2018 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription – Swedish Brougham

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve always had a thing for Volvos. My parents always had them when I was a kid. The earliest cars I remember riding in were Mom’s ’73 1800ES and ’77 245DL wagon, and Dad’s ’81 DL two-door sedan. All through the ’80s, Mom had a Volvo wagon and Dad had a Volvo sedan.

Dad’s new 740 Turbo, circa summer 1988.

Probably my favorite was my father’s 1988 740 Turbo Sedan. Fire engine red, tan leather, blackout trim, five-spoke alloys and sunroof. Now that was excellent!

The 940SE at Lake Carroll, late ’90s.

So it may come as no surprise that my first car was a Volvo, and my second, and my third. The first one was my dad’s former company car, a 1991 940SE Turbo.

Then, about four years ago, I got into Lincolns, and they multiplied. But I digress. Anyway, I’ve always had a fondness for “Ovlovs” and still keep in touch with my local dealer.

It was Friday, July 14th when I stopped into McLaughlin Motors to yak with a salesman buddy, Brian Cox. Partly to get the skinny on the latest social media Volvo electric madness (short version, no, Volvo is not going all electric, but thanks for all the free advertising FB!), and partly to see if they had any V90s in.

No V90s (you can get them, but dealers can’t order them for stock, the buyer has to get one through European delivery), but there was some new info I hadn’t known about. “Did you know they’re changing the S90 for 2018?” “No, but isn’t it brand new?” “Yeah, but they’re changing it!”

So, changing, how? Well, for one thing, the S90 is now a long-wheelbase model, with all sorts of new gadgets. Last autumn, I drove the then-new S90 at a dealer event. It was nice. Very different from the outgoing S80, but with sufficient Volvo-ness to keep the faithful happy.

Say what you will about Volvo’s Chinese owners, they aren’t afraid to spend money on their new baby. This isn’t to scale, but in this picture you can clearly see the wheelbase stretch on 2017 vs. 2018 S90s. Another interesting thing Brian heard is that Volvo is preparing the S90 in a livery model, for black car service. It will have more robust alloy wheels, suspension components, and harder-wearing interior components. It will be interesting to see how it fares when it is introduced.

But back to the feature car. I was surprised that it was being changed so much after only one year. I hadn’t even heard of the changes. But Brian said, “Hey, we just got one in, want to check it out?” Heck yes!

The big news is naturally in the back seat, which is really nice. Brian walked me to the car, he got in front, and I got in the back. He fired it up and proceeded to tell me about all the new stuff. I especially liked the saddle brown leather seats. Being the long wheelbase model, and an Inscription to boot (the top trim), it had many buttons to play with in the back.

Like power shades for both rear side windows, and the rear window. There is also a button to move the front passenger seat forward, for those long-legged captains of industry. Sorry Smithers, you’re just going to have to deal with it. Mu ha ha ha ha!

Then he said, “Hey, you want to drive it?” It took me a whole tenth of a second to accept the invitation. So, what do we have here?

What we have here is, amazingly enough, a luxury car. Yes, an actual luxury car, not a sport sedan. Not a pretentious Autobahnen-burner with rock hard seats and spastically firm suspension. It is actually comfortable. And when you’re shelling out $70K for a car, I prefer something comfortable and quiet to slalom figures and track times.

It might be hard to tell, due to the interior color, but those are genuine slabs of wood on the instrument panel and door panels.

And while I’d prefer a more color-keyed interior, it was still nice, and sufficient saddle brown contrasting trim on the dash and door panels to make it not look like a black-interior car with seats lifted from a brown-interior car.

I have seen some late-model Lincolns with this interior color, and other than a hot dog bun-sized trim piece on the armrest, the entire interior was black except for the seats. Which seems a little lazy to me. At least on the Volvo, you have complementary trim on the door panels and console.

As you’d expect, it has the LCD gauges instead of actual instruments, relatively common on modern cars but a little surprising to me and my pair of decade-plus old cars. The car had less than ten miles on it. It had been manufactured in April 2017 and the dealership was on a main drag that was totally gridlocked with major construction and cursing drivers yakking on their cell phones. But hey, no pressure!

Also de rigeur on new lux models, no key, no actual mechanical parking brake. You do turn the “Drive” button like a key though. That slab of walnut wood trim retracts to reveal the 2010s version of ashtrays and lighters-cupholders.

