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IT isn't every day that a new Volvo will surprise you but then, it isn't everyday that an S90 is unveiled. The Volvo S90 is a new mid-size sedan that replaces the S80 and it is not only more luxurious but uncharacteristically fun to drive.
The S90's lithe styling stands out and a gaping grille commands attention. Yet it is difficult to call the car handsome.
Nevertheless, everyone should be able to agree that it looks very long. And it is. The 4,963 mm S90 is 109 mm longer than the S80, with almost all of that - 106 mm - going into the extended 2,941 mm wheelbase.
But at 1,443 mm tall, it is 50 mm lower than the old S80.
Riding on 21-inch wheels (upsized from the standard 19 inches), the proportions give the S90 a more purposeful look with sportier stance.
In T6 Inscription trim, the S90 has a two-litre twin-charged engine to drive all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
In effect, the Volvo S90 T6 AWD sedan has the same basic platform as the XC90 T6 AWD sport-utility vehicle.
The twin-charged T6 engine uses both a turbo and supercharger to produce 320 hp and 400 Nm.
The supercharger is employed at low revs when moving off from stationary, with the turbo taking over the job of providing extra oomph above 3,500 rpm.
The output is delivered to the four wheels through a generation 5 Haldex AWD. This front biased system transfers 100 per cent of the torque to the front wheels under normal driving conditions. When those conditions change and more traction is needed, up to 50 per cent can be diverted to the rear wheels.
The front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension is equally adept at providing a comfortable ride as well as good body control, thanks to the optional air suspension and Four-C active shock absorbers.
Several driving modes are able to modify the car's behaviour. Dynamic mode tightens up the steering and stiffens the air suspension for sporty driving.
But Comfort mode has to be the big surprise for its comfortable yet connected responses.
In this setting, the steering is easy but still precise in fast corners, thus resulting in very confident handling. The latter is of course enhanced by its all-wheel-drive capability, so despite weighing at a hefty 1,830 kg, the S90 is remarkably nimble.
And even in Comfort mode, the T6 is capable of punchy performance.
The biggest improvement for former S80 owners is the S90's turning circle.
The high level of standard equipment also impresses. In typical Scandinavian style, Volvo's new cabin design is clean and uncluttered. There are a few buttons on the centre console but the nine-inch centre touchscreen - in portrait orientation like an iPad - takes care of everything else (its rear camera image has a useful zoom function).
Volvo's vaunted safety features are also on show in the S90, with the advanced semi-autonomous drive feature Pilot Assist.
Pilot Assist works with Adaptive Cruise Control and Distance Alert and uses gentle steering input to keep the car properly aligned within lane markings up to speeds of 130 kmh; it no longer needs to follow another car. With the revolutionary Run-off Road Mitigation, unintentional road departure at vehicle speeds between 65 and 140 kmh is prevented.
Together with the City Safety collision avoidance system for dealing with an oncoming vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist, these safety aids help to ensure any surprises associated with the new Volvo S90 remain pleasant.
Volvo S90 T6 AWD
Engine 1,969cc inline-4 twincharged
Transmission 8-speed auto
Max power 320 hp @ 5,700 rpm
Max torque 400 Nm @ 2,200-5,400 rpm
0-100 kmh 5.9 secs
Top speed 250 kmh
CO2 emissions 173 g/km
Average OMV S$41,000
Price S$239,000 (with COE)
Distributor Wearnes Automotive