2022 Volvo S90 Review: A Sedan For All Seasons

  • Timelessly-handsome design
  • Spacious and well-equipped cabin
  • AWD and mild-hybrid system leave it sure-footed
  • Competitively priced
  • Android-powered infotainment still needs work
  • Engine can lack refinement when pushed

Snow crusted, salt streaked; rimed with ice. No car does "Winter Aesthetic" quite like a Volvo, and thankfully the 2022 S90 proves that beauty is more than sheet-metal deep. Ever-elegant and subtly restrained, the S90 skips the shouting of its luxury sedan rivals, though that's not to say it hasn't come in for some updates this year – for better and for worse.

Volvo's future may be electric, but the S90 is a plug-in hybrid at best, and in the form of my B6 AWD R-Design review car the only nod to electrification is some mild-hybrid action. The 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged gas engine has a 48-volt system, to harvest a little otherwise-wasted power and bring the total to 295 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.

More money gets you the T8 Recharge version, a plug-in hybrid with eAWD that relies on electric motors for the rear axle. It has more power, at 400 hp, and more torque, at 472 lb-ft, though having gone sideways on the ice in the PHEV I found I preferred Volvo's mechanical all-wheel drive system instead. The upside is an EPA-rated 21 miles of all-electric driving, a mode the B6 lacks.

Pricing starts at $51,850 (plus $1,045 destination) for the S90 B6 AWD Momentum, though the R-Design trim you see here nudges that up to $54,950. The cheapest PHEV S90 starts at $60,050, though is also eligible for up to $5,419 in US federal tax incentives.

It's close to six years since Volvo launched this generation of S90, and yet the long, sleek sedan has aged with impressive grace. In R-Design form, much of the exterior chrome is replaced with high-gloss black trim. There's also a black mesh grille, 19-inch R-Design wheels – swapped for 20-inch versions here, an $800 upgrade – and the distinctive Thor's hammer headlamps which Volvo now shares with electric sibling Polestar.

Compared to what's coming out of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes at the moment – never mind Genesis and Lexus – the S90 is a far more surreptitious interpretation of luxe. I happen to think it looks tremendous, even more so with a liberal accretion of snow and ice.

That's an inescapable state of affairs, as Michigan's winter season begins. Volvo of course has few fears when it comes to inclement conditions, though the 5.9-inches of ground clearance would be my first concern when the snow gets thick. You get more than 8-inches of clearance from its V90 Cross Country SUVified-wagon cousin, and were this my daily driver – and my money – I don't think I'd be able to resist the handsome and heightened hauler.

Still, sure-footed describes the S90 nicely, and on winter rubber – you are running snow tires this season, aren't you? – it grips with the best of them. Volvo's AWD setup may skip the PHEV's electric-mechanical combo, but traction between the front and rear axles shifts immediately. The steering has weight though lacks a little feel, even if the big sedan is communicative when it comes to grip.

Though the S90 PHEV may be more powerful and thus faster, there's a pleasing turn of speed possible from the S90 B6. The 48v mild-hybrid system only contributes a mere 13 horses to the party, but – though the gas and electric parts can't reach peak power simultaneously – they help smooth over the gaps left by the combination of turbocharging, supercharging, and the standard 8-speed automatic's churning. The overall result is reasonable pace, even if the inline-four doesn't sound quite as creamy or refined as some of its rivals manage. At least the auto start/stop is now more covert.

The optional Four-C Adaptive Air Suspension – a $1,200 addition – helps with ride quality, with individually-controlled cushions taking care of the rear corners. The default setup isn't as plush as in some of the competition, though, a decision which pays dividends for handling but leaves the S90 behind if wafting is your primary goal. Oddly, there's no drive mode selection to tip the scales one way or the other depending on your current mood.

It's not the only weird omission. The big upgrade inside is a switch to Android Automotive OS, replacing Volvo's own Sensus infotainment system with Google's platform for car dashboards. It means you get Google Maps, the Google Play store for apps (of which a vanishingly-small number are currently on offer), and the Google Assistant for voice control, all of which are leagues better than their predecessors. Even the UI for the 9-inch portrait aspect touchscreen is kinda-sorta similar, though the icons and text look a little more anemic than they used to.

Problem is, while having Google Maps is great, smartphone connectivity is – for the moment – dire. You get Bluetooth, but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: Volvo says they'll come eventually, but their absence now is conspicuous. Plug your phone in via one of the four USB-C ports and there's no wired music streaming support, either, only charging.

Factor in occasionally sluggish menus – like the pop-up controls for the heated seats and steering wheel – and weird design decisions like not being able to see both the 360-degree and regular reversing camera views at the same time, and it's clear there's a lot which could be tweaked and fixed with software. At least the essentials are covered: the $3,200 Bowers & Wilkins audio system is concert hall-like in its sonic marvelousness, quad-zone climate control is standard, the seat and wheel heating can crank up to roasting temperatures, and the R-Design leather sports seats are cosseting and supportive.

Indeed, Volvo's cabin remains a lesson in restrained design that other automakers could do worse than learn from. Trim pieces made from the materials they appear to be, along with an aesthetic that's classy but not showy, add up to something that feels a lot more timeless than the glitter elsewhere in the segment. Laminated side glass helps keep it a quiet haven, too.

True to reputation, Volvo's safety suite is comprehensive. Blind spot warnings with steering assist, cross-traffic alerts, and auto-brake are standard, along with low and high speed collision mitigation, run-off road protection and mitigation, lane departure warnings and assistance, and oncoming collision mitigation. Pilot Assist – Volvo's version of adaptive cruise control with hands-on-wheel lane following – is included as well, though (like with many such systems) inclement weather can play havoc with the sensors.

$750 adds the Climate Package, with headlamp washers, the heated steering wheel, and heated rear seats to go with the acres of legroom for passengers back there. Nobody is going to accuse the S90 of being unduly snug. The $1,900 Advanced Package includes a power tailgate, head-up display, 360-degree camera, and air cleaner system for the HVAC. With the $695 for Thunder Grey metallic paint, my review car clocked in at $64,540 all-in.

Honestly, it feels like you're getting a lot of car for your money, especially when you consider how most of the German alternatives will prize open your wallet to match the S90's standard safety kit. The EPA says you'll get 23 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined. In my own, mixed driving, I saw just shy of 25 mpg.

2022 Volvo S90 Verdict

I don't know if Volvo set out to make a timeless sedan when they designed the S90 originally, but what stands out here is just how gracefully the car has aged. From the exterior design, to the cabin, to the way it drives, the S90 belies its years and feels not so much fresh as unconcerned with anything so mundane as aging. Focused updates and massaging have helped there, of course, the only thing letting the side down being the Google-powered infotainment system, which feels like it was rolled out before it was fully baked.

Software should address that, and then the reasons not to recommend the 2022 S90 will be even more vanishingly small. The only thing which really dates it is the drivetrain, with the B6's mild-hybridization increasingly out of place among Volvo's grand electric ambitions.

Even with the pace of that roadmap, though, just when we might see a new, all-electric luxury sedan from the Swedes is a question nobody is answering: SUVs and crossovers are, unsurprisingly, the focus to begin with. It's a good thing, then, that the S90 we have today is so capable and so compelling, that patience for what comes next doesn't seem like quite such a hardship.

[Updated to clarify total horsepower and the details of the adaptive suspension system]