The 2018 Volvo S90 starts at $54,100, but this one was pretty well equipped, if not totally loaded. The Inscription trim level, top of the line for this model, added $4500 right off the bat. Then it had $595 metallic paint. Yep. The Europeans still charge for metallic paint. Ha! Though the Crystal White topcoat contrasted nicely with the saddle brown leather.

Other major options on this example included the Bowers and Wilkins premium sound for $3200, 20″ alloys with summer tires for $800 and rear air suspension for $1200.


Although it is not immediately apparent, there really is an engine under there, in this case a 2.0 liter four that is both turbocharged and supercharged, to the tune of 316 hp. It’s rated at 22 city and 31 highway, though I didn’t actually check the mpg while I drove it. And the point may have been moot anyway, since it was brand new, far from broken in, with only 6.3 miles on the clock when I wheeled it out of the dealership’s lot.

“But Klockau,” you’re asking, “You’ve been yakking about this car for 1,000 words, how does it drive, fercryinoutloud!” Well, it’s nice. As it should, for the $70K MSRP. It’s quiet. It’s smooth, other than the Prius-like start/stop engine when you brake and accelerate. It wasn’t bad, but it was mildly irritating, since neither of my old personal cars do that.

The Big Wheel epidemic continues. Factory dubs, way cool man! Actually, I like these wheels, but with the summer tires, even with AWD I’d wonder how they’d do in our famous Midwestern winters. Despite the large shoes though, the car was smooth and comfortable.

And isn’t that what a luxury car should be, smooth and comfortable? It bugs me that everyone is trying to emulate The Ultimate Leasing Machine, BMW, when most people who want a BMW are not looking for something like a BMW, but an actual, like, real BMW! Not a BMW-like Cadillac, not a BMW-like Lexus (har har har!) not a BMW-like Kaiser Manhattan, etc, etc.

Along with Lincoln and the new Continental, it is not afraid to be an actual damn luxury car. 0-60 times? Slalom? Geez, buy a 911 or a Miata or a Corvette! Why does everything need to be sporty? If you want sporty, get a sports car! Some people just like to be comfortable.

Smooth ride, plush seats, excellent sound system, plenty of room, tons of gadgets-that is what a luxury car is. And should be. Volvo gets it.

The last new S80 at McLaughlin Volvo, spring 2016.

And while a V6 would be nice in a car of this size and stature (I still mourn the final Volvo S80s with that most excellent straight six), this car goes and stops just fine. Plenty of power to keep up with traffic, and pass those pesky clapped-out Civics and 18-wheelers on I-88, and plenty of sound insulation to isolate you from their various and sundry mechanical clattering. How will a supercharged, turbocharged 2.0 four fare over the years? That is yet to be determined, but for those leasing these, and trading them in before the warranty is up, that is a moot point. At any rate, this is a fine car, still worthy of the Volvo name, and with sufficient Volvo-ness and gadgets to keep most folks happy!

Special thanks to McLaughlin Volvo and in particular, Brian Cox in Sales, and the GM, Dave Calvert, for the use of the car and the free coffee. 🙂

18 Replies to “2018 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription – Swedish Brougham”

  1. Bigtruckseriesreview

    I pity anyone who has never driven (or owned) a Mercedes S-class W221 or W222. Once you drive one of those for any length of time, you quickly understand what a true luxury car is. The W221/ W222 are easily the greatest luxury cars made in the past 20 years with a technology and comfort amalgamation that SURPASS even Rolls Royce and Bentley’s products.

    UNCOMPROMISING headroom, legroom, trunk space, engine power, interior materials, fit and finish, amenities…

    When you’re stuck in dense traffic and the car feels like a hotel room – and you aren’t angry and you are comfortable to the point that you remain calm…that’s what true luxury is all about.

    I drove the Volvo and the Lincoln Continental. They both felt very similar in interior dimensions but the Volvo had nice fit and finish. Unfortunately, I felt both of them were relatively boring. The new Hyundai Genesis G90 was slightly more impressive, as was the Cadillac CT6 – to which of the 4, I’d prefer a CT6 HYBRID.

    I honestly don’t believe these cars demand a V8 anymore. They aren’t sports cars and the people buying them typically aren’t racing them in traffic.

    Making these cars plug-in hybrids with electric motors for extra instant torque is probably the best way to go – especially since that allows them to be quieter and most drivers will be languishing in traffic rather than “carving corners”.

    I truly believe that buyers of cars like these aren’t shopping based on “value” but rather on BADGE EQUITY. I personally couldn’t see myself buying it – especially when the new E-class is out there at around the same price.

