What's the used Volvo S90 saloon like?
Large luxury saloons have quite a tough remit. They have to satisfy the needs of the demanding businessman, eager to make smooth, reliable and economical progress while still making a suitable impression, and often they have to double up as upmarket family transport, large and practical enough to seat five and despatch a continental holiday with ease.
Traditionally, the Germans have held sway here, with the occasional Jaguar to shake the established order. But Volvo has always offered an alternative in this class, too, with this Volvo S90 proving itself more than a match for its rivals.
Engine choices from launch to 2020 were a pair of 2.0-litre diesels, a 2.0-litre petrol and a powerful petrol-electric plug-in hybrid. From new, a good range of trims was available, but even entry-level models got plenty of toys as standard. Both new and used, the S90 is priced right up against those premium models from the German brands, including the very capable Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series, plus the British Jaguar XF.
Entry-level Momentum trim kicks off the range. This gets you LED headlights, heated leather seats, sat-nav, Bluetooth and a DAB radio. On top of that, there’s a powered bootlid, keyless start and rear parking sensors. Stepping up to Inscription brings extra interior lighting, Nappa leather seats and a larger 12.3in digital instrument cluster, as well as bigger alloys and electric front seats. R-Design brings a different suspension set-up that makes the ride harsher.
On the road, the S90’s D5 diesel engine used a clever compressed air system to help the turbocharger kick in more promptly, with the result that it accelerates extremely well. The lower-powered D4 isn’t as quick, but it has enough shove to move the S90 around and is more economical. Both engines can be a little gruff when cold, and the eight-speed automatic gearbox is a little too hesitant.
The T8 is a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid. It’s extremely quick to accelerate and shuffles between its two power sources easily. It might not be able to match its average claimed fuel economy figures, but it’s a viable alternative if you’re unsure about committing to a diesel.
Add to that its comfort on all manner of roads and its motorway refinement and the case for considering the S90 becomes very strong, even if ultimately it can’t quite match its sporty rivals when it comes to handling finesse. Countered against that is Volvo’s reputation for safety, which continues in this car with a whole host of innovative, high-tech kit.
It’s large and good-looking outside and very spacious inside, for one, with a welcoming, stylish and luxurious interior. The driver of a S90 is treated to a brilliant driving position, no matter what their size or shape. Volvo’s seats are famous for their supportiveness and the S90’s are no different, while standard electric lumbar adjustment and seat-height adjustment make getting comfortable no problem. The S90’s steering wheel has a generous amount of adjustment, too.
The tall dashboard is dominated by the infotainment system, which reduces the requirement for physical switchgear elsewhere. It's the same one you'll find in the V90 and XC90, featuring a 9.0in tablet-style touchscreen through which you control many of the car's functions. This is responsive when you press it, but the large number of functions and small on-screen icons make it fiddly to use on the move. What’s left in terms of buttons and switches is neatly arranged and pleasant to use, despite the odd niggle.
Interior space is one of the S90’s strengths; it’s one of the biggest cars in its class. In the front, even the tallest folk should find plenty of head and leg room, while someone equally tall sitting behind them should still have space to spare. The S90's 500-litre boot doesn’t quite match that of the BMW 5 Series’ and falls further short of the Audi A6’s. However, there’s still enough space for a couple of large suitcases and it’s practical.
From 2020, Volvo has dropped diesel and petrol-only engines from the S90 range, and it was available from then until its demise in 2023 exclusively with a 2.0-litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid system. It also dropped some of the trims, rationalising them down to just two: R-Design and Incription.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Volvo S90 saloon?
An S90 will likely have been used on motorways as well as on school runs, so check the bodywork for stone chips and parking scuffs, as well as for any damage to the alloy wheels.
So far, reported problems with the S90’s mechanical bits are few. There have been issues raised with non-engine electrics, but these have usually been fixed under warranty and within a week.
What are the most common problems with a used Volvo S90 saloon?
Potential engine fire
Volvo is presently in the process of recalling around 70,000 cars in the UK fitted with a 2.0-litre diesel engine, over potential engine fires for S90s made before 25 April 2018. Read our news story on this for further information or contact Volvo directly on 01628 854 210.
Automatic emergency braking (AEB)
The AEB system, which is supposed to apply the brakes when the forward collision sensors detect an imminent collision, might not actually do so. A software update is all that is required to sort the issue, and it applies to V60, S90, V90, XC40, XC60 and XC90 models built between 14 January 2019 and 22 January 2020. The fix can be completed by any Volvo dealer, and owners should have been contacted regarding this. You can also speak with your local dealer for further information.
A problem was found with the vehicle connectivity module (VCM) that sends location information to the emergency services after a collision. It applies to cars constructed between 16 May 2016 and 1 November 2018. Any Volvo dealer should be able to perform a software update to fix the issue for you.
