Volvo S90 D4

R-Design

Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, front, action
Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, side, action
Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, rear, action
Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, front, static
Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, side, static
Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, rear, static
Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, interior
Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, rear seats
Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, boot
Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, display screen
Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, front seats
Volvo S90 R-Design, 2017, action, upright

THERE was a time you knew exactly where you stood with Volvo - a car maker renowned for its tough, practical, well built and extremely safe saloon and estate cars.

Arguably it lost its way somewhat during a period of Ford ownership, perhaps because it was the least salubrious marque in Ford's Premier Automotive Group, which also included the likes of Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover.

In the fire sale which saw those marques off-loaded to foreign buyers Volvo could easily have gone the way of its fellow famed Swedish car maker Saab, which is alas no more.

Instead six years ago it was snapped-up by the extremely ambitious Chinese firm Geely Holdings, which also owns Coventry's London Taxi Company - or London Electric Vehicle Company as it's now known.

Sometimes Chinese investment in the automotive sector is feared - it hasn't really transformed MG in the way many had hoped - but with Volvo it has been nothing short of transformational.

Geely is investing billions in Volvo and the benefits can be seen already. The company has pledged to deliver smaller but efficient engines using only four cylinders, has committed to an electric future and also produces one of the best petrol electric hybrid engines there is.

The latest XC90 SUV is even better than its truly ground-breaking predecessor and the smaller XC60 is a pace-setter too.

Volvo's hatches and estates are up there with the best as well but in many ways its newest models, the S90 saloon and the V90 estate which is arriving soon, represent a real test.

Volvo was always renowned for those big saloons and estates and the S90 is a new interpretation of that tradition.

More recently Volvo has failed to match the class-leading Germans on the big saloon front - sitting somewhere between mainstream and premium marques.

So, is the S90 up to the mark?

In short the answer is yes, in pretty much every respect.

The S90 looks good for a start, with the kind of design lines that delight and are sure to draw admiring glances.

There's an element of similarity to executive saloons these days - they all seem to look remarkably alike - and while the S90 doesn't deviate too far from current fashion it's as appealing as anything being offered by Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar.

It doesn't have the boxy and defining simplicity of those 1970s Volvo saloons but equally there's a timeless elegance about it.

On the inside the S90 is a revelation. Quality is to the fore in every cabin detail and there was nothing I could take issue with.

Easily a match for the Germans in some respects it trumps them with flourishes of Scandinavian flair that help set it apart.

The instrumentation in particular is characterised by clarity and ease of use.

At its heart is a large tablet-style touchscreen which controls everything from the satellite navigation system to the heating and air-conditioning and entertainment.

The cabin in the S90 is huge, almost with something of a limousine quality about it and rear seat passengers are about as well catered for as one could wish for.

I acted as an impromptu chauffeur for a couple of friends one evening and they were impressed on every level.

In terms of cost the S90 is pretty competitive too. The range starts at £33,865 and goes all the way up to £57,705 for a hybrid petrol/electric all wheel drive model.

Other than that all models have a 2.0-litre diesel engine under the bonnet, offering either 190 or 235bhp, with the higher-powered variants coming with four-wheel drive.

This was the lower powered diesel yet it felt sufficiently potent and was super smooth to boot.

So, what's the S90 like to drive?

This is where one might expect it to struggle against those German rivals but that was not the case.

Clearly some of that Geely investment has gone into improving dynamics - offering a Volvo that is genuinely fun to drive, as well as being safe and comfortable.

A decent drive does not sacrifice ride quality either, which was exemplary.

As you would expect, those safety features are ever present.

These days they include some suitably high-tech elements, such as pilot assist, which shows just how much autonomous driving technology is making its presence felt as we move towards a driverless future.

With your hand lightly resting on the steering the car will pursue its own path, keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

In summary there's an awful lot to like about the S90, which in so many ways shows just how far Volvo have come in a relatively short space of time under Geely's ownership.

FAST FACTS

Volvo S90 D4 R-Design

Price: £36,365

Mechanical: 190bhp, 1,969cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 140mph

0-62mph: 8.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 64.2

Insurance Group: 28

C02 emissions: 116 g/km

Bik rating: 25%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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