    • Bigtruckseriesreview

      We’ve reached a point where cars can virtually drive and park themselves.

      Being able to “relax” in a car with cushy climate-controlled seats and cabin…

      The way I see it, that’s a true luxury…being able to take your hands and feet off the controls while the car navigates traffic and cruises.

      Especially bumper -to-bumper.

      I have a drive ahead of me on Friday from NYC to Rhode Island. The traffic alone makes me lose enthusiasm for it. I could take our Tesla and use autopilot for most of it, but that car isn’t as comfortable for me as our W222 S-class which I’ll take if no one is using it on Friday and Saturday.

      I tested the S90’s automatic cruise control. It’s not on the level of Tesla autopilot but it’s good enough for highway cruising.

      Steer yourself, keep lanes, be able to stop yourself and be able to keep distance in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

      I won’t be sold on the tech till I can get in the car and go to sleep while it drives me home.

  2. CJinSD

    I just saw a long-term average on Volvo’s disposable engine. MT is getting twenty and a fraction MPG. I wouldn’t give up a real luxury engine for that sort of return. This is a Chinese car for the Chinese market. They can have it.

    • Jack Baruth

      Twenty and a fraction MPG is not as good as what I’m getting in the Silverado. But I’d like to have a V90 with all the sport trimmings.

  3. John C.

    We just got a 2018 V90, took delivery a week and a half ago. Volvo was so unsure about the regular wagon version that you had to special order it through Volvo concierge online. We got a T5 Inscription in Denim Blue. Ours is FWD and has the 250hp just turbo 4. Agree with you that the stop-start should be smoother and stay off longer at lights. We are loving the pilot assist and the ventilated seats. Ours was a little more reasonably priced in the mid 50s. Think the weight of the AWD would cancel any power advantage of the supercharger and allows 10% better mileage.

    It was made in Sweden, with a Swedish engine and a Japanese transmission like all our other Volvos. Take it back, the 3.2 inline 6 was made in England.

    • hank chinaski

      Again with the dubs, the fragile, expensive, noisy, harsh, heavy dubs, for that magical land where the roads get smoother each year.

      I like the styling and the real cargo space (especially compared to the token that the v60 offers), but not so much the two ton weight. I admit to being an armchair fan of the high end wagons but prefer the midrange models for the real life dirty work I put to mine.

      • John C.

        The V90 T5 weighs 3890 pounds, about 300lb less than the T6 Cross country version. It gets 34MPG highway, the best highway number for a bigger wagon since the diesel A body wagon of the mid 80s. It got 40 mpg highway but adjusted to the modern calculation I think a modern 34 MPG is better. The 90s Passat TDI was better but smaller, at least on the outside.

  4. Sean

    “Not a pretentious Autobahnen-burner with rock hard seats and spastically firm suspension”
    That is a dang revelation. I still don’t get that obsession.

  5. arbuckle

    I’m not much for luxury cars.

    I want the vehicular equivalent of an angry wolverine lunging at someone’s genitals.

  6. Charlie

    The new V90 is larger in every exterior dimension, but smaller in interior volume; than my Volvo 850. While it looks to have the best modern car interior, that’s not progress to me.

  7. Tom Klockau

    I will say I am getting a little tired of all the manufacturers shoving turbo fours down our throats. My last Volvo I bought specifically because it did not have a turbo, just the 2.4i inline five. And it never had a problem with the engine in the seven years I had it. The five was a good engine. So of course they killed it…and now you can’t get a normally aspirated new Volvo in any form, at least not in the States.

    • Richard_Fiddler

      I agree with you, although Volvo has an exceptionally long history with turbo engines not shared by other manufacturers.

  8. Jonathan

    As only one commenter pointed out, this is not only a car that was redesigned for the Chinese market, but was also made in China. (In case you didn’t read media reports about Volvo moving production of this “long” model to China, it’s clearly shown on the window sticker pictured.)

    Interesting to see such a positive review of a Chinese import, especially on this particular site.

    • Jack Baruth

      I have to confess that I thought long and hard about buying a V90 R-Design two months ago. In the end, the Chinese thing was too much for me to bear.

    • Tom Klockau

      Well, they didn’t really MOVE production to China. The short wheelbase model was made in Sweden and the LWB in China, heck, it was a Chinese model, created for their market. They’ve been doing the same thing with the S60 Inscription for at least a couple of years, it’s not new. Regular S60, Sweden/Belgian; long-wheelbase, China.

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