2020 Volvo S90

2020 Volvo S90 Review: Understated Luxury

by Belinda Anderson

They say all that glitters ain't gold, but by that same logic, not all that's gold actually glitters. The Volvo S90 proves the latter with much more value hidden under its less-than-blingy appearance. With one powertrain less for 2020, the S90 features a 316-horsepower four-cylinder engine that works in relative harmony with an eight-speed automatic; it doesn't blow you out of the water, but it's more than sufficient for what the sedan is meant to do, which is provide comfort, capable handling, and a spacious, luxurious cabin to travel in. Volvo tries to tick as many of the boxes as possible by providing a magnificent interior with all the bells and whistles one could ask for, but in throwing the net out so wide, has the automaker missed the mark when it comes to identifying any outstanding aspects of the luxury sedan? With a starting price in the lower $50k region, we have high expectations.

Read in this review:

2020 Volvo S90 Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 S90?

Numerous changes were made to the Volvo Cars lineup for 2020, affecting the S90 by adding standard steering support as part of the City Safety suite, autobrake, haptic feedback, and a 12.3-inch digital driver display. The new year also brings with it a polished exterior for the S90 sedan, with some attention given to new fog lights, a lower front bumper, and a fresh concave grille design. Additionally, there's an even-better-than-before sound system from the audio masters at Bowers and Wilkins available to the two top trims. The S90 also gets an advanced air cleaner, double USB ports for charging, and an available wireless charging setup. Tailored wool blend upholstery is also carried over from the XC90 range to the S90 sedan, and an all-new leather-free interior is made available for the entire range of Volvo cars, too.

However, possibly the biggest news is the deletion of the T5 powertrain that was previously available to the S90 - we don't think this is a bad thing, as the large sedan fares much better with a bit more power under the hood from the remaining T6 mill - this also removes front-wheel-drive from the equation, though, as the T6 engine is paired to AWD exclusively. The R-Design trim has also been added to flesh out the lineup for 2020, and the base Momentum models now come standard with leather upholstery, front-seat heating, front park assist, and newly-styled 18-inch wheels. Lastly, Magic Blue Metallic exterior paint is no longer available, but Bursting Blue on the R-Design and Pine Grey on the remaining trims, can now be opted for.

Pros and Cons

  • Sophisticated styling
  • Spacious cabin
  • Plush, driver-centric interior
  • Long consignment of standard features
  • T6 engine isn't as refined as some competitors
  • Sensus system not universally loved
  • Fun-factor is sacrificed for comfort
  • Less than ideal fuel economy figures
  • Trunk space is on the small side

2020 Volvo S90 Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
T6 Momentum
2.0-liter Twincharged Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$50,550
T6 R-Design
2.0-liter Twincharged Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$53,650
T6 Inscription
2.0-liter Twincharged Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$53,650

S90 Exterior

With all the TLC received for the new model year, the S90 looks even suaver with a new grille design featured in High Gloss on the Momentum and Inscription trims, while the R-Design gets a unique version of the new, slightly concave identifier. All models have LED headlights, foglights, and Thor's Hammer daytime running lights, and both the base and top-end trims get color-keyed exterior mirrors, while the R-Design gets these in black. Entry-spec cars have newly-styled 18-inch wheels, with the other trims are fitted with 19-inch items. A panoramic roof with power sunshade is also equipped to all models.

2020 Volvo S90 Front End Dynamic Volvo
2020 Volvo S90 Rear End Dynamic Volvo
2020 Volvo S90 Three Quarter Rear Left Volvo
See All 2020 Volvo S90 Exterior Photos

Dimensions

With its long nose, the S90 appears even longer than the 200.1 inches it measures in length. With a wheelbase of 120.5 inches, and a width of 79.5 inches, the S90 stands 57.1 inches tall. Although the S90 is slightly longer than both the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6, it is slightly lower than both. With curb weights starting at 4,129 pounds and maxing out at 4,176 lbs for the heaviest Inscription trims, the S90 is heftier than comparable entry-level BMW 5 Series models, with the 540i xDrive maxing out at 3,942 lbs.

