2022 Volvo S90 Review: Google Tech Is a Step Backward


Most of the changes made to this car for 2022 are inconsequential. Certain models gain leather-free steering wheel covers, the physical drive-mode selector has been removed from the center console and a B6 mild-hybrid powertrain with all-wheel drive replaces the T6 offering from prior years. Not a whole lot going on here, folks.

But the biggest — and most troubling — update is the inclusion of a new Google-powered infotainment system. Similar in appearance to the outgoing Sensus Connect setup, a multimedia array I never cared for very much, this new system is a major step backwards in terms of functionality and ease of use. For starters, the look and feel of Google’s setup reminds me of an Android tablet: cheap and slow. In testing, touch inputs often lag on the 9-inch, portrait-style screen and the way you access certain features is not intuitive. But it gets worse. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t supported at all right now. How you launch a new infotainment system in 2022 without these smartphone-mirroring systems is beyond me, though on the bright side, Volvo is working to implement them both via an over-the-air software update.

Even more troubling than all that is how this system handles audio playback. With my phone connected via Bluetooth, there’s no on-screen interface to shuffle music, jump through your alphabetized song list or direct-tune a radio station by punching in the number. Volvo expects you to perform many of these tasks by using Google’s digital voice assistant, which is far clunkier than an on-screen interface. But perhaps most egregiously, if you want to scrub forward or backward through a track that’s currently playing, you have to do it on the phone itself, which is an obvious safety hazard while driving.

Access to Google Assistant, Google Maps and other features is part of a four-year subscription, which starts the day you take delivery. After that period, you have to pay to use these services, though the automaker has not yet finalized a price.

If there’s any advantage to the S90’s new infotainment tech, it’s the superb embedded navigation. Maps are up to date, the interface is clean and the system seems to route you to your destination in an intuitive way. Really, there’s nothing to complain about here, though I do take umbrage with another bit of electronic frippery. Unintuitively, you have to double-tap this Volvo’s stubby electronic gear selector to go into drive or reverse, which quickly gets annoying.

In its current form at least, this infotainment system leaves much to be desired. 

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Aside from that confounding infotainment system and somewhat limited storage space in the center console, the rest of this Volvo’s interior is extremely pleasant. The materials used in sporty R-Design models (like the example you see here) are lovely, from the soft plastics to the supple leather to the mesh-style aluminum accents on the doors and dash. The speaker grilles for the optional $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins premium audio system also add a splash of pizzazz and the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster looks nice, even if it’s not very configurable, offering just two different views. For added convenience, in addition to my tester’s wireless charging pad it also has four USB Type-C ports.

Luxury is one of this car’s strong suits and so is comfort. The R-Design’s front sport seats are lovely and feature four-way power lumbar adjustment and an extendible lower cushion. The rear bench offers vast amounts of legroom and rump warmers with the $750 Climate Package, which also includes a heated steering wheel. The S90 is getting a bit old, but from luxury and comfort standpoints it can still hold its own when compared to rivals like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Where this four-door Volvo falls behind the pack, however, is in the performance department. Don’t get me wrong, the S90 is a pleasure to drive and the car is plenty quick, its 2.0-liter four-cylinder delivering a valiant 295 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. With a 48-volt mild-hybrid system and a responsive eight-speed automatic transmission thrown into the mix, this sizable sedan is potent enough to hit 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. That’s very close, but still slightly off the pace set but a Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic sedan, which does the deed in 6.0 seconds flat despite having 40 less horsepower. Higher-end versions of the E-Class are, not surprisingly, even speedier than that.

The S90’s engine is smooth and very responsive. 

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Turbocharging and supercharging help make the S90’s small engine perform like a much larger one. It punches well around town and keeps pulling at highway speeds. There’s a lot going on with this powertrain, but it’s also incredibly refined, scarcely emitting any noise or vibration, even at wide-open throttle.

Making inclement weather less of a worry, all-wheel drive is standard in the S90, though it does little to degrade efficiency. This car stickers at 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. Combined, it’s rated at 26 mpg, though in mixed use I’m getting around 22.3 mpg.

Dynamically, the S90 is about as neutral as Switzerland. The car’s steering is light but otherwise unremarkable, its brakes are easy to modulate and the interior remains hushed. The $1,200 Four-C adaptive air suspension system comes with adjustable shock absorbers including self-leveling dampers at the rear, which automatically maintain the car’s ride height when loaded. Underway, this particular R-Design model is smooth, though you’re always aware of its optional 20-inch wheels, you can feel their substantial mass moving under your feet, even if the ride is still pretty buttoned down. These stylish rollers are a relative bargain, costing an extra $800.

The S90 is still a solid luxury sedan.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Naturally, the S90 comes with plenty of standard safety features. LED head and foglamps, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers and automatic parking are all included at no extra cost. Pilot Assist, Volvo’s version of adaptive cruise control with lane centering, is also standard and works at speeds up to 80 mph.

That awful infotainment system notwithstanding, the 2022 Volvo S90 is still a pleasant luxury sedan, one that’s also quite a good value. The car’s base price is about $54,000 including $1,045 in destination fees, though my modestly optioned tester, which was built in Daqing, China of all places, checks out for $64,540. In addition to the abovementioned options, the $1,900 Advanced Package, which includes a 360-degree camera system, a power trunk lid and a head-up display, as well as $695 for Thunder Grey paint pad the bottom line.

Despite its modest updates for 2022, rival four-doors have an edge over this Volvo, though you shouldn’t let that deter you from getting an S90 because it’s still a great overall package. Just do yourself a favor, wait for the multimedia software update to arrive before signing the dotted line.

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