(Contributing Editor: Susan Frissell)

Scandinavian Gothic art never approached the Baroque largess and opulence of Bavaria.

 

TRANSLATION: Swedish luxury cars always “Zag” with refined minimalism where German luxury car ostentatious “Zig.”

 

Volvo, the singular remaining volume Swedish managed luxury car brand, has been cash infused by Chinese conglomerate Geely Motors, since 2010. China happens to be the world’s most rapidly growing market of Noveaux Riche managers.

 

But with stuffed Geely money belts, Volvo’s days of austere luxury are being consigned to history.

 

Enter the 2018 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription. The S90 is built on all new bones, up-sized from the S80 it replaces. The new S90 embodies an innovative re-thinking of a luxury executive sedan just when luxury sedans have nearly become as popular as soda pop in a can opened two hours ago.

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WHAT: 2018 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD flagship large luxury sedan, replacing 10 year old S80 mid-size executive luxury sedan.

Standard Power: transverse intercooled turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 250 hp/ 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm + 8-spd. torque converter planetary transmission w/ shift paddles + (optional) Haldex IV all-wheel drive.

Optional Power: transverse intercooled supercharged, turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 316 hp/ 295 lb-ft @ 2200 rpm + 8-spd. torque converter planetary transmission w/ shift paddles + Haldex IV all-wheel drive.

A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: The 2nd Volvo vehicle to sit atop the Geely Volvo Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) modular platform, after the sensational XC90 SUV.

Grille-ing Lesson: Drooping hoodline accented by split creased side valleys flow into low rise concave vertical slat hexagonal grille, more reserved than the Kia Cadenza’s,  straddles slim housing inboard arrow wrap-around LED lamps with Thors Hammer alternating white DRLs/ amber flashers; Mid front fascia corners feature chrome boomerang borders; Bold lipped, body-colored lower front air dam includes LED foglamps;

A prominently high belt-line with sharp raked windshield and even more aggressively raked backlight render a fast-back profile; Narrow slabbed, wheel arches are large without fenders or quarter panel bulging much from the Coke-bottle fuselage. Wing mirrors are door rather than A-pillar mounted for improved outward view;

Short trunk-lid, with subtle uplifted integral spoiler, emphasizes coupe-like appearance; Trunk-lid lip conceals release hardware, and is accented by wrap around tuning fork taillamps, stretched at the top to cradle the “VOLVO” name.

Summed-up: Low-slung, provocative, elegant, hardly derivative and still Zagging the Teutons.

WHY: Chinese middle managers and sensibly reserved affluent Westerners can make make a different impression.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Summer 2017

WHERE: Volvo new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADEZhōngguó zǔzhuāng = Assembled in Daqing, China.

HOW ROADWORTHY: Drive-E = low speed crankshaft driven supercharging +higher speed exhaust waster gate turbocharging, each liquid intercooled, with brief turbo overboost = Always abundant shove;  If power is not overwhelming on hard throttle it is more a function of the slower torque converter lock-up on Borg Warner Aisin 8-speed planetary automatic transaxle; Kudos to Volvo for retaining a traditional rowing transmission selector lever; The less traditional center console hammered aluminum twist-action ignition switch seems an homage to long lost SAAB;  Haldex IV can briskly shove up to 90% of torque to the rear wheels with vectoring; Inducing oversteer is not out of the question; Disconcerting Concert: the engine purrs and whooshes but can’t growl to save itself.

Among long wheelbase flagship sedans the S90 is a lightweight: Compared to turbo 4-cylinder powered executive saloons less so; Good fore/ aft weight distribution minimizes acceleration tail squat or braking nose dive; E-adaptive damping, emit quick compression with subdued rebound; Optional rear air-springs swallow most imperfections; There are tire slaps from the large 20″ diameter 35-series W-rated Pirelli P-Zeros; Steering tension in this predictable tracker is high, but replies with fragmented road feel;  Pilot Assist 2 is near the top of Autonomous Level 2 driving, with competent lane control even on freeway bends; Shorter brake pedal travel normally inspires confidence, yet the single piston sliding calipers on 4-wheel vented single piece rotors didn’t imbue alacritous speed scrubbing;