  • Length 200.1 in
  • Wheelbase 120.5 in
  • Height 57.1 in
  • Max Width 74.4 in
  • Front Width 64.1 in
  • Rear Width 64.1 in

Exterior Colors

One thing we know about Scandinavian design is that it is many things - sophisticated, elegant, and classy all spring to mind - but it's not particularly exciting. With that in mind, the available color palette is the personification of reservedness and conservative taste. Black Stone is the standard no-cost option, with a variety of grays, silvers, and whites making up the rest of the options list; for $645 you can dress your S90 in Osmium Grey, Mussel Blue, Pine Grey, Crystal White, Onyx Black, or Bright Silver. The R-Design trim gets a mildly more invigorated blue hue, called Bursting Blue Metallic, in favor of the stoic Pine Grey.

  • Black Stone
  • Crystal White Metallic
  • Bright Silver Metallic
  • Osmium Grey Metallic
  • Onyx Black Metallic
  • Mussel Blue Metallic
  • Pine Grey Metallic
  • Bursting Blue Metallic

S90 Performance

With the rather mediocre T5 engine no longer on offer for this year, the S90 is now only available with a T6 or T8 powertrain, the latter being a hybrid setup which we review separately. Good for 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, the T6 allows the S90 to scramble to 60 mph in under six seconds, according to independent tests - around a full second quicker than last year's base engine and quicker than the claimed sex-second effort. While the Hybrid variant is much more athletic, the T6 is more than adequate for its purpose; turbocharged and supercharged to deliver sufficient power when needed, the S90 does well - for the most part. Now only available with all-wheel-drive, the S90 isn't performance-oriented by any stretch of the imagination, but it does supply consistent, even power that is more than enough to get the sedan moving, and make passing and overtaking a breeze. It tends to sound less refined than some rivals, however.

Sharing some traits with its four-ringed German rival such as standard AWD, both the S90 and Audi A6 offer confident acceleration overall, but don't touch on the class-leading performance by the likes of BMW rivals at the top-end of the 5 Series lineup, as well as the RWD driving dynamics the Bimmer offers. If you're looking for something to get the blood pumping, pass over the svelte Swede in this instance.

2020 Volvo S90 Three Quarter Front Left Dynamic Volvo
2020 Volvo S90 Rear Angle Dynamic Volvo
2020 Volvo S90 Rear Badge Volvo

Engine and Transmission

The S90 has only one powertrain to choose from in this guise, since the discontinuation of the T5, and excluding the high-performing hybrid setup. For 2020, the engine under the S90's hood is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor with a turbocharger and supercharger responsible for outputs of 316 hp and 295 lb-ft. An eight-speed automatic transmission transfers the power to all four wheels with rapid and slick enthusiasm, and allows for fairly rapid acceleration. The standard S90 is by no means as brisk in getting to 60 mph as it's Hybrid variant is - or German rival BMW 5 Series, for that matter - but it manages an acceptable sub-six-second time nonetheless. There's sufficient torque from low down in the rev range to make uphill climbs and overtaking easy, and the auto 'box does well when selecting the appropriate gear. While there are more refined powertrains and more voracious engines in the segment - such as the six-cylinder in the BMW 540i - the S90 is fine for its intended purpose of cruising comfort and executive class.

  • Engine
    2.0-liter Twincharged Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    AWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

When it comes to handling, the S90 offers a bit of both good and bad. The good being a capable, composed ride that takes corners without a hiccup, and the bad touching on a slightly jittery standard suspension that struggles to keep abrasions from filtering through to the cabin (which is further exacerbated by the larger 20-inch wheels). Going for the optional air suspension is recommended to help smooth this over, and for the much softer overall feel which we've come to expect from the sleek Scandivanian. Steering is weighted and responsive, and while there isn't much feedback or engagement, it's no-frills-no-fuss temperament means pleasant predictability, despite the fact that there is minimal wow-factor.

S90 Gas Mileage

One of the expectations for the Swedish automaker pertains to its ability to produce efficient, yet enthusiastic powertrains. EPA ratings for the S90 are noted at 21/31/25 mpg with the 2.0-liter twincharged motor - this is less impressive than the now-excluded T5 (23/35/27 mpg), and is less frugal than the base-powered BMW 530i that manages 25/33/28 mpg with its rear-wheel drivetrain. Not a particularly strong point for the S90, after all. The 3.0-liter rival engine in the 540i is naturally less efficient, but offers more power to play with.

