It was electric drive all the way — with 30% charge left at journey’s end. Nice!
The car that made it possible? The Volvo S90 T8 plug-in hybrid (PHEV). Volvo also sells an entry-level S90 T5 Momentum in Malaysia with a regular petrol engine bereft of an electric motor. Both variants are locally assembled to ensure competitive pricing.
The car in hand was the RM388,888 Inscription Plus, the S90 with the "mostest" if you won't settle for just the Inscription luxury trim.
The RM20,000 upgrades in the Inscription Plus are the active chassis with rear-levelling air suspension (instead of Dynamic Chassis) and a top-flight 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins to replace the 10-speaker audio system found in the Inscription version. The S90 Inscription Plus is, you might say, Volvo’s interpretation of sheer Scandinavian luxury.
This big executive sedan from Gothenburg looks every bit as modern and elegant as it’s meant to be though it’s still fundamentally conservative by design.
There’s generous chrome trim all round to project luxury. The low chassis and swoopy roofline that ends in a fastback cut a sporty image, bolstered by 19-inch diamond cut alloy wheels.
The vertical-slatted grille framed in chrome is concave as if pressed inwards by the force of speed. The LED headlights with the familiar Thor’s hammer running lights complement the face and adds to the car’s road presence. The smart headlights integrate Active High Beam and cornering lights to improve comfort and visibilty at night without dazzling oncoming motorists.
The rear is a mixed bag. While the LED taillights certainly have a distinctive signature, the sheetmetal around them is somewhat uninspiring.
Still, the overall S90 design looks like it would aged well several years down the road.
If you like Ikea stuff like many people do, you will like the S90 interior, which is a picture of Nordic cool.
Step in as a driver or passenger and you immediately revel in luxurious comfort with a dashboard that is clutter-free and techy. A 9-inch Sensus infotainment touchscreen and a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster bolsters that impression.
While much of the controls have been shoehorned into the centre screen, it means a need to take time to learn all the essential settings and adjustments on the display prior to heading out. You wouldn’t want to be fiddling with the on-screen controls as you drive; Volvo wouldn’t approve of it.
Walnut wood panelling and acres of black Nappa leather upholstery add to the premium space along with powered front seats with memory settings. Even the outer rear seats have power folding head restraints.
For a range-topper like the S90 T8, leather will not do for the gear lever; it has to be handmade Orrefors crystal for that extra touch of class.
At nearly 5m long, 1.9m wide and a sub-3m wheelbase, seating comfort in the S90 is high with especially in the rear, where the seats are angled back with good thigh support and enough headroom and legroom to enjoy a long haul trip.
Part of the reason you would spring for the S90 Inscription Plus is of course the best hi-fi system Volvo can muster. It comes from the revered Bowers & Wilkins, which had worked with the Swedish car maker early on to customise a set-up worthy of respect.
The 19-speaker audio system comes with features such as a subwoofer that draws air in from outside the car to create deep, resonant bass. A rearward-facing tweeter mounted on the dash cuts down on acoustic reflections from the windscreen. Three different room modes – Studio, Individual Stage and Gothenburg Concert Hall – allow the user to tailor the sound to his music or mood. Stainless steel speaker grilles and Bowers & Wilkins yellow speaker cones make this 1,400W system looks as good as it sounds.
Here’s to getting the most out of Spotify sessions!
Two cupholders in each row are par for the course, plus shallow pockets in the four doors. The glovebox offer decent-size storage. There are net pockets on the back of front seats as well as a net pocket on tunnel next to front passenger. The S90 is also equipped with two 12V sockets - one in the tunnel console and the other in the boot.
Speaking of the boot, it's generous at 500 litres, mainly because the 10.4kWh lithium-ion battery is stashed away in the centre tunnel and not in the back as in the Mercedes E 350 e. The location of the S90 battery means it's well protected and the car has a low centre of gravity, aiding in its driving dynamics.
On the flip side, it eats into the space for the centre console storage compartment and makes for an uncomfortable ride for the middle person in the 3-passenger back seats as he has to straddle the battery pack which juts up a fair bit from the floor. Storage can be enlarged further with the rear seatback folded forward almost flat in a 40:20:40 split.
In addition, there’s no spare tyre to take up boot space as the S90 comes only with a tyre repair kit.
Do we even need to cover this point for a car maker that has the safety ethos baked in?
For the record, Volvo has lined up a dizzying array of passive and active features to keep car occupants out of harm’s way.
Volvo has kitted up the S90 with a long list of advanced safety features as defined in the Intellisafe suite. Intellisafe basically offers features that support the driver while driving, to features that help prevent accidents and protect occupants in the event that one occurs.
It includes the usual suspects like airbags, emergency brake assist and Isofix points.
