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It's a tricky segment to break into, but Volvo is looking to grab itself a larger, albeit still rather modest, share of the executive saloon marketplace with its new S90.
The four-door version of the V90 estate - traditionally the bigger-selling of the two - showcases a striking design in a traditionally very conservative sector, where the Jaguar XF is the only major rival to the German power trio of BMW 5-series, Audi A6 and Mercedes E-class.
Volvo has kept it simple with the launch line-up: just two 2.0-litre engines and two trim levels are available, all fitted with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox. The entry model driven here is the front-wheel drive 180hp D4 diesel, which is joined by the 235hp all-wheel drive D5. Both are available in Momentum and Inscription trim levels.
Inside the S90
The interior is reminiscent of the new XC90 large off-roader, including the media system that could do with being a little more intuitive for the uninitiated. The seats are comfortable, although it can take a bit of work to find the best position, and there is a huge amount of space for rear-seat passengers, which comes as a result of the S90 being longer than its main rivals.
That space is not at the expense of boot room either, which at 500 litres is only up to 30 litres smaller than the Audi A6 and BMW 5-series.
The imposing styling at the front is certainly a refreshing change from the car's S80 predecessor, but the rear is a little less neat.
Most at home on a motorway
Refinement and comfort are both good, but the S90 does feel like a large car, and less nimble than the likes of the BMW 5-series or Jaguar XF in particular. It's certainly most comfortable in the role of motorway cruiser. Emissions aren't great, considering the S90 is the new kid on the block, with the 116g/km at least one benefit-in-kind band higher than any main rival, and 14g/km off the Mercedes E220d.
The issue of whole-life costs is an interesting one for the Volvo because the car suddenly gets a whole load more enticing versus the premium competition. An aggressive pricing position of around £2000 cheaper than the equivalent Audi, BMW, Jaguar or Mercedes combines with a residual value prediction that breaks through the 40% mark means it's 2.3p per mile cheaper to run than the rival Jag, and 4.5p per mile cheaper than the Mercedes, which both have a slightly better RV, while sub-35% residual predictions mean the BMW 5-series and Audi A6 are both more than 6.5p per mile behind.
The Volvo S90 is a stylish and cost-effective addition to the market, and will appeal to those looking for a break from the (mainly German) prestige norm. The company isn't looking for big numbers, and with sound logic for driver and fleet, there's no reason to think it won't find favour with enough people to be considered a success here in the UK.