The world has gone crazy over the last year or so for Volvo’s XC90. Here was a car that promised to keep drivers safer than any car that had gone before it. And according to the testing it succeeded. What was more, the new styling finally broke with the Swedish carmaker’s legacy of making boxy, ugly cars. The XC90 is truly elegant and beautiful to behold. It goes head to head with the likes of Range Rover and BMW in the segment.
Now that we’re in November, we’re not far away from the launch of the XC90’s saloon equivalent, the S90. The sedan version of the XC90 promises to bring the same finesse and safety to a whole new segment of the market. Will it be able to compete with the likes of the M5 and the C-Class? Or will it fall flat on its face as a brief foray into a space in which the company has no experience?
It’s worth pointing out that the new Volvo comes with a relatively powerful diesel engine. The engine itself uses compressed air to assist the turbocharger and help it be more responsive. For lovers of petrol cars who didn’t want to move over to diesel in the past, this is important. Finally, the annoying delay between pressing the throttle and the turbo kicking in is eliminated.
The problems for the S90 comes in the corners. The M5, the car’s chief competitor, is a delight in the corners, thanks to some ingenious suspension and differentials. But the S90 appears to have been built with cruising in mind. On the straights, the car is superbly planted. But in the corners, it feels a little lackluster. The car certainly isn’t enthusiastic about making sharp turns. The result is that the car feels more lethargic, even than the Audi A5 in corners. That’s worrying if Volvo is going after the enthusiast segment with this car.
What about safety? After all, that’s the XC90’s claim to fame. Companies like Mace Law see thousands of people who’ve been hurt by accidents every year. Few of them, however, are drivers of the XC90. The XC90 has revolutionized car safety standards and has given Volvo a substantial lead in this area over other carmakers.
The S90 looks to continue in the footsteps of its crossover cousin. The car will come equipped with Volvo’s pilot assist. This technology helps to keep the vehicle in the center of the lane while traveling on the highway. It also helps maintain a steady distance from the car in front, stopping the driver from accidentally tailgating the car ahead. Currently, Volvo’s Pilot Assist is rated as a two on the Department of Transportation’s 0 – 4 autonomy scale.
The new technology is also expected to work better than similar offerings from companies like BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. One of the problems that these manufacturers have had is getting their autonomous systems operating in the winter. Cameras can freeze over, causing the systems to stop working. Volvo says that they have solved this problem on the S90 by using heated cameras and radar.
The Volvo S90 is certainly a luxury car of the future. It’s got technological credentials that we could have only dreamed of a decade ago. But is it fun to drive? That’ll be the important question going forward.