Volvo has taken another step away from its boxy, boring past with the release of the new S90 sedan. Armed with a high-tech hybrid powertrain and a face that borrows its handsome square jaw from the XC90, the S90 leads Volvo into battle against the upcoming Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series, both of which promise to be technological powerhouses.
Leading Volvo's charge is the high-tech T8 powertrain out of the XC90 SUV. The T8 combines a four-cylinder Drive-E engine that produces 237 hp (318 hp) and 400 Nm of torque, with a 60 kW electric motor mounted on the rear axle.
Unfortunately, Volvo has kept the details about power outputs, fuel use figures and for its new big sedan close to its chest, but we do know that it's built on the same SPA platform as the XC90. We also know that with a lot less metal to lug around, the S90 should be significantly lighter than its SUV stablemate. Does that mean better fuel economy than the XC90's claimed 2.5 l/100km figure on the new European drive cycle? We can't say, but we'll update you as soon as the figures become available.
While what's under the hood is important to some buyers, there's another area where Volvo has devoted lots of time and effort. Mercedes is promising its new E-Class will be a semi-autonomous showpiece, packed full of technology that will steer the car through areas without lane markings or actively minimize the injuries suffered in a rear-end collision, so the S90 will have to be filled with some pretty special autonomous technology to compete.
Headlining Volvo's autonomous push is the car's pilot assist system, which will stay within its lane at speeds up to 130 km/h (80 mph), regardless of whether there's a car in front or not.
As a part of its push towards zero fatalities by 2020, Volvo will also fit the car with large animal avoidance technology that can help to warn owners of elk, moose or horses and then apply the brakes to try and avoid the collision.
On the inside, the luxury focus that debuted in the XC90 has been carried over to Volvo's flagship sedan. The brand's Sensus touchscreen, which Gizmag had a play with at last year's Detroit Auto Show, dominates the center console. If it's anything like the system we tried last year, the Germans will need to be at their best to compete, because Sensus is well designed and slick to use.
From the outside, there's no mistaking the S90 for anything but a Volvo. The "Thor's Hammer" detailing in the headlamps from the XC90 has carried over, while the car's flat belt line and broad hips make it look rock solid.
The S90 will debut at the Detroit Auto Show next year.