Like the closely related XC90, the S90 exemplifies Volvo’s new design language, the upright grille and ‘Thor’s hammer’ headlights characterising a confident, expansive front end, while the broad shoulder line hints at the Peter Horbury-designed models of the recent past.

The car is based on the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), a modular and head-spinningly expensive piece of tech intended (like its rivals’ equivalents) to underpin a range of differently sized cars.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
The new modular architecture uses aluminium and high-strength steel and is ready for front and four-wheel drive, as well as the Volvo's hybrid technology

The first, and largest, was the XC90. The S90 and its estate sibling, the V90, are the second. The S90 is significantly longer and wider than its S80 predecessor and shares its wheelbase with the seven-seat XC90.

Despite the size difference, the new model’s weight gain is negligible, thanks to smaller engines and the much more sophisticated mixture of aluminium and high-strength steel in the SPA’s monocoque.

As with the XC90, the S90’s chassis has double wishbones at the front and an integral link at the rear that is distinguished by the choice of a standard composite leaf spring or the option (fitted to our test car) of air springs – a self-levelling asset likely to appeal to those with towing in mind.

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Adaptive dampers are equipped regardless, as are a plethora of safety items, including auto-stop City Safety (featuring a claimed world first in large animal detection), Pilot Assist (semi-autonomous cruise control) and Run-off Road Protection, which attempts to mitigate injuries involved during an unexpected exit from the asphalt.

While the sensors hidden in the body are concerned with preserving your life, those in the engine bay are chiefly preoccupied with saving you money.

The S90 marks another step towards fulfilling Volvo’s pledge to limit all its engines to a maximum of four cylinders. The UK line-up of D4 and D5 diesels and the upcoming T8 petrol-electric plug-in hybrid all rely on four-cylinder units, as do the petrol versions offered overseas. 

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