick and key. We settled on the £44,920 R-Design Pro spec, which further adds keyless entry, 20in wheels, a heated steering wheel, tinted windows, bendy lights and a head-up display.

First impressions pottering around London, besides it being blue and big (it's a lengthy 4963mm) are of a vehicle uninterested with the frenetic pace of life. Close the S90's door and suddenly your world is a calmer place, with barely a button in sight throughout the uncluttered cabin. While the Germans stand tablet-aping screens proud of the dash and up in your eyeline, nothing in the Volvo rises above the stitched dash. And while usually I can't stand such minimalism, the portrait-format nine-inch central touchscreen is a doddle to use.

We'll come to the infotainment system in more detail in coming months, but for now, combined with the fact the engine is quiet, the seats supremely comfortable, and the digital dials clear and easy to read, life aboard is serene, quiet and relaxing. At least, that is, until the little one in the back starts crying...

Volvo S90 long-term headlight

Volvo S90 T8: spec highlights

An actual colour? that’ll cost you
Ice White paint is the only no-cost colour option, while our choice of Bursting Blue is the only adventurous one – the rest are all shades of white, silver or grey. It’s £1000; the others are £700.

The screen can’t multitask
If you’re prepared to do without the head-up display that’s standard on Momentum Pro, R-Design Pro and Inscription Pro models, you can get a heated screen. It’s a no-cost deal that works for us: it quickly de-ices the screen on frosty mornings. 

No more notes under the wipers
We’ve got a 360º around-view camera system as part of the £1600 Xenium pack, which also comes with a sunroof, plus Volvo’s Park Assist Pilot tech that can do automatic parallel and 90º parking – in case the four cameras aren’t enough.

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Volvo S90 T5 R-Design Pro

Price £44,920
As tested £49,370
Engine 1969cc 16v 4-cyl turbo, 247bhp @ 5500rpm, 258lb ft @ 1800rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, front-wheel drive  
Performance 6.8sec 0-62mph, 140mph, 156g/km CO2
Miles this month 49
Total miles 586
Our mpg 23.6
Official mpg 42.2
Fuel this month £13.01
Extra costs None

Check out our Volvo reviews

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy