Volvo S90 T5: Standing tall

By GEORGE WONG | 9 February 2020


Volvo wants to beat the German luxury car makers at their own game. It’s trying hard and has to its credit made some headway with models like the S90 sedan and XC90 SUV.

Let’s focus on the S90 for the purpose of this review. For Malaysia, the S90 is offered in regular T5 petrol version and a T8 plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The latter in Inscription grade hives off an even more luxurious Inscription Plus that adds rear air suspension and a top-of-the-line hi-fi system.

The locally assembled T5 Momentum came along after the T8 Twin Engine Inscription (RM366,888) and T8 Twin Engine Inscription Plus (RM386,888) were introduced to Malaysia.

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Undoubtedly, Volvo’s hallmark safety suite is a big part of the customer buying decision and the T5 doesn’t stinge on it, retaining the full set of advanced safety systems as in the T8. While Volvo still flogs its safety credentials, it has to go beyond that in order to sell more cars. Performance and luxury are very much on the radar on top of electrification, which virtually every brand is pursuing these days.

Like its higher-end variants, the RM338,888 T5 is a handsome brute. Fronted by signature “Thor’s Hammer” daytime running lights, character lines on the raised bonnet confer a sturdy stance to the car, complemented by sheetmetal creases across the sides. Full LED headlights with Active High Beam and cornering lights are standard across the S90 range.

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What you get

The T5 loses most of the chrome found in the T8 and strikes out to be the sporty one with blacked-out concave grille and rolls on 19-inch five-triple spoke matte black alloy wheels shod on 255/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.

The distinctive rear with LED lights may be polarising to some but it sits well with the rest of the exterior styling and gets two round chrome exhaust tips to differentiate it further.

Despite some deleted features, the T5 still looks and feels premium. Gone are the drive mode roller switch, head-up display, 360-degree surround camera, Park Assist Pilot, Nappa leather and rear window/windscreen blinds, among others. No Orrefors crystal gear lever here either; the T5 makes do with a leather-wrapped lever instead.

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Still the interior manages to look well put together, hewing to the brand’s Scandinavian roots with a neat and clean dashboard that comes with a 12.3-inch full digital instrument cluster and a 9-inch infotainment display. The tablet-size colour touchscreen with crisp graphics is intuitive to use and navigating through the contols and settings is easy.

Slabs of aluminium-like inlays populate the dash and doors but they are actually plastic that avoids looking low-rent.

The leather seats don’t look and feel as luxurious as Nappa but it’s fine for the base variant of the S90. Seats are largely comfortable and rear headroom and legroom are adequate. The outer rear seats have integrated booster seats that aid in child safety.

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Boot is deep and generous. At 55l, the T5’s fuel tank is 5 litres less than the T8’s.

For those who struggle with parallel parking, the T5 comes to the rescue with a simplified parking aid. Activate the feature, follow the simple instructions on the centre display, and you should get it right the first time.

The Pilot Assist is a delight to use when you want your drive to be that much more relaxing. It combines a bunch of sensors, radar and cameras to do the job to steer the wheel and stay within a set lane while maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

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As the driver, you still have to stay alert and offer corrective steering inputs whenever the car starts veering too close to lane markers or not picking up speed after stop/start traffic crawls.

Volvo has preserved the full ensemble of Intellisafe safety feature across the S90 range. Included in the list are Lane Keeping Aid, City Safety, Support, Pedestrian, Cyclist & Large Animal Detection, Cross Traffic Alert, Emergency Brake Assist, Full-Length Inflatable Curtains and Run-Off Road Protection.

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How it drives

The Drive-E engine is competent and rises to the occasion when hauling 1,716kg of mass. The 2.0-litre turbocharged mill dishes up 254hp and 350Nm of torque from a lowly 1,500rpm.

An 8-speed automatic relays drive to the front axle. The T5 goes from zero to 100kph in 6.8s, and onwards to a top speed of 230kph. Combined fuel consumption is rated at 7 l/100km. We managed 10.8 l/100km in a variety of conditions that include urban crawls, hill climbs and high-speed commutes to suburbia.

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Steering feel is muted. However, the T5 rides confidently and feels planted on the highway, retaining a degree of refinement that’s more associated with the T8.

There’s a slight lag when accelerating from low revs but the car picks up speed fast. Once it settles into the rhythm, it’s a cosy long distance cruise. Beware the highway speed limit though as you don’t really feel the pace even when the car is going stonking fast.

Volvo’s Dynamic Chassis has to be credited for the T5’s precise handling and zest. The chassis provides active suspension damping, which can adjust ride firmness rapidly, so you get a comfortable drive and high cornering grip with minimal body roll.

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Verdict

The T5 offers up plenty of pace, space and reassurance from a safety suite that is second to none.


SPECIFICATIONS

Volvo S90 T5 Momentum

Engine: 1,969cc in-line 4, Drive-E, turbocharged
Maximum power: 254hp @ 5500rpm
Maximum torque: 350Nm at 1,500 to 4,800rpm
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic with Geartronic
Features: Dynamic Chassis, Electronic Parking Brake with Auto Hold Function, Hill Start Assist, Electronic Stability Control, Digital Instrument Cluster, Road Sign Information System, Voice Control, Rear View Camera, Park Assist Front & Rear, Pilot Assist, 2-Zone Electronic climate control, Clean Zone Interior Air Quality System, High Performance Audio System - 10 Speakers, Apple Carplay & Android Auto, 19-inch alloy wheels, Intellisafe safety suite (includes City Safety, Pedestrian, Cyclist & Large Animal Detection, Lane Keeping Aid, Run-Off Road Mitigation, Blind Spot Information System, Cross Traffic Alert, ABS, Emergency Brake Assist, airbags, collapsible steering column, Isofix Attachment Point, Outer Rear Seats, Integrated 2-Stage Booster Cushion for Outer Rear Seats)

Acceleration 0-100kph: 6.8 seconds
Top speed: 230kph
Price (OTR without insurance): RM338,888


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Keywords

Overview

Styling
80%
Comfort
80%
Performance
70%
Safety
90%
Value
80%

CarSifu's Rating: 8.0