Fitted with a 15.9-gallon gas tank, the S90 has a theoretical range of just under 400 miles, before needing to be topped up.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    15.9 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 21/31 mpg
* 2020 Volvo S90 T6 Momentum AWD

S90 Interior

While gas mileage may be something of a downer on the S90, the interior is most assuredly the opposite. And, with a few tweaks made to keep the 2020 model on the front lines, the S90's interior is one of the nicest in the class. Leather upholstery, open-pore wood trim, brushed metals and high-end plastics used throughout create a sense of modern simplicity and up-market design. There are many features on the list of convenience and luxury elements inside the S90, including standard heated front seats, power-adjustability on the driver and front passenger perches, an excellent base sound system with the option to upgrade to a superior Bowers and Wilkins unit on upper trims, and legroom in spades. The sedan boasts good outward visibility, although the generous hood may seem longer than it is at first, from behind the wheel.

2020 Volvo S90 Interior Front Volvo
2020 Volvo S90 Interior Front 1 Volvo
2020 Volvo S90 Interior Front Area Volvo
See All 2020 Volvo S90 Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

There is seating for five in the S90, with easy ingress and egress due to wide-opening doors. Up front, the driver and front passenger are treated to leather-clad seats with comfort padding on the base model, heating, and power-adjustment inclusive of lumbar support. R-Design models get sport seat padding for extra lateral support, and Inscription cars get ventilated Nappa perches for the front passengers. Space is ample with 37.8 inches of headroom all around, and legroom at an impressive 42.2 inches in the front, and 40.4 in the back. Although a third adult in the center rear seat will undoubtedly be cramped and legroom hindered by the high center tunnel, it's the perfect executive sedan for two adults, seated in comfort.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 42.2 in
  • Front Head Room 37.8 in
  • Rear Leg Room 40.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.8 in

Interior Colors and Materials

In keeping with the idea of luxury and comfort, the S90 comes with leather upholstery in the entry-level Momentum. Available in Amber, Maroon Brown, Blond, or Charcoal, these are paired with Dark Flame Birch inlays as standard. Moving up to the R-Design sees the fitment of one-color-only Charcoal Nubuck and Nappa leather to the seats, although full Nappa in black can be opted for with the R-Design seats that cost $750 extra. Metal Mesh inlays are used to accentuate the sporty philosophy of this trim. Top-end Inscription models get perforated Nappa leather in Blond, Amber, Charcoal, or Maroon, paired with Linear Walnut Wood inlays.

S90 Trunk and Cargo Space

With 13.5 cubic feet of room in the trunk, the available cargo space isn't much to write home about, but it's not exactly an anomaly in the class, either. Although the Audi A6 offers only a fraction more, the BMW 5 Series leads the charge with a capacious 18.7 cu-ft storage space. Still, the S90's rear seats do fold down (and, thanks to classic Volvo thoughtfulness, this can be done at the touch of a button) and a wide opening makes for easy loading. An optional power liftgate with hands-free operation is another courteous add-on available to you.

Small-item storage is on par with what's expected of a large sedan: a lockable glovebox, a rear center armrest with cupholders and storage bin, door pockets, and pockets on the back of the front seatbacks are all standard. The glovebox is also cooled, and an elongated storage tray in the center console closes up with an elegant sliding cover.

2020 Volvo S90 Front Interior Top View Volvo
2020 Volvo S90 Dashboard, Center Console Volvo
2020 Volvo S90 High Three Quarter Rear Left Volvo
  • Trunk Volume
    15.4 ft³

S90 Infotainment and Features

Features

For a luxury sedan, the S90 has most of the boxes ticked - with the rather strange exception of having a manually adjustable steering column, while other adjustments (including electric folding rear headrests) are all powered. The base Momentum comes with dual-zone climate control, which is upgraded to four-zone from the R-Design upward, an air filter, a panoramic roof, and 14-way power-adjustable front seats. Standard heating is included on the front seats with ventilation added to top-spec Inscription trims. In terms of driver assists, the S90 is fitted with front and rear collision mitigation, lane keep assist, Volvo's BLIS system (Blind Spot Information System) which includes cross-traffic alert, and hill start assist. Available safety features include a head-up display, surround-view camera, and Park Assist Pilot, which allows for both parallel and perpendicular self-parking.

