Volvo’s new S90 Revealed

Here is it is, the replacement for the S80. It almost didn’t happen but Volvo reconsidered and now there is a meaningful alternative to BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes.

2016 Volvo S90: autocar.co.uk
2016 Volvo S90: autocar.co.uk

You’ll notice that the profile is markedly more elongated than the previous cars which themselves were not exactly slight cars. The bonnet has an almost horizontal angle and the surfacing is rather massive. It is out of the same mould as the XC90 meaning it’s going to look very imposing on the road and in the metal.

Autocar reported this: “Our idea was to

2016 Volvo S90: autocar.co.uk
2016 Volvo S90: autocar.co.uk

bring something entirely new to this rather conservative segment and deliver a visual expression that exudes leadership and confidence on the exterior,” said Thomas Ingenlath, Senior Vice President Design at Volvo Car Group. “On the inside, we have taken the S90 to the next level, delivering a high-end luxury experience that promises comfort and control.”  Volvo’s UK managing director is quoted by the same source as saying “We have our own values around exterior and interior design, safety, comfort and powertrain advancements that stand out for their own qualities.” They are not trying to aim to beat the Germans at their own game and will be happy if 2000 units find customers annually in the UK. For anyone a little dispirited by the monotony of the large car market, this is a cheering entrant to the fray.

Nice yet not very Swedish. I like the wood: autocar.co.uk
Nice yet not very Swedish. I like the wood: autocar.co.uk

I will reserve judgement about the car’s appearance for a while but my first impressions of the exterior are favourable. It is striking without any unnecessary fussy detailing. I wonder a bit about the C-pillar though. It’s a habit of mine at the moment. The lamps look distinctive without being contrived and the grille says in Swedish please get out of my way, thanks. The interior looks pleasant though it lacks much of the character the previous cars has. It’s a shade generic despite the lavish wood and leather treatment. The question is, will it have enough legroom? The last car didn’t provide enough visual space despite its large size. The original S80 was superior on that score and even today still looks like a very habitable vehicle.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

41 thoughts on “Volvo’s new S90 Revealed”

  1. To be to the point, from what I have seen, I like this quite a lot. My only beef is that I do find the rear light treatment rather clumsy and almost vulgar – I think I can see what they were attempting, and wonder whether if the vertical element of the rear lamps could have been made more slim the effect would have been rather nice. Of course, in time I might get over it, in which case this could become a future (used) option. Some interesting drivetrain options, but I’d prefer there to have been a nice 5 or 6 cylinder.

    1. I don’t mind the rear lights that much, although the lobster’s claw look is becoming an industry cliche. And combined with the creases, the rear view is a bit fussy. But at least it is quite distinctive.

    1. The worst thing about it is that it looks like the result of what a decorator would do to simulate wood grain. Maybe there’s a fake marble option as well?

  2. I first thought I’d have to wait for the estate in order to be pleased. But with this fastback profile, the saloon looks good for me, too. I’ll have to see it from other angles, though, for a definitive verdict.

    I like this pointy nose, it’s almost like a ’60es Fiat or a ’70es BMW. The rear seems to have some Škoda flavour I don’t like, but that might be less pronounced when seen in the flesh.

    All in all, it’s great to have another independent and characterful alternative in this segment, and I hope sales will do better than with the S80 lately.

  3. So, Sam doesn´t like the wood and the rear lights are under fire. Simon and Sean don´t like the rear much. To Sam I say you can probably order it with something else other than light wood, Black plastic? And the lights don´t bother me at all. They don´t make me think of another car or arthropods of the class crustacea. The rear panel of the boot is nicely worked out. There´s an elongated oblong that is surrounded by the C-shaped lights and lines connect them from side to side. Only the crease under the Volvo badge looks a bit indecisive. I think this car deserves a bit more than faint praise from me: I think it´s very pleasing indeed and a clear step ahead of the other vehicles in the same class. The BMW 5-series is quite blobular. The Mercedes E-class offends with its nasty shut lines and mock-sporty grille. Jaguar´s XF is perhaps the nicest of them while Audi´s A6 won´t be as comfortable. Styling-wise it works though. Have I left anyone out? Ah, the Ghibli. A horror.

    1. Black plastic? Is that all you have to offer? High quality wood, looking like real wood, with a tasteful modern treatment – that would do just fine. No more, no less. Is that too much to ask?

    2. I’m with Richard here. A very fine effort from Ingenlath and his team, inside and out. The three German marques won’t be massively concerned but JLR certainly should be. Better looking than the new XF? Well considering the fact that there are suggestions of Team Callum in the S90’s ‘disciplined lines and surfaces’, I would heretically suggest that it is. The tail styling could be a deal breaker for some, but at least it’s different. It certainly doesn’t offend me.

      On the back of this and the XC90, Geely’s rebooting of Volvo appears both credible and commercially smart. And with an anti-diesel backlash still rumbling, placing an emphasis on hybrids could in fact work out to be a very astute move.

    3. Maybe I am showing my conservatism (or obsessiveness), and – as I wrote – I may get over myself, but I think that, when viewed from the rear three quarters, the rear lights overbalance the look of the car towards the rear, dragging the eye down. It may have less of a visual impact with a darker colour. I think the last SAAB 9-5 did it better, although I know some found that treatment a bit blingy.

