DETROIT – Test-driving the 2020 Volvo S90 AWD R-Design was like motoring in two different cars and both were more than adequate.
First, let’s deal with the S90 itself. This is the Swedish automaker’s flagship full-size sedan. In the era of utility vehicles, Volvo only produces two sedans and this one was the R-Design, which in a word meant sport.
But performance can be and was combined with a bit of luxury. This car was the S90 T6, it was powered by a 2.0-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine that had a supercharger and a turbocharger working in unison. The combination gave the car 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
It had an eight-speed transmission and the R-Design was equipped with paddle shifters. There were four drive modes: eco, comfort, individual and dynamic (read: sport). The S90 sedan had an EPA rating of 21 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined.
This is the performance trait of the dual blower system. Our test vehicle had a bunch of pep at low speeds. That was the supercharger at its best. Our full-size sedan handled as though it was a third its actual size. And that is saying something since the Volvo S90 really didn’t look like a traditional big sedan.
On the expressways it was very fast, that was the turbocharger; at its best when high speeds are involved. We kept the drive mode set on comfort for most of the test drive, and on smooth pavement, we barely felt the road beneath us.
For 2020, Volvo rid the S90 R-Design of its smaller, T5, four-cylinder engine. The sedan got a new front spoiler, a new R-Design grille, new R-Design 20-inch wheels, rear diffuser with integrated tailpipe, black window trim and black-capped sideview mirrors.
There were new up-style leather seats with something Volvo called Nubuck inserts that looked like suede to us. The front seat had four-way lumbar supports, power-adjustable sides or bladders and power-adjustable cushion extenders for the lower legs.
The R-Design had mesh aluminum trim — lots of it. And though it may sound garish, it worked well. They managed to matte it, so the aluminum was not shiny. It was the first use of aluminum trim we’ve seen that we liked.
We climbed into the back seats and found the second personality treat of the 2020 Volvo S90 R-Design – it was huge back there. There was enough room for us to and we did cross our legs.
The back seats were heated. But more important was that the side window power privacy screens were controlled from the right-side seat, so was the panoramic roof and its screen. The front passenger seat and the back sunscreen were all controlled from the right-side back seat.
In other words, the 2020 Volvo S90 functioned much like a limousine, although it didn’t look like one. Remember, today’s automotive market is global. And though we don’t think this car could match up as a limo in this market, it could in China and other countries.
The only thing we found to complain about was the process for connecting Bluetooth to our smartphone. It just did not work. However, we went to bed and the next morning when we started the car it was connected. Now let us be clear, we know that it is something we are or are not doing. And we’re too stubborn to read the directions, we should not have to. The process should be intuitive. But we may have to surrender and whip out the owner’s manual and see what’s going on.
Anyway, the S90 had most of the equipment we expect on a top-notch luxury sedan and a couple of things that surprised. The parking sensor covered that car all the way around. It was the first time we got a warning about the proximity of the vehicle based on the car that was next to it.
There was all-wheel drive, Bluetooth, LED headlights, blind-spot alert with a robust steering assist system that went along with the lane departure alert with lane-keeping aid and pilot assist.
Satellite radio, voice controls, a navigation system, run-off-road protection, Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were part of a premium audio system. And there was unexpected safety equipment like a whiplash protection system, oncoming mitigation by braking, run-off road protection and run-off-road mitigation and a system that detects vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, large animals (think moose) and road sign information.
The 2020 Volvo S90 T6 AWD R-Design was an awful lot of car for $64,290. We think Volvo could tack on $10K and not overprice the car.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com