2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription – The Luxury Sedan So Good It’s Going to Change the Industry

There are good cars that come along, and even great ones from time to time. But on rare occasions, cars come out that literally change the car market for good. That pivot point is upon us with Volvo’s S90 sedan and upcoming V90 wagon. What is so innovative, you ask? It’s not just the technology – it’s how that technology is integrated. Much like the iPhone changed the smart-phone industry, the simplicity, user-friendliness and power of all the technology in the S90 will change how manufacturers design their cars.

At one point, it seemed car manufacturers decided that the more buttons a car had, the better it was. Controls everywhere, dials to adjust things, and switches to control every function. For added convenience, some even sprouted multiple buttons and knobs to serve the same purpose. Some cars still subscribe to this antiquated view, but Volvo has given us a new kind of display and interface that makes all the buttons obsolete. There’s a single, vertical 9” center-touchscreen display. The orientation of the screen makes it much more intuitive and useful, and the layout/functionality is industry-leading in its ease of use.

Just about every major function can be controlled from this center display, and without navigating a maze of menu options to get to them. This is clearly part of Volvo’s Vision 2020 mission to have zero fatalities in new Volvo vehicles by the year 2020. They are looking at every single system in the car to help achieve that, but we’ll get to that. For now, let’s focus on this display. It has a segmented setup with a horizontal line (always visible) for each function set – audio, navigation, phone, etc. You tap on that line and it takes over the larger screen block. You can then still tap on the others when needed and it will swap. In the lower corners there are HVAC controls that when tapped produce a small menu that disappears when you’re done changing the setting.
In short, it helps you keep your attention on the road. Now, there’s another piece to their safety puzzle, and that’s semi-autonomous driving technology. Volvo is at the cutting edge of these lifesaving systems. The lane assist, radar-assisted active cruise control and collision avoidance auto-braking systems are all the best we’ve tested. It can really drive itself, although we don’t recommend using that to become distracted. Until roads and infrastructure can better support the on-board sensors, there’s a limit to what it can do. But on a clearly marked stretch of highway, it will do it all for you, reacting intuitively to the traffic around you. It’s better than Tesla, it’s better than Mercedes – it’s just the best available.

There’s also incredibly advanced-passive safety built into the S90 as well, with a frame designed to crumple in places and maintain a safety cell. Advanced airbags to protect at any angle. And excellent handling to help you avoid problems in the first place. But with all this technology and safety, you may be asking – well, how does it look and how does it drive?

Well, it looks amazing. The long wheelbase and overall dimensions are full-size for sure, with plenty of room front and rear. What’s especially great about the interior is the fit and finish. Luxurious wood and knurled aluminum knobs are truly high-line design. It’s very Scandinavian, as you might expect, but has an added warmth and elegance to go along with the minimalism. Possibly the only better interiors these days are from Mercedes, but they are a bit more garish – so if understated is your style, this will appeal to you more. The Bowers and Wilkins premium audio is a $2,650 option I’d choose every time. It’s one of the best we’ve heard in any car, neutral, dynamic and controlled.

The engine is also a marvel – a small, 2.0T 4-Cylinder. You might be tricked into expecting muted performance, but with both super and turbocharging, the small mill cranks out 316hp and 295ft-lb, impressive numbers for the displacement. Equally impressive is the 31mpg highway figure. Overall, the experience is all at once luxurious, comfortable, capable and revolutionary. Once you drive one, everything else will seem like a dinosaur. The rest of the world will be playing catch up for quite some time!