What is it?
Volvo managed a great deal of media mileage out of its electrification of the future model line-up announcement but, in China, the longest-ever Volvo doesn’t even get Start/Stop technology to help reduce fuel consumption. The Chinese-built Volvo S90 long wheelbase (LWB) adds 12cm to both the wheelbase and overall length of the standard S90.
In the early days of Chinese ownership of the marque, there was tension between the Chinese and Swedish sides. Owners Geely Holdings wanted to concentrate on larger, more luxurious cars to compete against the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 in China, whereas the Swedes wanted to concentrate on smaller, more mass-market models. As the S90 LWB shows, despite the 'Thor's hammer' running lights and the small Swedish flag on the front passenger seat, the Chinese side won. And it is no bad thing.
Chinese-produced versions of the 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and now even the Jaguar XF, all get the long wheelbase treatment. In this sector, it is common for owners to be chauffeured. Moreover, these cars do not tend to be used as family vehicles, therefore rear passengers are mostly adults. As such, the S90 LWB fits right in, with all the extra space going to the back occupants.
The S90 LWB isn't coming to the UK or even Europe. But, as a China and US-only affair, it will fit in with the growing crowd of stretched saloons.
What's it like?
Apart from being obviously big, the S90 LWB is refined and comfortable; but, unlike some of its rivals, it lacks sporting credentials. The T5’s 2.0-litre turbo petrol unit pumps out a very respectable 254bhp and, on paper, Volvo claims a 0-62mph time of 7.2sec. However, in real life, it just never seems that quick. Unlike BMW models, the Eco and Comfort modes on the eight-speed automatic transmission make little discernable difference and it is only really when you select Dynamic that the car ups its game. Even then, you have to push the pedal hard to get much build-up in speed. While there is a semi-manual mode on the gearbox, unlike its German rivals, there are no paddle shifts.
It is not poised in the way of a BMW or Jaguar and is more akin to a non-RS spec Audi. The steering is light with very little feedback. While road holding is reasonable, the car screams comfort over thrills, as evidenced by the ride, which tends to soak up most ruts in the road.
The front of the passenger compartment is largely the same as the Swedish-built examples, although the car is 11mm narrower. Our car had a darker brown Nappa leather trim that nicely matched the opulent walnut veneer. Despite the high level of material finish, the leather seemed to mark easily. With higher driving positions, the top of the head-up display became difficult to see.
For the full chauffeur-driven experience, you need to move to the rear right passenger seat. Mounted on the door handle is an array of controls. These allow the user to move the front passenger seat and control the panoramic sunroof and blinds on the rear passenger and back windows. Mounted on the back of the centre tunnel console are controls for the heating and cooling of the rear seats along with a 220V standard power socket. While the front seats get a massage function, given the target market this is surprisingly absent from the rear.
Should I buy one?
The S90 LWB looks more balanced than the standard model and has top-notch quality. A thorough examination of the interior only revealed a troublesome catch on the rear armrest. However, the navigation system also seems slow to recognise addresses. For passengers, it is a comfortable, cosseting environment, but for the driver it fails to excite. Fuel economy is also terrible; the best we achieved was 21mpg; although, admittedly, much of the driving was on inner-city highways in very hot weather.