Infotainment

As with other 2020 Volvo cars, the standard infotainment system is comprised of a vertically-positioned nine-inch touchscreen running the Sensus Connect software. From here, all audio, media and comfort functions are controlled by swiping through menus. Initially, the setup isn't overly user-friendly, but spend a few moments getting to know how it works - using steering controls, touchscreen or easy-to-reach knobs and rollers near the gear shifter - and you'll soon find it's quite logical and uncomplicated. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included from the base model, as is navigation, and the entry-spec car channels audio through a ten-speaker high-performance sound system. 14 speakers by Harman Kardon are fitted to the R-Design and Inscription, but a masterful Bowers and Wilkins Premium sound system can be optioned on for $3,200, featuring 19 speakers.

S90 Problems and Reliability

One recall was issued for 2020 S90 cars, pertaining specifically to a failure in the automatic emergency braking system to detect obstacles. Two further recalls were issued for 2019 variants, with problems relating to front seats that may move in a collision and an error in providing a GPS location in the event of a crash. Still, Volvo provides a limited warranty for four years of 50,000 miles, with powertrain coverage for the same period. To sweeten the deal, the automaker adds complimentary scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    12 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    4 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Maintenance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

S90 Safety

While the NHTSA has not yet run the S90 through its paces in crash testing, the IIHS conducted extensive evaluations and found the Volvo sedan to be worthy of top-notch ratings of Good in all six crash tests. The standard front crash prevention system also scored Superior, although the headlights only managed a Marginal score.

Key Safety Features

In order to maintain a reputation of 'safety first' cars, Volvo packs the S90 to the brim with active and passive safety features. Starting with seven airbags (including driver's side knee protection), the S90 from Momentum trim has hill start assist, collision mitigation both front and rear, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and rain-sensing wipers. The car also ships with adaptive cruise control, a park assist camera, and front and rear parking sensors. Additionally, the Advanced Package is available to add on a graphical head-up display, high-pressure headlight cleaning, active bending lights with full LED lamps, and a surround view camera. Park Assist is also available as a standalone option.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Volvo S90 a good car?

There's quite a bit of serious competition in the segment where the S90 comes to play, with the likes of Audi's A6 and the BMW 5 Series both bringing more fun and more power to the table. Still, that isn't to say the S90 isn't worth a look - it remains a beautiful, well-put-together vehicle with an interior that is worth every penny paid for it. Even the infotainment setup, which may require a few trial runs to learn, wins us over. The S90 doesn't stand out for being agile, sporty, or particularly fuel-efficient, however, but it does offer superior safety, a long list of standard features, a comfortable drive (especially with the adaptive air suspension box checked), and a spacious, plush cabin. If these are on your list of priorities when looking for a luxury sedan, the S90 will serve you well. If you're hoping to get your adrenaline pumping, you may be slightly disappointed.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Volvo S90?

As the flagship sedan in the Volvo family, the S90s price may seem high, but compares favorably with the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6, both of which are more expensive at entry level. The base Momentum has an MSRP of $50,550, while the sporty R-Design and luxurious Inscription share the same top-end price of $53,650. Quoted excluding a destination fee of $995, this also does not account for taxes and other miscellaneous fees.

2020 Volvo S90 Models

The S90 range comprises three trims, namely the entry-spec Momentum, and the two top-end R-Design and Inscription models. While all cars share the same T6 powertrain (2.0-liter four-cylinder twincharged motor with 316 hp and 295 lb-ft), differences in feature specification separate the cars, as well as in overall aesthetic.

Momentum cars form the foundation for the lineup and are fitted with 18-inch wheels, a high gloss grille, LED headlights, and a panoramic roof. Inside, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery and power-adjustable front seats with memory settings are standard. Both front seats are also heated, and there is a 12.3-inch driver information display, navigation, HD Radio, and full smartphone integration for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The stock sound system is a ten-speaker high-performance setup, all controlled through a portrait-oriented nine-inch touchscreen running the Sensus Connect system.

For the R-Design, the factory-fitted sound system is swapped out for a Harman Kardon Premium sound system with 14 speakers, and the climate control is upgraded to cover four zones. In the cabin, sport seats add extra support, while a tailored instrument panel and sport steering wheel are fitted for a jazzed-up look. The exterior gets a few unique touches, including an R-Design grille and 19-inch wheels.

The luxury-oriented Inscription trim has its own classy grille, too, and boasts Nappa leather seats that are ventilated in the front. These comfort-specified seats also have power-adjustable side supports and bolsters, and a three-spoke leather steering wheel with unique inlays to round off the package. Like the R-Design, the Inscription also has access to the available Adaptive Air Suspension add-on.