      RIchard, if find it amusing that someone who likes the Juke can describe the Ghibli as a horror 😉 …

    4. If the Juke cost as much as the Ghibli then it would be a horror too. For the money they ask it´s a good laugh. Does it help if you know I drove one and liked the experience?

    5. OK ,so not quite what I had hoped for as an attempt to demonstrate my point, but I feel that, viewed from this angle, all one sees is those lights, which look heavy, and it detract from what are very nice proportions and and some interesting sculpting of surfaces. I’ll cease now …

    6. I recall you writing about your time in a Juke and that you liked it. I take your point about how driving a car can make you feel more warmly towards it than the looks on their own would have predetermined, and vice-versa. The thing I just can’t understand with the Juke is that it sells so damned well. I mean, the looks are marmite at best, it drives OK but is nothing special, the boot is small, it’s quite cramped inside for its size and it is a bit dark in there, especially in the rear given the high window line and shallow windows. Normally, controversial designs bomb commercially even though they may have one or more other outstanding features, so how come Nissan’s willful opinion-divider bucks that trend? I literally cannot think of another similar case? Perhaps that should be the subject of another post?

      On your point about design relative to cost, I don’t think about design that way – to my way of thinking (which could be perverse) design (and most other aspects of a car’s attraction) is price neutral.

    7. Well, you´d think design was price neutral but it seems not to be. Design is used to attract people who are less price sensitive. Here I am inviting a lot of stone-throwing: I think the Juke is perfectly good bit of design in that it communicates a clear signal to the target audience. It´s fun, jokey and attracts some consumers while repelling others. The Ghibli on the other hand, for all its cost, is not singular in its shaping. I´d call it indulgent without any saving grace. The last QP showed how to do that kind of thing.
      This discussion (wearing my academic´s hat) turns on design understood as “good design” or “the shape that sells best to the desired customer group”. Someimes I lean towards the first and sometimes the second!

    8. I too enjoyed the Juke when I got to drive it for a week on Mallorca’s twisting roads. But it’s far too impractical for me to ever consider buying one. It sells well for the same reasons the Mini does – mainly fashion.

  4. Isn’t Geely’s stewardship of Volvo remarkable? And Tata are letting Jaguar do precisely what they want. As far as I can tell the products are good. What does this say about Ford’s management? Ford could have these two nice brands still if they had not been so over-bearing. The goal of common platforms is supposed to save money but for Ford it compromised their new brands’ cars. And look at Lincoln: every car is clearly derived from a Ford and all the engines are shared.
    If you want a unique product then the main elements have to be unique. VW gets away with it because the perceived quality convinces people. Lincolns fail this test and are now really Mercury under another name.

    1. Regarding Geely and Tata, I remember a few years ago reading comments on TWBCM website, from people who might have known better (not those here), who viewed those two companies as unworthy, using a tone that I might politely call imperialistic. Bearing in mind the history of incompetent management that litters the US and European industries, to assume that these Asian companies didn’t ‘understand how things worked old boy’ was remarkably naive (again to put it politely).

  5. Laurent- black plastic is all that’s needed to cover up the metal bulkhead and internal components. It doesn’t even have to be black. Colour is subjective. I don’t think you should have chrome accents either. What purpose do they serve?

    1. I agree, but I’m talking about wood here – or something that looks laminate as used in a 1980’s kitchen in this instance. Please try not to change the subject.
      That goes for Sean too.

  6. You’re a picky bunch. Some of the details are a little dubious, but I like the overall effect very much indeed. Like the XC90, this S90 feels like a progression of the Peter Horbury era themes, rather than the recent nice but un-Volvo-like direction. The only misstep for me is the rear bumper: I neither like the shuts, nor the VW-ness of the numberplate impression. Otherwise the S90 looks impressive. I certainly did not expect to see a shark nose on a car so preoccupied with pedestrian safety.

    1. You say we’re being picky … then you get picky! But I agree with those who like this. If I was in the market for a saloon in this category, I’d probably go for an XF, but this would be in second place and, if the rear accommodation and bootspace was a fair bit better than the Jag’s (which I suspect might be the case), it might come out on top.

    2. Ah, maybe it’s that VW numberplate impression that gave me the impression of a Škoda. But now that I’ve seen pictures that are taken not directly from behind, but rather from an angle, I’m relieved. It’s very un-German overall, so I start to like it more and more. I still have to get familiar with the C-pillar window, though. Odd angles, too massive brightwork. I really wonder what the estate will look like. And if it has a soft, smooth, comfortable ride.

  7. All in all it is a lovely looking device but that rear number plate position just ruins it for me.

    That is a just a very quick 2 min fix I did just now which looks FAR better to my eyes and correctly balances the peculiar lights.

  8. Good work, all. May I say I prefer both revisions. Which is best would depend on the detail design. Chances are Volvo considered these principle alternatives and something forced their hand/s.

    1. I’m sure Volvo consider American plates. They do still have some sales there, don’t they?

  9. I like the original numberplate placement. I always favour uncluttered space between rear lights. It could have been even more so without the crease and the badges.
    What I especially like here is how the inclined sides of the plate recess join the exhausts, and how this slope is mirrored in the shape of the small panel between the lights’ top ends, thus forming an imaginary hourglass shape. I wonder if it still looks like intended in reality.

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