This is the new Volvo S90, and it's out for BMW's 5-Series | Top Gear
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This is the new Volvo S90, and it's out for BMW's 5-Series

Bored of the default Germans? Meet the Volvo XC90’s saloon-shaped brother

Published: 02 Dec 2015

Think Volvo, and you'll likely have visions of mud-splattered SUVs crammed with screaming kids, or huge estates with wardrobes lashed to the roof. Now, the resurgent Swedes want to make a name for themselves among luxury saloons with this, the new S90.

It gets off to quite a start given it has same chassis, tech and minimalist design as the multi-talented XC90 – albeit squashed and stretched into a more business-like silhouette.

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For those furiously pointing out that Volvo already has a large saloon that’s still on sale, no we haven’t forgotten the S80. But by Volvo’s own admission “the S80 hasn’t cracked it with the public at large,” a nice way of saying it was never good enough, whereas the S90 should be. 

It won’t be easy, though, with the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class (an all-new version of which is due in January) and Jaguar XF to battle against. The plan, however, is as straightforward as the S90’s calming Scandinavian design.

By pinching 500 sales from each of its rivals above Volvo hopes to sell a modest 2,000 S90s a year in the UK. BMW shifts 15,000 of its 5-Series in the same period.

Sadly, there will be no three-door version, as previewed by the 2013 Concept Coupe, but that show car has lent the S90 its distinguishing taillights that bracket the rear end, while those ‘Thor’s hammer’ full-LED headlights will be standard on all UK cars.

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Inside it’s as per the button-averse XC90, albeit with a more vertical portrait-orientated central screen, to account for the lower seating position.

There are no official dimensions yet, but we’re told it’s longer, wider and lower than the unloved S80, placing it towards the larger end of the A6/5 Series/E-Class spectrum. Need to channel your inner Lovejoy? Fear not, a gargantuan V90 estate will follow in the first half of 2016.

Propulsion duties are left to the same four-cylinder 'Drive-E' family as the XC90, and a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes.

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Us Brits are expected to be embarrassingly one-dimensional with the front-wheel-drive 187bhp D4 model making up nearly 95 per cent of sales, largely due to its tax-dodging CO2 output of 104g/km. For those black sheep among you, a four-wheel-drive 222bhp D5 model, emitting 133g/km, will also be offered, as well as a 44g/km T8 plug-in hybrid.

Question is, can we expect an M5-baiting S90 Polestar anytime soon? “We’re not there yet, but when it does happen it’s more likely to be on the V90 wagon,” Nick Connor, Volvo’s UK MD, hinted. A modern-day 850 T5 anyone? Yes please.  

Perhaps more significant than wagon-shaped rocketships, given the S90 leans towards comfort before speed, is that it builds on the XC90’s groundbreaking autonomous functions. Activate 'Pilot Assist' and it will steer for you between a set of defined lane makers up to 80mph – and now you don’t need a car in front to follow.

Prices will start from around £32,000 for the base diesel when the S90 goes on sale in March following a debut at the Detroit show in January. That’s toe-to-toe with a 520d SE, but this time around that should be precisely where the S90 belongs.

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