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Most everyone is familiar with Volvo cars. Affectionately known as “bricks on wheels,” these sturdy Nordic trackers have built a reputation that is high on safety and reliability, but lacking in style and luxury. No one ever placed Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac and BMW in the same conversation. The once befallen Cadillac has steamrolled its way back into the mix with the impressive CT6 Sedan, and Volvo now competes with the aforementioned marques in its all-new, hard-to-believe-it’s-a-Volvo, 2017 S90.

There’s nothing carried over from earlier Volvo sedans (like the S80). This is a clean sheet attempt to right what was a sinking Volvo ship.

First, a history lesson.

For decades, Volvo had been a niche automobile for buyers who wanted the ultimate in safety and convenience. As competition grew within the industry from upstarts like Lexus and Infiniti, Volvo decided to sell its car business to focus on commercial truck sales. It was ultimately purchased by Ford in 1999, and then left to dangle in the wind when Ford attempted to sell the company during the 2008 global economic crisis.

On the brink of extinction, Volvo found itself in dire straits with mass layoffs and no development or research capital.

For several model years, Volvo just survived. In 2010, near its last breath of life, Volvo Cars was sold to the Chinese Geely Holding Group. The new owner provided funds to get Volvo back on its feet, and left the Swedish automaker alone to do what they do best — build quality cars.

The 2017 XC90 was the first home run hit by the new Volvo.  Across the country, dealers can barely keep them in stock.  Now, the S90 rewrites whatever it is you thought about Volvo.

Swedish large car luxury is here.

As you approach the 2017 Volvo S90, you’ll be struck by its beauty.  The wheels are stretched to both ends of the car, resulting in a sizeable cabin chock full of luxury and safety features.

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Inside, “Sensus” telematics with 9-inch screen (arrayed like an iPad Mini), Wi-Fi, navigation, 12.3-inch central instrument display, Bluetooth with hands-free audio streaming, moonroof, leather seating, rear camera, walnut inlays, 330-watt sound system, “Clean Zone” air quality system, four-zone climate control and much, much more are among standard and optional features.

For all the bells and whistles, opt for the $3,300 “Inscription” package. Package features include Nappa soft leather seats and key fob, ventilated seats, 19-inch wheels, Apple Play with USB hub (Android available soon), leather dashboard and upper door panels, laminated side windows to block out sound, and a load more comfort and luxury features to enhance your 2017 Volvo S90 experience.

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The power of four (cylinders).

On the road, four cylinder turbocharged engines with varying power outputs move all current Volvos down the road. The S90’s four cylinder delivers a strong 316-horsepower punch in “T6” trim. Coupled with all-wheel drive, road dynamics are superior.  Critics argue it’s no BMW 5-Series, which is fine since this it is a different type of luxury vehicle. Remember, it’s a Volvo.

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Luxury is here, safety never left.

Speaking of safety, all of the letters in the safety alphabet soup are present. Features like ABS (anti-lock braking system), DSC (dynamic stability control), TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) are some we’re used to reading about. Other significant standard or optional 2017 Volvo S90 safety systems include “City Safety,” which can figure out whether there’s a collision risk when you’re approaching slower moving or stationary vehicles from behind. If you fail to brake hard enough or in time, your S90 will brake for you. Oh, and if you become involved in an accident, the S90 has technology that will help limit serious injury or death, too.

Price

Volvo S90 prices begin at $46,950. Our tested T6 AWD Inscription came in at $52,950 base, and at $66,105 with options and $995 destination charge.

The road ahead.

Volvo plans to launch six more models in the next three years. Parent company Geely has spent more than $1 billion in retooling the Volvo lineup, and their investment appears to be reaping dividends.

 

thumbnail About the Contributor
Brian Armstead has been involved in print, radio and television for over 40 years.  He is President Emeritus of the Washington Automotive Press Association, and his vehicle reviews appear in several publications in the U.S. and Canada. Brian is also a regular guest on automotive radio and television programs, and contributor to several web sites.