Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Volvo's T8 plug-in hybrid engine is branded 'Recharge' in the S90 brochure. It comes with a battery pack powering an 86bhp electric motor that drives the rear wheels and a 299bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine powering the front one. Combined, that means near-instant response the minute you put your foot down and plenty of poke thereafter, with 0-62mph cracked off in just 5.1sec.
Assistance from the electric motor helps to reduces CO2 emissions when the petrol engine is running, and the V90 can run for up to 37 miles (official WLTP range) on electric power alone. You'll struggle to achieve that distance in the real world, but you should manage at least 20 miles or so on a full charge.
The T8 shuffles between power sources without disturbing you too much. You don’t really notice the car switching from electric to petrol power and back again, and the only real issue is its brakes. They stop you effectively enough but are a bit grabby, especially in traffic. That's because they're set up to recover waste energy as you brake, and the process affects the pedal's feel. The same is true of the BMW 530e, though.
The S90 is lovely and quiet around town in electric-only mode, and a quiet cruiser on the motorway. There's little in the way of wind noise, even on the motorway, and road noise is okay – the standard fit 19in wheels drum up a bit of a roar over coarse surfaces. The A6 and 5 Series are slightly quieter in that respect.
Ride comfort in large saloons is crucial to many buyers, so it’s disappointing to find that the S90 doesn’t deal with bumps that well. Around town, there’s more fidget than you’d feel in an Audi A6, and large ruts send a thump through the car. R-Design trim comes with a lower suspension set-up that makes the ride a bit harder still.
At the same time, the large S90 isn't as sharp as its rivals when it comes to handling – it's less precise than the 5 Series and the Jaguar XF. It remains fairly upright through tight bends but never feels particularly eager to change direction and the steering doesn't provide much feedback.
R-Design trim provides a slightly tauter driving experience, but ultimately it's not worth the compromise in ride comfort and there is still quite a lot of float on undulating country roads. The fact that all four wheels are driven by either electricity or petrol does give the S90 good traction in trickier driving conditions, but in terms of handling balance, it still feels predominantly front-wheel drive.
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