Lagom it might be but the Volvo S90 shouldn’t have to struggle this hard…

The Swedes call is ‘lagom’ – a proverb that explains when something is just about right. It’s a state of being that the Scandinavian’s love to live by.

The new Volvo S90 basks in a state of permanent lagom. It’s not too flash, not too expensive – it’s just about right.

Well, just about. As much as I’ve loved my time in a cabin finely tuned to Ikea standards, I’m struggling to get my head around the 2.0-litre diesel engine.

The problem is this. As frugal and eco-friendly as it is, the unit sounds like it is straining to keep up. Unlike a BMW, Audi or Mercedes, this rather ruins the whole driving experience.

It doesn’t mean the S90’s progress is hindered in any way. It’s not a bad car. But that engine would eventually make me long for a bigger unit to serve up a more relaxed driving experience.

Lagom it might be but the S90 shouldn’t have to struggle this hard…


Cool, calm and collected – the new Volvo S90

Car manufacturers drift in and out of favour with the passage of time. Right now, Volvo is one of the brands of the moment – revived, revamped and poking a stick at the likes of BMW and Jaguar.

The Swedes have always traded on the safety angle but the cars have never been that desirable, or different. Well, the likes of the XC90 and now the S90 have changed all that. BMWs and Audis all look the same – why not drive something more memorable?

After five days in the S90, I’ve realised people aren’t staring at me – they are looking at the car. It’s very pretty indeed, although the rear-end does not hold quite the same appeal.

It may not have quite the driving thrills of a German car but there is something resfreshingly different about this Volvo. It feels light and airy inside. Everything about it is cool, calm and collected.

Slotting the 400bhp Twin Engine hybrid unit in later this year could be the making of a great saloon….

The new Volvo S90 is a comfortable relaxing car – it’s just I’m not ready for a nursing home yet


The retuning of Volvo is slow but impressive. After the XC90 comes our S90, with other models on the cards too. There’s even the Polestar range of performance cars that will become more available over the next few years.

Volvo has no plans to offer a fast T6 petrol version of the S90 but there will be a T8 hybrid using a system similar to that used in the XC90. With 400bhp available, the plug-in hybrid should be massively popular.

The 2.0 D5 diesel fitted in our S90 test car is impressive, offering 232bhp. However, the unit is only available with four-wheel drive, so many drivers will no doubt choose the slower, 187bhp version with front-wheel drive for better economy.

Neither give the S90 the driving dymanics of a BMW or a Jaguar – there is no manual gearbox option either. Consequently, the S90 remains a large, comfortable executive car that is more relaxing than exciting.

Personally, I’m not ready for a nursing home yet, so a 5 Series would always be my first choice.

The Volvo S90 cockpit is like the waiting room at my doctor’s surgery


Sitting inside the Volvo S90 is like visiting my doctor’s surgery. There, the receptionist plays soothing background music, everything is neatly arranged and the chairs are very comfortable indeed.

I look around at a lot of sick people and feel rather grateful that I’m only here to get a repeat prescription for asthma.

The S90 cabin has that same soothing effect – like a million Ikea candles burning around your home. It is, perhaps, just what the doctor ordered.

Yet, somehow the new S90 cabin still manages to leave me cold. It may have heated seats but the design is so clinical, so laden with technology, it lacks any soul.

Walking away from my Volvo, it sends a note to my iPhone reminding me where I parked. Very sweet but if I can’t remember that then perhaps I need to spend even more time in the doctor’s waiting room that I imagined.

Is the Volvo S90 the exec saloon to beat BMW?


The first thing you have to to realise about the S90 is that it’s a very big car. And I mean big – larger than a BMW 5 Series.

It’s pretty from some angles but less so from others, while the interior is the antidote to every German saloon currently on the market. Refreshingly different.

Volvo has got new-found credibility these days and the S90 is going to have to be good to beat rivals like the Mercedes E-class and the Audi A6.

It’s packed full of technology, boasts a super-safe heritage and is very well equipped. Could this be the exec to finally knock BMW off its throne?

The Volvo XC90’s infotainment system is less than user friendly


I’ve nothing against Capital FM but when it keeps interupting my session of Radio 4 on DAB, I take exception. and when it’s in a super-safe Volvo XC90, well that’s even more serious.

Traffic Annoucements are off, so that isn’t the reason. Unless Lady Gaga is working for the station.

To get back to Radio 4 again means a lot of faffing around on the infotainment system. Volvo has gone to every effort to load the latest XC90 with safety kit but it’s actually the simple technology that let’s this SUV down.

For example, the big screen sat nav is excellent. Except for some reason, the screen isn’t moving to follow my direction of travel. Why?

And to complete my grumpiness, the hybrid Volvo is averaging 30.5mpg on a motorway drive.



The annoying art of turning Traffic Alerts off in a Volvo XC90 T8


Volvo – famed for building super-safe cars. The well-used line that ‘nobody will die in a Volvo by 2020’ has been gathering momentum since I was first regailed of it in Sweden by a proud company man three years ago.

Well, that might be the case but I could have murdered the guy who put together the over-complicated infotainment system. A vertically-shaped iPad affair, it works very well at many things.

However, Volvo has decided to dispense will a paper owner’s manual and put it all on screen instead. I’m all for progress – except when I want to turn off those annoying Traffic Information inserts on the radio.

When I’m listening to a crucial part of The News Quiz, I don’t want some presenter from ‘Wurzel radio’ interupting to tell me a cow has escaped and is causing chaos on the A44.

Last night it took me 20 minutes to work out how to turn the alerts off. I could have managed it in two had there been the option of a paper manual.

So, you see, Volvo can make cars that nobody will die in by 2020. But I’ll still want to strangle that fecking techy designer…