2018 Volvo S90 T8 Inscription: Understated and electrified elegance

Posted by Wheels On Edge about 8 months ago
Volvo has long held a reputation cemented in safety innovations. Now the company is looking to go green, promising to electrify its entire lineup by 2019 – and this is the first example of that promise being delivered. The company’s full sized S90 sedan is the premiere of Volvo’s electric rollout. Does it signal a bleak future for the brand, or does this greener process actually make some sparks fly? Let’s find out.

On looks alone, the modern day Volvo is already a hit. It’s a far cry from the boxy sedans and wagons many have come to know the brand for. Taking a cleaner approach, the Volvo’s sleek exterior is quite elegant – especially when sitting on the optional 20-inch wheels present on our tester. Volvo’s now signature “Thor’s Hammer” headlights give the otherwise understated exterior a hint of aggression. The Nordic aesthetic continues inside too – with unvarnished wood panels beautifully accenting the dashboard and doors, an almost minimalist, uncluttered dashboard design, soft touch materials and the cherry on top of the optional ‘Inscription’ package – a crystal gear shift knob. Some drivers will find the shifting method a little unconventional and downright annoying, as it requires two taps to shift from neutral to reverse or drive. We did get used to it and it became second nature after a few drives however. The S90 also has some of the most comfortable seats we’ve ever experienced in a vehicle. “Made in China” is not always seen as the mark of a premium product, but the Chinese-built S90 seems to exhibit excellent build quality with good fit and finish, and a cabin free of rattles, squeaks and other unruly noises – save for those made by the driver. 
But as gorgeous as the car is, the S90’s looks aren’t new (even though it is now 12cm longer.) What is new is its hybrid drivetrain. With its length, you might think a large V8 or V12 might lie under the hood of the S90, but in fact, it’s a petite 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. But that small engine is both supercharged and turbocharged, packing a lot of punch for its size. What’s more – the T8 package adds an electric motor to the mix, pushing the car to 400 horsepower with 472 lb-ft of torque. Even though the car is heavier thanks to the electric motor’s batteries, it’ll still spring from 0-100 in just over 4 seconds. But don’t let those figures fool you – this isn’t a performance sedan. The S90 is for driving in comfort, luxury and style. Even on the most performance oriented drive mode, the ride is smooth and forgiving, switching seamlessly between electricity and gasoline at a moment’s notice. At speed, some degree of torque steer is noticeable, but not intrusive. The aforementioned drive modes adjust throttle response, suspension and steering, and can be tailored to the driver’s preferences. We kept it in the default drive mode the majority of the time as it delivered a good balance of comfort and performance feel. Volvo’s reputation for safety continues in the S90. The City Safety suite of tech comes standard on the S90, featuring pedestrian detection and collision mitigation technology. 
So it looks good and it drives well for what it is. How much will it set you back? The S90 on its own, sans T8, comes in at $55,750 in Canada. Add the hybrid T8 option and that price jumps to just under $75,000. Go all out with the Inscription trim level like our tester and the price rises even higher to under $92,000. In certain provinces you will at least be entitled to a government rebate, but it’s still a hard pill to swallow. It does also beg the question of whether the hybrid status is worth it compared to the trim level right below it, the T6, which is almost $9,500 cheaper – and all of this is before any taxes and applicable fees come in to play. You’ll be down on power, torque, and hybrid status, but you’ll be saving almost $10,000. But – competition from the likes of BMW, Audi and even Lexus come in at similarly high price points. In the world of flagship sedans, it’s the little things that let cars stand out. The S90 T8 Inscription represents the epitome of the modern Volvo. It’s stylish, safe and comfortable. It’s a technological tour de force with a beautiful design and attention to detail inside and out. It has its quirks and the cost may seem high, but in a sea of Benzes and BMW’s, it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd

Written by Shane Kalicharan

2018 Volvo S90 T8, Review, Inscription, Electric

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