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2021 Volvo S90 petrol road test review

Tuhin Guha Updated: November 05, 2021, 09:16 PM IST

The current Volvo S90, being the flagship that it is, has always been the clearest expression of the Swedish brand's take on bringing a calming experience to its cars' occupants. And with this mid-life update, Volvo seems to have doubled down on that niche with a switch from diesel to a petrol-only engine choice for its top-tier sedan.

This also ties in with the brand's larger ambitions in India where it wants to go almost entirely electric over the next five years. The transition to this began with a switch to petrol-only engines with the S60 earlier in the year, the S90 and the popular XC60 following now. The XC90 petrol coming later this year will complete this phase of change for the brand.

2021 Volvo S90 petrol driving impressions

We never had any complaints with how Volvo's diesel engines worked, they were exceptionally refined in fact, but the switch to petrol power in the Volvo S90 now seems to bring an added layer to the serene demeanour of the sedan. This new B5-spec petrol motor with its 253PS is significantly more powerful than the 190PS the diesel offered, although torque is down by 50 Nm to 350 Nm. But this deficit is far less apparent in the real world with the up to 14PS and 40 Nm that the 48V mild-hybrid system adds.

The petrol S90 is near silent in regular use, say in city traffic or on a steady highway cruise where wind and road noise is very well controlled too. There's a wide powerband to play with and the electrical assistance, though not immediately apparent, works well to nullify any lag from the motor. The effect is that the S90 always seems to have torque on the ready for any manoeuvre at any speed. And while most owners of the Volvo S90 may not be too interested in this, the engine is also quite an eager one when pushed hard. There is a potent growl past 3,000 rpm and revs build intently up to the quite high 7,000rpm redline, although the torque peters away past 5,500rpm making this a largely pointless exercise. The petrol S90 is a quick car, as our outright and in-gear acceleration numbers suggest, much more so than the diesel. Efficiency is par for the course for this segment too.

Our only complaint with this new drivetrain is the absence of any drive modes. This seems to be highlighted in the way the 8-speed Aisin gearbox works. The unit is largely as keen to inputs as in any of its other applications but with no Sport mode a heavy jab on the throttle, say when you need to make space for yourself in traffic or get back on the throttle after a tight corner on a hilly section of road, brings some delayed downshifts from the gearbox. This exclusion also highlights the quite sharp initial throttle response that is most apparent when you want to get back up to speed after slowing down. Both these traits seem at odds with the rest of the driving experience.

Like before, the Volvo S90 with its rear air suspension is a largely soothing experience on our roads. The car stays level over most surfaces and there are few jitters or shimmies over uneven sections. There is some firmness over broken patches, given the 45 profile tyres, but with steel springs up front, sharper bumps are quite apparent inside the S90. But thankfully as speeds build, this evolves into a more pliant, secure feel. There is some lean around bends given the generally soft suspension but the SPA architecture has always been a well-poised one. Having said that, those looking for lithe, light-footed handling will need to look elsewhere given Volvo's front-driven layout and safe dynamics. The S90 is at its best when driven calmly, the light controls encourage this, and the driving experience seems more cohesive as a result.

2021 Volvo S90 petrol interiors, features, exterior

The new engine aside, the Volvo S90 has also been given a fairly significant tech overhaul. This centres around the new Android-based infotainment co-developed with Google. The hardware and general layout remain the same as the previous Sensus system but now comes integrated with features like Maps and Assistant, as well as access to a range of apps like Spotify and Google Books on the Play Store. The functionality this offers isn't all that much more than say a wireless Android Auto feature, but the deeper integration with the map display in the instrumentation and quick voice recognition is a genuine step up from Android Auto-based systems. Other than this the largely touch-based interface remains as before with a slight learning curve thanks to the deep sub-menus.

Additionally, connected car services have been added, which brings the S90 up to speed with rivals. It offers limited features currently although an upcoming update will significantly enhance this.

The discreet but rich ambience of the Volvo S90's cabin remains untouched. Now available only in the top Inscription variant, there is a new oak wood inlay with tan or deep brown upholstery options. All the materials and surfaces feel as high quality as before, the new Orrefors glass shifter with its more fluid shift pattern from the Excellence versions a highlight.

And with the vast features list, passengers remain well served. Some highlights include the four-zone climate control, heated, cooled and massaging front seats while the impressive 19-speaker Bowers and Wilkins audio system now has a wider range of sound modes to choose from, including a stage setting previously unavailable. Finally, a more effective cabin air cleaner has been added. The front seats remain as supportive and adjustable as before while rear passengers continue to be pampered with easy ingress/egress through the seats' high H-point, and comfortable angle of recline. There's great legroom and enough headroom here, and quite an airy feel despite the smaller sunroof. We only wish for slightly better underthigh support here and marginally softer cushions all around.

Some blink-miss styling tweaks round off the changes made to the look and feel of the Volvo S90. These are a new chrome highlighted grille with a larger, flat Volvo logo, reworked tail lamps and chrome garnishes on the bumpers.

2021 Volvo S90 petrol safety

The Volvo S90 has given an updated ADAS platform to go with this refresh. This technology may now be in the mainstream but even then the safety suite on offer here is impressive. An extended blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert and braking are the major new additions here. But significantly, the new system performs far more naturally in our conditions than the slightly temperamental operation of the earlier version. The adaptive cruise control picks our lane markings better and the lane-keeping assist is less abrupt in its intervention as is the emergency braking system. These assists are also easier to disable, say in heavy, erratic traffic, where its effectiveness is largely limited.

2021 Volvo S90 petrol verdict, price

Volvos have always been great value in India and that seems to continue with these petrol versions too. At Rs 61.90 lakh, the Volvo S90 in petrol guise easily offers one of the more cosseting cabin experiences in this class, for less money than many rivals, with its rich ambience and extensive features. The new engine makes the driving experience more refined than ever even with the few anomalies we found at lower speeds. Add the useful tech upgrades and the Volvo S90 continues to remain a top pick as a straightforward mid-sized luxury sedan.

2021 Volvo S90 petrol real-world mileage, performance

Mileage

City - 10.56 kmpl
Highway - 13.26 kmpl
Overall - 11.23 kmpl

Performance

0 to 100 kmph - 7.5s
30 to 50 kmph - 1.9s
50 to 70 kmph - 1.9s
60 to 80 kmph - 2.1s

Braking

100 to 0 kmph - 40.8m,3.1s

Also read,

2021 Volvo S90 mild-hybrid petrol facelift launched in India at Rs 61.90 lakh

Facelifted 2021 Volvo XC60 mild-hybrid petrol launch in India at Rs 61.90 lakh

Volvo XC40 Recharge electric SUV launch postponed to early 2022

2021 Volvo S60 road test review

Interview: Volvo India's Jyoti Malhotra on its ambitious EV plan, upcoming models and India's EV policy

Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 61.9 Lakhs
Displacement
1969cc
Transmission
Automatic
Max Power(ps)
-NA-
Max Torque(Nm)
350
Mileage
-NA-
Price (Ex-Delhi)
-NA-
Displacement
1969cc
Transmission
Automatic
Max Power(ps)
190
Max Torque(Nm)
300
Mileage
-NA-
Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 39.9 Lakhs
Displacement
1969cc
Transmission
Automatic
Max Power(ps)
190
Max Torque(Nm)
300
Mileage
-NA-
Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 61.9 Lakhs
Displacement
1969cc
Transmission
Automatic
Max Power(ps)
254
Max Torque(Nm)
350
Mileage
12.15 Kmpl
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