2020 Volvo S90

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Byron Hurd Byron Hurd Contributor
July 21, 2020

Buying tip

Consider the T8 powertrain for its increased grunt, not efficiency. It would take many years to recoup the cost of the plug-in hybrid at the pump.

features & specs

T6 AWD Inscription
T6 AWD Momentum
T6 AWD R-Design
21 city / 31 hwy
21 city / 31 hwy
21 city / 31 hwy

The 2020 Volvo S90 is a mid-size luxury sedan that's an antidote for buyers wary of the German same-ness.

The 2020 Volvo S90 is a European luxury sedan without the normal European luxury pretense. 

Looking good from every angle (outside and in) is only one of its many virtues. For 2020, the good stuff gets even better, thanks to a new R-Design trim incorporating popular features and unique looks

The 2020 Volvo S90 earns a 7.2 on our ratings scale thanks to its superlative looks, soft ride, and welcoming interior. Its IIHS Top Safety Pick rating doesn’t hurt, either. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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Outside, the S90 blends minimalism with classic sedan proportions. Its long hood suggest a rear-wheel drive layout, which disguises the reality of Volvo’s practical packaging. 

Inside, it gets standard leather-wrapped seats that are some of the most comfortable and supportive in the industry.  

For 2020, Volvo has dropped its “T5” line of engines, leaving only the T6 and T8 variants. This also eliminates front-wheel drive as an option entirely. Both remaining engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission

The new entry-level engine is the T6, which, despite its nomenclature, is a 4-cylinder. It’s both turbo- and supercharged, boasting 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The T8 is yet another 4-banger, but it gains a battery pack and a charging port, along with quite a bit more power. It makes 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. 

Standard equipment on the base S90 includes leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, a 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone integration, and Volvo’s suite of active safety and driver assist features. Among the standard inclusions are adaptive cruise control and a semi-self-driving feature. 

Unfortunately, the elimination of the entry-level engine has bumped the 2020 S90’s base price up to $55,000.


2020 Volvo S90


Svelte and conservative, the 2020 Volvo S90 is a stunner on the road.

Volvo has long been synonymous with safety, but not necessarily with style. Sure, its old-school boxy wagons and sedans have a strong cult following, but it wasn’t until recently that Volvo’s exterior designs really started to pop. 

Volvo is keen to keep it that way. We rate the S90 an 8 out of 10 in this department.

The S90’s long hood is out of place on a car that is essentially based on a front-wheel drive architecture, but it sure looks good. The grille is upright, but not nearly as egregiously large as those found on some competitors. 

From the “Thor’s Hammer” headlights we sweep back along the S90’s sides, which were sculpted to make the sedan look low and long. In the back, the boxy trunk lid looks modern and the C-shaped taillights complete its lighting “signature.” The finishing touch? A vintage “Volvo” badge. 

Inside, the S90 looks like the premium corner of an Ikea store. Matte wood trim will make you feel like you’re in a Scandinavian day spa.

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2020 Volvo S90


Last year's base engine is gone, but what's left for the Volvo S90 is good.

The 2020 S90’s powertrain options have been reduced, but not for the worse. The T5 may have been cost-efficient, but it was never all that impressive. 

We give it a 6 for performance with a caveat that power gets better, and more efficient, with more money. 

The base engine is now the T6, which is a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Given the S90’s 4,800-pound curb weight, this may not seem like much, but it’s adequate, cracking off a 0-60 run in just 6.0 seconds. Not bad for a base engine. 

Volvo’s top-end engine is more efficient at the pump but not much more proficient at the line. The T8 adds a 10.4-kwh hybrid battery that can drive the S90 for up to 21 miles on electricity alone and electric motors that contribute an extra 84 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, for a total of 400 and 472, respectively. These allow the T8 to get the S90 to 60 in just 4.8 seconds. That’s infringing on pony car territory, but it’s not quite German sport sedan levels of quickness. 

Going fast isn’t Volvo’s priority, at least not with the S90. There’s more than enough power, but the real focus is on comfort. The competent handling is augmented by a drive mode select system which benefits from the optional air-ride suspension. Stick to the 18- and 19-inch wheels if a plush ride is your priority. The 20-inchers can be a bit on the harsh side.

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2020 Volvo S90

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Volvo S90 is opulently equipped and comfortable.

Volvo’s upsized S90 continues to impress with its roomy interior and well-appointed cabin. 

