2021 Volvo S90

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2021
The Car Connection
2021
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
November 28, 2020

Buying tip

The T8 powertrain adds grunt, not much efficiency. We’d pick a T6 powertrain with either body style, but the Cross Country just seems fitting.

features & specs

Recharge T8 eAWD PHEV Inscription
Recharge T8 eAWD PHEV R-Design
T6 AWD Inscription
MPG
Coming Soon
MPG
Coming Soon
MPG
21 city / 32 hwy
MSRP
$60,050
MSRP
$60,050
MSRP
$54,650

The 2021 Volvo S90 and V90 argue for luxury-car status with rational performance and style.

What kind of car is the 2021 Volvo S90/V90? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Volvo S90 and V90 are large luxury cars that offer a pretty alternative to the usual rivals, including the Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class, and BMW 5-Series. Without the pretense of luxury the S90 sedan and V90 wagon still deliver it, especially in our favorite, the exceedingly rare V90 Cross Country all-wheel-drive wagon.

Is the 2021 Volvo S90/V90 a good car?

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It’s very good, especially in safety and in features. We give it a TCC Rating of 7.5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2021 Volvo S90/V90?

Other than some mild styling changes, not much. The S90 and V90 carry over much of the goodness that’s been their hallmark since the 2017 model year, when the S90 was new. Minimalist style counts among the cars’ positives: It’s classically shaped, shorn of excess detail, with proportions that suggest rear-wheel drive when it’s actually front- or all-wheel drive. The exterior’s handsome; the interior’s stunning in a low-key way, especially when it’s clad in gray leather and wood.

Base V90 wagons have a 250-horsepower “T5” turbo-4 powertrain, but most of these cars get a “T6” version with supercharging that drives output to 316 hp and 0-60 mph times well below seven seconds. All-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic give the T6 models lots of grip to match the soothing ride quality and relaxed steering feel. It’s a welcome respite from the hard-edged personality baked into many rivals. There’s also a T8 plug-in hybrid, with 400 hp and enough electric power for 21 miles of gas-free driving, but it’s expensive and efficiency is a sort of sideline compared to its 4.8-second 0-60 mph time.

All S90s and V90s have excellent front and rear seats, and good to great cargo space–not to mention luxury-grade fit and finish. Automatic emergency braking comes standard as well, and crash-test scores have been good, though they’re incomplete.

How much does the 2021 Volvo S90/V90 cost? 

Prices start from $53,190 (including $995 destination) for the S90 T6, which has standard wireless smartphone charging, leather upholstery, and a 9.0-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Wagons come with a premium; we’d select the $56,540 V90 Cross Country anyway, with its standard T6 drivetrain, and opt into the Bowers & Wilkins audio for more than $3,000.

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2021 Volvo S90

Styling

The S90 and V90 are impeccably tasteful.

Is the Volvo S90/V90 a good-looking car?

Yes. Volvo’s found the perfect point between conservative style and svelte good looks. The exterior’s worth an extra point on both body styles, and the interior’s two, too. We give it an 8.

This year the S90 and V90 get minor updates to the front and rear that hardly budge the style from its classic proportions. The grille’s been tweaked and the rear end has been updated, but the S90 and V90 have the long, low-hood proportions that imply luxury—and they don’t need a bunch of glitzy add-ons to signify status any further. Volvo simply asks its few details to work harder, from the hatpin-shaped LED headlights to the C-shaped taillights that bracket the design with elegant simplicity. The exterior design has to work hard: Volvo’s paint hues run the gamut from A to B, ranging from icy gray to icy white to an icy silver-blue.

The cabin of the biggest Volvo doesn’t need to shriek its status, either. It’s formatted in spare shapes, capped by high-definition screens and low-gloss wood trim and supple leather. It’s like a Scandinavian day spa when it’s trimmed in lighter tones.

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7

2021 Volvo S90

Performance

Volvo’s turbo engines generate plenty of steam, and air springs relieve the pressure.

Volvo tunes its S90 and V90 without the weight of high-performance models hanging over its head. That allows these cars to ride softly while they steer precisely, and to rely on turbo-4 engines to generate good if not exceptional power.

We love the S90 and V90 for their relaxed attitude, and give them a 7 here for above-average acceleration and ride.

How fast is the Volvo S90/V90?

They’re fast enough, even in the V90 T5, which adopts a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 250 hp—an engine that used to be available on the sedan, but was dropped last year.

Most drivers will pick the T6, which takes the same engine and supercharges it to generate 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Even with the cars’ curb weights of 4,800 pounds or more, this engine and the 8-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive system to which it’s coupled can crack off 0-60 mph times of 6.0 seconds. 

At the pinnacle of the S90 lineup (not in the V90s), a T8 powertrain combines that T6 unit with a 10.4-kwh battery and hybrid system that contributes an extra 84 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, for a total of 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. It enables 21 miles of electric driving and a 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds—pony-car quickness, if not German supersedan speed. 

