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2017 Volvo S90 Sedan: Performance Test Surprises, Swedish Style

The word “performance” and the proper noun “Volvo” don’t usually meet each other. The latter doesn’t openly aspire to the former. An automaker that calls its interior design and various, top shelf accoutrement a “Scandinavian Sanctuary” isn’t going to get dirt under its manicure by worrying about exhaust notes and 0-60 times.

But, those S90 designers and engineers are Swedish, not dead. There’s some Viking fight and spirit hidden behind all of that snowy stoicism. When we had a chance to prove that by taking the 2017 Volvo S90 Sedan for a little bit of a (…gasp…) performance run, we jumped at the chance to conjure up a little driving sweat into that “sanctuary.”

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We had hold of a 2017 AWD Inscription T6 model – completely kitted out and the top of its trim tree. We’ve reviewed the S90 before following its introductory media drive event in the Hamptons. It received top marks for luxury and technology and even amused us with its new self-driving features. However, the straight, slow roads of Long Island deliberately disallow any attempt to put a toe down on the Volvo’s accelerator.

Like all of its S90 sisters, the AWD model employs a 2.0 liter, turbocharged, inline, four cylinder engine. It’s capable of 250 horsepower and 258 ft-lb of torque. Those numbers are respectable, but the S90 is a considerable car. In an era dominated by hatchbacks and small crossovers, this is a full-size luxury sedan capable of livery work. You wouldn’t be out of line if you’re surprised a car of such size would go with an I4.

Our tests (…which amounted mainly to breaking local street and highway speed limits with shameful impunity…) proved how much kick outstanding weight distribution and a properly tuned modern turbocharger can squeeze out of four cylinders. Of course, the driver needs to move out of the Volvo’s standard Comfort driving mode and switch to Sport – flipping off Eco along the way.

As for handling, a car of the S90’s size has to deal with its extended wheel base as it considers tight turns at speed. We got a bit of understeer in those situations, but (again) that weight distribution and four wheel independent suspension puts the power where it needs to be to pull the big lady through comfortably. The S90 has a speedometer that boasts of 160 potential mph, and we flirted north of 130 before behaving ourselves again.

Disc brakes put 13.6 inches of grab on 19 inch wheels to bring the machine’s surprising power to rest, completing the portrait of a sleathly luxury performance machine disguised as a stately, silent Swede. It won’t put a scare in a BMW M5, but it might sneak up one a bit.

Photos courtesy of Volvo