Given the current market trends and consumer favor for SUVs, Volvo probably made the right call in coming out of the gate with the big XC90 for the first complete reboot of its product lineup after separating from Ford. Fortunately, for those of us less enamored with driving utilities on a daily basis, they’ve quickly followed that up with the S90 sedan and soon the V90 wagon. I recently spent a week with the S90 and found that unsurprisingly it shares most of the same strengths and foibles as its higher riding sibling but in a much sleeker package. (more…)
When the original Cadillac CTS debuted 14 years ago, it represented a turning point for General Motors’ premium brand. GM had decided to invest billions of dollars to remake the faded brand once known as the “Standard of the World” to try to make it competitive in the 21st century. The original CTS was built on a new dedicated Cadillac architecture with a new design language. Two years after the debut of the third-generation CTS, I had a chance to drive it and make my own judgements about whether the plan has succeeded.
The new era of Volvo picked up some steam today with the reveal of the all-new S90 sedan which finally replaces the long-in-the-tooth S80. Based on the same scalable platform architecture as the big XC90 crossover that debuted earlier this year, the S90 adopts a similar design language with a broad-shouldered look and the “Thor’s Hammer” signature lighting in the headlamp clusters.
Of course the S90 wouldn’t be a real Volvo without lots of safety technology and the sedan builds on what already debuted in the XC90 including Pilot Assist. The first version of the semi-autonomous Pilot Assist combined lane centering functionality with automatic speed control for driving in stop and go traffic at speeds up to 30 mph. The XC90 would automatically track the vehicle ahead using the same radar sensor used for adaptive cruise control while a camera monitored the lane markings.
For the second-generation Pilot Assist, the maximum speed has been increased to about 80 mph and there no longer needs to be another vehicle to follow. That means the S90 can more or less drive itself on the highway although the driver must keep a hand on the wheel or the system will disengage. Hopefully, the camera system for detecting lane markings is more robust now, because it definitely had a hard time with detection on the XC90.
Another new feature to the S90 is large animal detection which uses the combination of radar and camera to detect creatures like moose and deer crossing in front of the car. If an animal is detected, the driver is alerted and brake pressure is boosted when the driver applies the pedal.
Under the hood, the S90 will offer three powertrain options all based around the company’s new 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that debuted in the XC90. The base T5 engine gets a turbocharger while the T6 uses an exhaust-driven turbo plus a mechanically driven supercharger to generate 316-horsepower. The top-end T8 Twin Engine adds electric drive and a lithium ion battery for a plug-in hybrid powertrain with more than 400 hp.
The new Volvo S90 will get its first public showing next month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
While auto industry observers seem to be fixated on the idea that crossover utility vehicles are taking over the entire market, the reality is that in America, the midsize sedan segment is still huge and vitally important to mainstream brands. For Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Kia and Hyundai, midsize sedans are their top sellers and even at Ford and Fiat Chrysler, they trail only full-size pickup trucks. With so many sales on the line, no one can afford to stand still and Nissan is launching a major refresh of the Altima for 2016 that brings new style, technology and efficiency.
When Alan Mulally took the reins as CEO of Ford Motor Company in 2006, a key element of his strategy to revive the struggling century-old automaker was to dispense with any brands under the corporate umbrella that didn’t carry the founder’s name. During his tenure he found buyers for all of the European luxury brands that his predecessors had acquired including Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Volvo was the last to go, with China’s Geely Group finally closing the deal in August 2010. While production was never interrupted, the brand’s rebirth really only began this year with the launch of its first all-new product, the second-generation XC90.