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Volvo Lifts the Covers off New Flagship S90

New flagship sedan should help Volvo gain traction in premium market.

by on Dec.02, 2015

The new Volvo S90 shares the same underlying platform as the XC90 SUV.

Ask anyone in the theater and they’ll tell you the critical importance of a good second act. Volvo apparently has taken that advice to heart and is following up the recent launch of the critically well-received XC90 SUV with the unveiling of its new flagship sedan, the S90.

Sharing the same underpinnings as the big SUV, the Volvo S90 will take aim at some of the toughest competition in the auto industry, models like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and newly redesigned BMW 7-Series. And while it’s not likely to generate massive sales, it will serve as a critical halo car for the Swedish brand.

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As with the XC90, Volvo isn’t going the me-too route. Among other things, the new S90 will pick up on the company’s new powertrain strategy – which means all four-cylinder drivetrains, the performance version of the new sedan opting for the T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid system.

Volvo is saving some details for later, so we’ll have to wait to see what it weighs, but it’s expected to put a premium on lightweighting. And that, along with the 4-cylinder engine line-up, should yield some of, if not the best, fuel economy in its segment.

(Click Here to check out the Volvo Concept 26.)

The Volvo S90 shares the XC90's distinctive "Hammer of Thor" daytime running lights.

The new Volvo S90 and XC90 have a number of things in common, starting with the SPA, or Scalable Product Architecture, that will be used with the vast majority of future products. It’s a similar strategy to that used by a wide range of major manufacturers, including Toyota and Volkswagen, to hold down costs by boosting economies of scale.

Visually, the S90 and XC90 have a number of things in common, despite targeting distinctly different segments. While the four-day has a coupe-like roofline and a sweeping pillar, it lifts the basic shape of its grille from the crossover-utility vehicle, along with the distinctive “Hammer of Thor” LED daytime running lights, as well as the C-shaped taillights.

The interior is also quite familiar to those who’ve spent time in the XC90. The image released by Volvo doesn’t show the handmade Orrefors crystal shift knob for the Twin Engine version, but that could be offered in production. Volvo does carry over its Sensus Connect system which uses a tablet-like touch interface and one of the largest screens in the automotive world, short of the Tesla Model S and X lines.

(Volvo planning to add plug-in hybrid options across its product range. Click Here for more.)

The interior of the S90 is anchored by the Volvo Sensus Connect infotainment system.

The new Volvo S90 is expected to get the same three powertrain options as the XC90, which will include two gasoline engines, the T6 using both turbo and supercharger to produce 316 horsepower and the smaller T5. The top-line T8 package pairs gas and electric power to produce 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque in the XC90. Those figures might be tweaked slightly for the sedan.

The new sedan will pick up on a wide range of active safety features, including Volvo’s City Safety system. It starts with forward collision warning, adds the ability to detect not only vehicles but pedestrians, bicycles and even larger animals, and can auto-brake if the driver doesn’t react quickly enough.

“With the launch of the XC90 we made a clear statement of intent. We are now clearly and firmly in the game,” Håkan Samuelsson, President & CEO of the Volvo Car Group, said in a statement. “With $11 USD billion of investment over the past five years we have not only reimagined what Volvo Cars can be – we are now delivering on our promise of a resurgent and relevant Volvo Cars brand.”

The debut of the new Volvo S90 comes a day after the maker reported a spectacular 90.5% increase in November sales in the critical U.S. market. Worldwide, the Chinese-owned maker saw volume surge 26% year-over-year for one of its best months in over a decade.

The C-shaped taillights also are shared with the current Volvo XC90 model.

Volvo is hoping to “turn over a new leaf” with the arrival of the S90, says IHS Automotive analyst Ian Fletcher, which should be a more solid contender than the old S80.

Going against it will be the fact that sedans are somewhat waning in popularity,” he cautions. Nonetheless, Fletcher forecasts, “IHS Automotive expects the S90 to perform better in the marketplace than the S80. The latter peaked at around 40,000 units globally during 2007, and we estimate that by 2018 the S90 will sell around 60,000 units per annum.”

Volvo should also gain momentum with the launch of a wagon, the V90, especially in Europe, but even then it isn’t expected to come close to matching the sales numbers of rivals like Mercedes, BMW or Audi.

Volvo will formally show off the new S90 to the public at next month’s Detroit Auto Show.

(Click Here for all the news from the 2015 LA Auto Show.)

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