It also covers lane keeping aid; driver alert control, blind spot detection; cross traffic alert; pedestrian, cyclist & large animal detection; collision avoidance & mitigation; run-off road protection; post-collision auto braking & unlocking; whiplash protection system for front seats; seatbelt detection for all seats; and energy absorbing seat cushions.
Volvo has invested much thought into the safety of the liitle 'uns as well. Its integrated booster cushion is a built-in rear child seat that has been around for nearly 30 years. There’s two in the S90, and they are made up of a two-stage system that allows the driver to adjust the height of the booster so that child occupants can take advantage of safety belts and headrests.
Ride & handling
The electrified powertrain combines a turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder petrol engine that powers the front.
A electric motor, hooked up to the lithium-ion-battery, drives the rear wheels. Depending on the selected drive mode, the engine and electric motor may operate independently of each other or in concert with each other.
This also means at some point, the S90 can operate as a rear-wheel drive or all-wheel-drive sedan.
Combined output from engine and electric motor is a whopping 407hp and 640Nm of torque. Despite its heft, acceleration is startlingly faster than the E-Class hybrid at 4.8s, and the car can reach a top speed of 250kph.
There are four drive modes that alter the powertrain behaviour namely Pure, Power, Hybrid and AWD (all-wheel drive).
The all-electric range in Pure mode is officially 50km and is ideal for city driving; actual range will depend on driving style, climate settings, road conditions, temperature and other factors.
To get the most of the PHEV as a daily driver, it's always a good habit to charge up the car before the next sunrise, and set the car to Hybrid and let the computer manage the powertrain. It takes 4 hours to fully charge a nearly depleted battery.
So how does the S90 T8 Inscription Plus drive?
It's more of a comfortable plush ride than a sporty drive. The cabin is hush and relaxed at highway speeds. It wouldn't be out of place to use it as a chauffeur car as it has the goods to accomplish that.
The switchover between engine and electric motor is barely noticeable.
The 8-speed Aisin automatic gearbox shifts quickly and smoothly. Note that the S90 doesn't have paddle shifters.
The active chassis is meant to enhance comfort with the rear air suspension able to automatically level the car irrespective of load and adapt to road and driving conditions.
Sitting in the back, one does feel the S90 T8 Inscription Plus ride to be noticeably more pliant than that in the T8 Inscription variant as it absorbs and smooths out rough road surfaces better.
Steering is light but tightens up when summoning the full cavalry in Power mode. But in fast corners, the S90 size and weight blunts performance as some body roll is felt.
For effective braking, you have to modulate the brakes: step on it and step harder towards the end to bring the car to a quick stop.
Taking away some of the stress of a long commute is the availability of Pilot assist with steering support up to 130kph, which works well as long as the lane markers are clearly visible. Adaptive cruising remains active up to 200kph and the driver has to be hands-on beyond 130kph as steering support is disabled.
It’s arguably a safe bet that no car testers could be as frugal as the claimed official rate of 2l/100km.
We use Hybrid mode most of the time while occasionally straying to Power or Pure modes for a different take of the S90. AWD is appropriate when the road gets sandy, muddy or wet.
With that said, we managed 4.6l/100km in combined fuel consumption, a commendable figure for a big car.
The S90 comes with a 5-year warranty or 120,000km mileage, whichever comes first.
The S90 is inherently a well-made car with the right kit and refinements to justify the asking price.
It’s a car aimed squarely at German premium car shoppers seeking an alternative beyond the Mercedes and Bimmer camps.
This Swede provides an enticing package that will surely steal a number of prospects away.
Volvo S90 T8 Inscription Plus PHEV
Engine: 1,969cc 4-cylinder turbo and supercharged
Maximum power (combined): 407hp
Maximum torque (combined): 640Nm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with Geartronic
Features: Electric Rear Axle Drive (ERAD), 10.4 kWh Lithium-ion Battery, Active Chassis with 2-Corner Air Suspension, Electronic Parking Brake with Auto Hold Function, Adaptive Cruise Control, Pilot Assist, Park Assist Pilot, 360-degree Surround View Camera, Hill Start Assist (HSA), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Engine Start/Stop System, Digital Instrument Cluster with 12.3" TFT Adaptive Digital Display, Head-up Display (HUD), Sensus Navigation, Orrefors Crystal Gear Lever with Illumination, Voice Control, Frameless Rear View Mirror, Inscription Textile Carpets, Comfort Seats with Nappa Leather Upholstery, Dual Integrated Tailpipes, Intellisafe safety suite,
Acceleration (0-100kph): 4.8 seconds
Top speed: 250kph
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 2.0 litres per 100km
Price: RM386,888 (on-the-road without insurance, wef April 2019); RM388,888 in 2018