Airbags that might not deploy correctly in an accident
There have been two recalls for airbags that might not deploy correctly during a collision. This first is due to airbags that don't meet the required specification and were fitted to models produced between 22 August 2016 and 5 September 2016. The second is for the retaining bolt on the curtain airbag; it could break and reduce the level of protection the airbag can provide. This recall affects certain S90s built between 21 November 2016 and 1 April 2017.
Seatbelt may separate from buckle
A small number of cars made between 11 May 2016 and 19 August 2016 had a problem with front seatbelt buckles that may not have been punched correctly during production. This could result in the buckle and seatbelt bracket separating during a collision.
Both the driver and front passenger seats rails might have been assembled incorrectly and will need to be inspected and then repaired by a Volvo dealer. This applies to examples manufactured from 18 October 2017 and 4 December 2018.
Is a used Volvo S90 saloon reliable?
Volvo as a brand has had mixed results in recent years, and according to our most recent What Car? Reliability Survey it finished in 17th place out of 32 manufacturers. Data on the S90 shows it came in fifth place out of 10 cars in the luxury car class, with a high rating of 90%.
Reliability rating 90%
Electrical issues were rife on the V90 and S90, accounting for nearly a quarter of all faults on the 30% of cars that went wrong. Other problem areas included the bodywork, brakes, engine and fuel system. Half of the faults were rectified in a day or less and all the affected cars remained driveable. Nine out of 10 problems were sorted out under warranty and no repair bills topped £500
If you would like to see the full reliability list, head to the What Car? Reliability Survey pages for more information.
What used Volvo S90 saloon will I get for my budget?
Around £14,000 will find you an early S90 with plenty of miles and a full history from a trader. Up this to between £15,000 and £19,000 and you should find some 2017 full-history cars, with low mileages and with your choice of engines or trims. Spend between £20,000 and £22,000 on a good 2018 or 2019 car, and around £23,000 to £25,000 on a 2019 or 2020 one. You'll need between £25,000 to £30,000 on a 2021 or 2022 model, and a little more for a 2023 car.
If you're interested in the rarer T8 plug-in hybrid, you'll need around £25,000 to buy one.
Check the value of a used Volvo S90 with What Car? Valuations
How much does it cost to run a Volvo S90 saloon?
In theory, the most frugal S90 is the 2.0-litre T8 petrol-electric plug-in hybrid. This has the stunning official average fuel economy figure of 141.2mpg, with correspondingly impressive 46g/km CO2 emissions figures. However, this will only be achievable in a very few limited circumstances, with its real-world figure being considerably more ordinary. If it fits into your lifestyle, though, it’s worth a look. The 2.0-litre D4 diesel engine helps the S90 achieve an average claimed WLTP figure of 50.4mpg, while the more powerful 2.0-litre D5 claims 43.5mpg.
There are also a couple of more ordinary petrols for those who don't need a diesel and don't have a charging point at home. Both the T4 and T5 are rated to do 37.7mpg, which is unsurprising since they both use the same sized engine.
Cars registered before 1 April 2017 will find their road tax bills low, while it’s worth noting that those registered after that date and costing more than £40,000 when new will attract an extra VED tax until the car is five years old. To find out more about the current road tax costs, click here. The current flat-rate fee is £180 a year (£170 for hybrids) and the luxury car supplement is £390 a year.
Volvo offers a variety of service plans for used cars that can fix the price of parts, labour and oil for up to six years, and this can be paid for on an interest-free monthly basis.
Which used Volvo S90 saloon should I buy?
The S90’s D5 diesel engine uses a clever compressed air system to help the turbocharger kick in more promptly, with the result that it accelerates extremely well.
Entry-level Momentum trim makes most sense. You get LED headlights, heated leather seats, sat-nav, Bluetooth and a DAB radio. On top of that, there’s a powered boot lid, keyless start and rear parking sensors.
Our favourite Volvo S90: D4 Momentum
What alternatives should I consider to a used Volvo S90 saloon?
The S90 runs head to head with one of our favourite cars, the BMW 5 Series. That's a car plush and sophisticated enough to take on just about any car it chooses. It’s spacious, brilliantly appointed inside and great to drive, with a range of quiet and efficient engines. Our only criticism of it would be you have to add the variable dampers to it to make it handle and ride as well as we know it can.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has a range of strong, smooth engines, too, as well as a supple ride and a generous amount of standard equipment. It’s not quite as good to drive as the BMW, but it’s a strong contender and a good used proposition.
The Jaguar XF offers a superb ride and handling balance, and also comes with plenty of standard equipment. Countered against that, its engines can be a little noisier than some and its boot space and interior quality are not as convincing as its rivals
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If you're interested in finding a used S90, or any of the other luxury cars mentioned here, head over to the Used Car Buying pages to find lots of cars listed for sale at a great price.