See All 2020 Volvo S90 Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Keeping things simple, Volvo has put together a list of useful additional packages and standalone options to further equip your sedan. For all cars, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel can be added on for $750, while the Advanced Package (priced at $2,850) adds a head-up display, headlight high-pressure cleaning, full LED lights with active bending technology, a surround-view camera, and a power-operated trunk. Park Assist Pilot can be optioned on for $200, allowing the sedan to park itself in certain situations.

A Harman Kardon 14-speaker sound upgrade can be had for the Momentum at $800, while the top two trims have access to the sublime Four-C Adaptive Air Suspension upgrade for $1,200. For true audiophiles, a 19-speaker Bowers and Wilkins updated premium sound system can be specified onto the R-Design or Inscription for an additional $3,200. It's also worth mentioning the Polestar Performance Software upgrade, which costs $1,295 and optimizes mid-range engine performance, throttle responses, and gear shifts for a slightly more exciting drive.

🚗What Volvo S90 Model Should I Buy?

We don't want to sound like stuck records when it comes to Volvo trim levels, but we do have a bead on how the Swedish manufacturer presents their cars through the trim levels and we usually recommend the Inscription trim for its all-round luxuries and comfort. When it comes to the S90, you won't be sorry opting for the base-spec model either, with the Momentum offering leather seats, heated perches for the driver and passenger, the same infotainment system with a slightly less premium sound system, and all the basics covered in terms of safety - a good value-for-money package overall. The only trim we'd advise skipping in this range is the R-Design, purely for its rougher-than-necessary ride on the standard suspension setup. We much prefer the comfort inherent to the Inscription with the added adaptive suspension - this guise seems to best personify what the designers were trying to achieve with the S90 all along.

Check out other Volvo S90 Styles

2020 Volvo S90 Comparisons

Audi A6 Audi
BMW 5 Series Sedan BMW
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Volvo S90316 hp21/31 mpg$50,550
Audi A6 248 hp24/32 mpg$54,900
BMW 5 Series Sedan 248 hp25/33 mpg$53,900

2020 Volvo S90 vs Audi A6

Audi and Volvo have something in common when it comes to large, luxury sedans - both share styling cues much more in line with suave sophistication and elegance, rather than gaudy in-your-face looks. The A6 offers very much what the S90 does - a beautiful interior, top-notch build quality, good standard features list, and a comfortable space for passengers. The Audi does have two powertrain options, however, and the larger V6 provides slightly more exciting outputs than the Volvo, at 355 hp and 369 lb-ft. Not only does this improve acceleration and result in a quicker 0-60 dash, but there's a much more refined quality to the German's engine, overall. Add to this the fact that the Audi's more aggressive engine doesn't affect gas mileage rates quite as much (22/29/24 mpg as opposed to the S90's 21/31/25 mpg), and you may find it hard to choose between the sedans. We're big fans of how the Audi handles and feels on the road, but we're inclined to give the Volvo the benefit of the doubt.

See Audi A6 Review

2020 Volvo S90 vs BMW 5 Series Sedan

Unlike the aforementioned German rival, the BMW 5 Series comes in a little hotter for this matchup - at least, it's supposed to. Accustomed to leading the charge, most BMWs have the advantage of superior handling and engaging driving that easily tops other cars - but, for the 5 Series, the traditional Bimmer sporty feeling has been toned down, too. It still ships with three powertrain choices, with the most powerful being a turbocharged V8 offering monstrous outputs of 523 hp and 553 lb-ft - something the S90 just can't compare to with its 2.0-liter mill. Comparing apples to apples, however, the base engine in both cars is a four-cylinder, and the S90 does a little better with this motor equipped in terms of power output. Still, the BMW has a little more to offer overall, with a much more spacious trunk, better fuel economy stats from the 2.0-liter engine, and an arguably better infotainment setup - it does cost around $2,700 more at the entry point of the range, though. We'd be hard-pressed to pick between these two, with the S90 offering a much fresher take on the segment, while BMW has had it locked down for some time.

See BMW 5 Series Sedan Review

Volvo S90 Popular Comparisons

2020 Volvo S90 Video Review

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$50,550 - $53,650
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Volvo S90