HOW FAR: 25 combined miles per gallon; 480 highway miles

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: For 2018 the U.S. market drops the Swedish built standard wheelbase S90 to gain the Chinese assembled long wheelbase variant; 120″ wheelbase slightly exceeds Mercedes S-Class short-wheelbase models sold outside U.S.; 200″ inches overall length = easier to park than longitudinal engine LWB flagships; 40.4″ inches rear seat legroom finally matches Chrysler 300 and surpasses last year’s standard wheelbase S90 by 4.5″-inches; -1 Front center console aft mounted Row 2 climate & vent console chomps on middle rear occupant legroom;

HOW USEFUL: Trunk center pass-through; 60/40 split folding rear seat backs;  Driver’s and redundant rear seat controlled power rear door sunshades; Wide trunk load aperture; Cargo tie-down net; Load-floor spare-tire cover latching hook cord;  Trunk 12V outlet; Power trunk open, close; Mouse-fur lined, damped action glove box; +1 Low cowl and and power folding rear outboard headrests aid outward view; -1 Modest 15.4 cubic foot trunk, –1 No overhead console retracting sunglass bin; –1 Sparse center console storage; –1 No dedicated center console mobile phone storage;

HOW SAFE: 9 airbags; IIHS Top Safety Pick +; Bird’s Eye view Rear camera; sonar front & rear Park Distance Control, Blind spot, rear cross traffic & lane departure warning, Auto parking brake hold; Auto high beam headlamps Heads-Up display

Partial Autonomous Driving: Pilot Assist 2; Full-adaptive cruise control; Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision avoidance braking. +1 Permits 23 seconds of hands/ foot free driving.

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Heated, cooled, 12-way power front seats, including torso bolsters & knee extenders, 2-setting driver’s memory; 4 power windows w/ full up/ down express;  4-Zone auto climate control w/ auto front seat heating/ cooling, steering wheel heating; Rear door front & door controlled power sunshades; Driver-controlled rear backlight power sunshade w/ reverse auto retract;  Power retracting rear headrests; Door puddle lamps x 4; Panoramic power moon-roof; Rear right rear door controls for moonroof shade & front pax seat pitch; -1 Manual tilt/ telescoping steering wheel;

Cool Gizmo(s): 9.2″-inch LCD Digital Drive Display w/ configurable LCD twin gauges  Aft front center console 2-Zone 2nd Row climate & seat heating LCD haptics touch controls.

Details Done Right: Aluminum inlays & switch-gear;  Linear open-pore walnut wood veneers & center console bin shades;  Contrast stitched, perforated Nappa leather seating & upper door panels & dash-top; Full dashboard & door panel ambient LEDs; Two-tone leather helm;  B&W Nautilus dash top aluminum bullet tweeter speaker –  Yellow Kevlar door speakers glare through aluminum covers.

Nearly Non-Descript-1 Light grey mesh cloth headliner;

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: 9″ vertical tablet-style, pane-swipe, touch LCD infotainment screen, Rotary audio volume dial, selection, defroster & Home screen switches ; Voice recognition command hands-free communications; 3-D HDD GPS navigation; Subscription based Sirius XM radio & TravelLink; Sparkling sibilant, taut 19 speaker, 1400 Watt Bower & Wilkins audio; Android Auto + Apple CarPlay; Sensus Connected Apps: USB x 4, 12V x 3.

HOW MUCH: $69,140 = as tested 2018 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription;= $13K < S90 T8 Inscription PHEV.

WHAT’S MISSING: Power steering wheel adjustment, improved exhaust sound;

ANY COMPETITION: BMW 740L: +1 turbo V-6, handling, cabin IT; Cadillac CT6: +1 turbo V-6, Level 2.5 autonomous driving; Genesis G90: +1 turbo V-6, cabin space, warrantyLincoln Continental: +1 turbo V-6, multi-adjustable seats; Lexus LS500: +1 exterior audacity, cabin detail; Mercedes-Benz S430; +1 Level 2.5 autonomous driving, chassis capability, lavish interior materials;

FINAL WORD: Sublimt Svensk Flaggskepps Lyxbil Zhōngguó Zǔzhuāng.