The 2020 S90 earns points above average for its luxury fittings and good front- and rear-seat space. We rate it an 8 out of 10. 

Every seat in the S90 is a good one, but the rears are probably the best, thanks to more than 40 inches of leg room and optional per-seat climate controls and seat heaters. 

That’s not to say that the front chairs are disappointing. Power-adjustment is standard for the leather buckets. Heating and cooling are available options, as is massaging. The thin roof pillars and low window lines make the cabin feel open and roomy, and improve visibility significantly. 

Higher-end trims add even more niceties, including a “Nubuck” headliner and exotic trim materials. 

The S90’s trunk space measures 15.4 cubic feet, which is pretty much average for the class. Considering how much of the S90 goes above-and-beyond, it's not much of a black mark on the sedan’s otherwise spotless record.

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2020 Volvo S90


Every S90 gets standard automatic emergency braking and driver assist features.

The 2020 Volvo S90 has yet to be rated by government safety regulators, but the IIHS has seen fit to grant the S90 a Top Safety Pick nod. We rate it an 8 for now, pending official data from the feds.

It’s no surprise that the IIHS was so kind to Volvo’s sedan. The S90 is a Volvo, after all, which is a name that has long been synonymous with safety. The S90 aced the organization’s crashworthiness tests, falling short of a Top Safety Pick+ rating only on the weakness of its headlights—a common issue even for vehicles with otherwise sterling safety reputations. 

Standard driver-assistance tech on the S90 includes adaptive cruise control, active lane control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and a driver-assistance system that allows drivers to go hands-free for several seconds at a time.

Volvo refers to its suite as Pilot Assist, and it can reduce driver fatigue. Volvo was one of the first in the industry to offer such a system, and while it’s no full-blown self-driving suite, it provides a nice respite in otherwise draining driving scenarios. 

Volvo offers a surround-view camera system and automated parking assist as options. 


2020 Volvo S90


Rivals from Germany don't have much over the 2020 Volvo S90.

There’s no “wrong” way to configure the 2020 Volvo S90. It’s simply a matter of how much money you’re willing to spend. 

The S90 offers robust base features, a good infotainment system, and superlative trims that rival anything from Germany—at nearly any price. We give it an 8 out of 10 for features, and that’s a hard mark to beat.  

There are three ways to skin the S90: Momentum, R-Design and Inscription. The previous “Excellence” model has been dropped, but both the Momentum and R-Design can be had with option packages that round out the feature offerings. 

Momentum starts at approximately $55,000, and includes 18-inch wheels, a panoramic moonroof, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, power adjustable front seats, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a 9.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with smartphone integration, and the safety features highlighted above. 

The next step up from Momentum is now the R-Design. While this shares some elements of the “Excellence” trim from 2019, it’s more of an appearance package than it is a feature group. It adds Nappa leather, aluminum interior trim, a cooled glove box, a leather-wrapped key fob, four-zone climate control, laminated side windows, premium audio and a tailored dashboard and upper door panels. There’s also a unique 20-inch R-Design wheel option. 

Inscription versions add on to the R-Design with cooled leather seats, walnut wood trim, additional seat padding and exterior color-coded mirror caps. 

Packages available for all trims include a heated rear seat and steering wheel bundle, an Advanced package adding a HUD and other tech, and the Luxury package with cooled rear seats and massaging fronts.

The T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain starts at more than $64,000 for the Inscription trim level, although it’s eligible for federal tax credits and applicable state or local credits.

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2020 Volvo S90

Fuel Economy

The most efficient 2020 Volvo S90 is also the most expensive.

Removing the T5 option eliminated the S90’s cheapest and most efficient gas-only engine. The T6 is only available with all-wheel drive and it rates 21 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined, according to the EPA. That earns a 5 on our green-o-meter. 

Technically, the most efficient Volvo S90 is also the most expensive. That’s because the plug-in hybrid S90 T8 AWD can travel up to 21 miles on electrons alone. It’s rated at 30 mpg combined otherwise, but don’t let that scare you away. The plug-in’s electric assist can save a good bit of fuel. 

Among luxury mid-size cars, the Volvo is near the top of the class. The BMW 530i rates 27 mpg combined by the EPA, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class rates up to 25 mpg combined in its most popular configuration.

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Styling 8
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 8
Fuel Economy 5
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