Is the Volvo S90/V90 4WD?

All-wheel drive is an option on most models, and standard on the T8 and Cross Country.

The S90 and V90 have priorities on the road (and slightly off the road)—but high-speed cornering isn’t one of them. The focus is comfort, and the cars’ competent handling can be accented with drive modes that build quicker responses into the throttle and steering. The S90’s talent is applying a creamy layer between its tires and rough roads; with the optional air suspension, it can even mute the impact of big 19-inch wheels without making the car handle with a tense feel.

The V90 Cross Country does the best version of all of this. With more than 2 inches more ground clearance (up to 8.3 inches), it’s like a larger and much more luxurious Subaru Outback. The ride height and all-wheel drive close the gap between the V90 and the XC90 SUV in the handling spectrum. We miss real wagons sometimes, but want the crossover all-weather protection; the Cross Country gives us the best of all worlds.

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9

2021 Volvo S90

Comfort & Quality

The S90 and V90 have high-volume interiors and low-key luxury trim.

We’re impressed not just by the space offered up by Volvo’s S90 and V90 cars, but in the sublime alternative they offer to luxury-car buyers. We give the cars a 9 for comfort and quality, with extra points for good front seats, the ability to carry five adults, good trunk space, and good fit and finish—especially in the light-toned interiors.

Volvo’s front seats have registered regular acclaim, and the S90 and V90 are no different. Base buckets wear leather and have heating and multiple ways of power adjustment, while spendy versions have cooling and nappa leather coverings. The adjustment enables an excellent driving position for nearly every tester we’ve polled, and the support built into the seats seems to be good for hours-long drives for most of us.

The back seats are nearly as good, with plentiful head room and more than 40 inches of leg room. Some models sport heated and cooled seats, and the wagons have fold-down seatbacks that free up more space for road-trip finds.

Trunked S90 sedans can tote up to 15.4 cubic feet, but the wagons can hold at least 25.5 cubic feet of stuff (including a 2.7-cubic-foot space below the cargo floor)—or 53.9 cubic feet of stuff behind the front seats.

Fit and finish are excellent in the S90 and V90. We’re enamored with Volvo’s interior themes, especially the dark grey leather and wood option. It’s a minimalist alternative to the newly brassy interiors of big Benzes and BMWs, and it makes the cabins a soothing place to whittle away interstate miles.

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2021 Volvo S90

Safety

The S90 scores well in crash tests, but testing isn’t complete.

How safe is the Volvo S90/V90?

The IIHS says it’s “Good” in all its crash tests, but takes issue with the adaptive LED headlights, calling them “Marginal.” That keeps the big Volvos from earning a Top Safety Pick award as they have in the past. The NHTSA hasn’t crash-tested one yet. Still, it scores an 8 here thanks to good outward vision, standard comprehensive crash-avoidance technology—including adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors—and advanced features like Volvo’s Pilot Assist driver-assistance system, which lets drivers go hands-free for short stints while the car maintains distance and handles acceleration and braking duties. 

On the options list, Volvo offers automated parking assist and a surround-view camera system. Thin roof pillars make the cabin on these cars feel roomy and open, and enable good outward vision. 

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9

2021 Volvo S90

Features

The S90 and V90 leave almost no luxury features to the imagination.

Volvo stocks its biggest sedan and wagon with plenty of standard features and has a long options list. Its infotainment is good, and so is its warranty coverage. It’s a 9 here.

At the start of the price ladder, the $53,190 S90 T6 has navigation, wireless smartphone charging, LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, and power heated front seats. It also comes with a 9.0-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty that includes three free maintenance visits. 

Which S90/V90 should I buy?

We’d take the V90 Cross Country with the T6 drivetrain, a heated steering wheel, and 19-inch wheels, at $56,540. Options on all include a head-up display, cooled front seats, and Harman Kardon sound for less than $1,000—or Bowers & Wilkins audio for more than $3,000.

How much is a fully loaded Volvo S90/V90?

The S90 T8 plug-in hybrid sedan costs more than $61,000, but it is eligible for local and federal tax credits thanks to the size of its battery.

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2021 Volvo S90

Fuel Economy

Plug-in aside, the S90 and V90 have average fuel economy.

Is the Volvo S90/V90 good on gas?

Most versions earn EPA combined ratings of about 25 mpg, so we give it a 4 here.

The best option for efficiency remains the plug-in hybrid S90 T8 AWD. It’s fitted with a hybrid system with batteries that enable up to 21 miles of electric driving and 30 mpg combined. 

Other S90 and V90 variants score lower. V90 T5 wagons check in at 22/33/26 mpg. S90 and V90 AWD cars are pegged at 21/32/25 mpg, and the V90 Cross Country is scored at 20/30/24 mpg.

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$51,550
MSRP based on T6 AWD Momentum
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7.5
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 8
Features 9
Fuel Economy 4
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