Elegant design, intuitive technology and strong tax incentives could soon be providing Volvo with a compelling new competitor at the upper end of corporate sector motoring.
Having broadened its offer to fleets with the recently launched V40 range, the Swedish firm is now aiming to extend its reach to senior executives with the plush S90 saloon, according to Volvo Car UK head of business sales Selwyn Cooper.
“The S80 was eight years old and relatively mature and we are replacing it with a very stylish product,” he told Fleet News. “People make up their own minds about the values and strengths of the various premium brands, but Volvo has enjoyed growing success in the business market in the past few years and is now moving upmarket in a positive way. We are breaking fresh ground with a new platform that allows us to offer a longer, wider and slightly lower model that appears more sporty than our previous saloons. It’s a car built with the driver in mind and I regard it as a very positive proposition.”
On sale now, with deliveries due to start in November, the S90 is claimed to offer the best package of standard safety equipment in D-sector motoring and is the first car to come with off-road mitigation – equipment that steers the car back onto its proper course if the driver fails to realise that the vehicle is straying from the tarmac.
Fitted alongside Pilot Assist, gadgetry that now blends adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping electronics to intervene at speeds of up to 80mph, ‘run-off-road’ technology is another key component in Volvo’s ambitions to be a leading player in autonomous driving. Both are regarded as significant innovations as the firm challenges BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi for an increasing share of UK premium registrations.
“Our new technology takes a lot of the hassle out driving and makes long motorway trips more pleasant in a car that feels exceptionally modern,” said Cooper.
“The S80 achieved a 1% share of a sector that accounted for 53,000 sales last year and I think we can do much better with this car.”
Significantly, a £32,500 P11D value makes the lead-in Momentum D4 £1,500 cheaper than the equivalent Audi A6 Executive. Producing 190hp with 116g/km emissions, it is expected to account for 70% of orders with the all-drive D5 Inscription taking the balance prior to the arrival of the hybrid T8 version at the end of the year.
Featuring PowerPulse, a novel way to deliver instant turbo response in diesel engines, the top S90 model spins out 235hp and has a powerful demeanour that belies the two-litre capacity of its four-cylinder motor. Drawing on air stored in a pressurised 2.0-litre tank, it beats 3.0-litre, six-pot rivals as it surges to the benchmark 62mph rate in seven seconds.
Elegant and spacious, with good headroom despite a low roofline, the car has high grade trim with leather-faced upholstery and walnut finishers on the dashboard, which features a 12-inch, high-tech TFT crystal information display allowing control buttons to be kept to a minimum. Multicolour theatre lighting and a jewel-like finish on air vent adjusters underline neat detailing.
In comfort, the default damper setting, this is a spacious luxury express for quiet and relaxed cruising, but switching to dynamic mode firms up suspension and steering for a more involving driving demeanour that allows the car to make rapid and unruffled progress on twisting country routes.
With steering assistance now included in Volvo’s second generation semi-autonomous pilot assist system, progress in stop-and-go conditions is even easier with acceleration, braking and steering.
It helps the driver keep with the flow of traffic with minimum effort while the company claims its new run-off road equipment, which operates at up to 90mph, represents a major step in combatting the largest category of single vehicle accidents caused by lack of attention, driver fatigue or poor weather conditions.
“We have listened to our customers and this car stands up the competition,” said Cooper. “I’m confident it will win significantly more business than its predecessor and make a big contribution to our aim of achieving 60,000 annual sales by the end of the decade.”
More than 60 years of estate-building heritage gets a fresh take with the V90, which also arrives in September. Based on the saloon and sharing its technical and equipment specification, it carries 560 litres of luggage, with the the rear seat in position, and 1,526 litres when back rests are folded. In D4 Momentum form, it has 119g/km emissions, a 23% BIK band and a P11D value of £34,500. Figures for the D5 AWD are 129g/km, 25% and £44,000 respectively.