by Ian Wright
Amongst the sea of German luxury vehicles in corporate parking lots across the world, Volvo's current crop of models stand out and stand proud. For those that want to make a less vanilla choice, the Volvo is a stylish gem with a simple, well built, elegant interior. While it doesn't pack as much power under the hood as some of its contemporaries, none of the S90's engine options lack power. However, the plug-in hybrid model packs a surprisingly big punch. It takes Volvo's unconventional 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged engine and adds electric power to generate a total of 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque.
Volvo's step up into the premium market is starting to mature, and the S90 has a wealth of added features for 2020. The S90 was already a well packed full-size sedan, but for 2020 some small but incrementally significant additions help round it out into a genuine contender against other European rivals like the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6.
Not too much has changed for the 2020 S90 range as a whole, but it does gain some additional standard features. These include leather upholstery on all variants, front parking sensors, and rear cross-traffic alert. The hybrid battery pack is now also larger than before, increased in size to 11.6 kWh. The R-Design trim has also been made available, giving buyers a sportier alternative to the previously range-topping Inscription for the same money with a lower, stiffer chassis, and sporter interior accouterments.
See trim levels and configurations:
While the S90 Hybrid's ride is comfortable and quiet, it doesn't quite register as best in class - even with the optional rear air suspension fitted. Some of that likely has to do with our R-Design tester coming with optional 20-inch wheels and thin summer tires. While the tires offered great grip, the S90 Hybrid's handling suffers from an excess of weight and lack of steering feel. Slow things down, though, and it becomes apparent that the S90 Hybrid's sweet spot is when cruising or hustling, not hurrying.
Sport mode doesn't improve things much, but the sharpening of throttle response and gear changes provides a thrill from a dead stop. That acceleration doesn't suffer much in the wet due to the standard all-wheel-drive, which will no doubt be a strong selling point for those that have to deal with snow regularly.
We're big fans of Volvo, and the S90 Hybrid doesn't disappoint overall. The interior is the centerpiece, and the hybrid powertrain fills in some of the gaps from left by the forced-induction four-cylinder engine and creates a compelling amount of refined power to match its German counterparts using larger engines. Styling may be a little muted overall for some, but for those looking for something understated, the S90 should absolutely be on the cross-shopping list for a full-sized premium sedan. At around $8,000 more than the gas-only S90, the fuel savings wouldn't pay off for a long time. However, if it's charged in the garage regularly for shorter mileage days, that will change the equation for some. For others, the extra power will be worth the extra cost alone.
The regular Volvo S90, otherwise known as the T6 AWD, is lighter and therefore more agile in the corners than its hybrid sibling. In addition, it is a much more affordable option, starting at just a little under $55,000. The same brilliant eight-speed automatic transmission also features, as does the internal combustion engine found in the T8. It produces a respectable 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, although this clearly some way behind the figures of the T8, and leads to a higher 0-60 mph sprint time of around seven seconds. However, it also falls behind in terms of fuel economy, only offering 25 mpg on the EPA's combined cycle, five behind the score of the T8. If you value luxury and comfort with a bit of dynamism, this is a decent option, but the T8 hybrid is certainly a better all-rounder.
BMW's luxury hybrid sedan, the 530e, also comes with a 2.0-liter four-pot, but only makes use of turbocharging and not supercharging. Nevertheless, 111 hp from the electric motor helps achieve a total output of 248 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. This is considerably behind the figures of the Volvo, and the 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds reflects this. However, in the BMW, you can have traditional rear-wheel-drive if you don't want all four wheels gripping the tarmac. You also get greater electric range, with the Bimmer offering up to 28 miles - seven more than the Volvo. In addition, a larger trunk and a base price of just under $54,000 really makes the 530e an attractive choice. Furthermore, thanks to better chassis tuning and a curb weight that is lower than that of the S90, even when both feature all-wheel-drive, the BMW is more fun to drive. In this case, we'd have the German.
The most popular competitors of 2020 Volvo S90 Hybrid: