Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: April 11, 2021
Recharge is Volvo’s new sub-brand of vehicles, and refers to anything with a plug. That means all their plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and full-battery electric vehicles (EV) will be carrying this new moniker. Volvo has taken action earlier than most, and is currently the only mainstream automaker offering electric options on all of their models, from the V60 wagon to the XC90 seven-seater SUV. Volvo sells the most plug-in electric vehicles in Canada, and aims to be a climate neutral company by 2040. By 2025, they want 50% of their sales to be fully-electric cars, while the other half are hybrids.
What we have on test here is the S90 Recharge, a full-sized five-seater sedan that is aimed squarely at the BMW 530e and Mercedes E-Class, but with near 7 Series and S-Class levels of rear seat legroom. Essentially a rebrand of the T8 eAWD, the S90 Recharge is carried over from the 2020 model (and almost unchanged from the 2018 model for that matter) with the same 34 km of claimed electric range, 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft combined from all power sources, an 8-speed automatic transmission, and an optional air suspension to ensure optimal ride quality.
The S90 Recharge utilizes a 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder that powers the front wheels, and an 87-hp electric motor and 10.4 kWh battery pack that power the rear wheels. The marriage of the two modes of propulsion results in an all-wheel drive setup, and allows the S90 to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds - not bad for a vehicle with a green plate for driving solo in the HOV lane.
What’s the actual range like? Volvo quotes it at 34 km but our real-world driving with regenerative braking taken to account yielded us about 32 km in 10-degree Celsius weather. The cabin temperature was set to a standard 20-degrees with the heated seats and steering wheel off. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Still, that’s not a whole lot of driving range, and you will probably have to charge this puppy every night depending on how much you drive. From a standard household outlet, it took us roughly 8 hours for a full charge. Level 2 chargers will do that in significantly less time, but should only be welcomed in your garage if you see yourself investing in an EV future. The S90 Recharge competes in quite rarified air, with automakers choosing to invest in electric SUVs rather than four-door sedans. We have the BMW 530e tapping in with 45 km of range but that’s all we find in the luxury segment. Though, the S90 could easily be cross-shopped with the hybrid-only Lexus ES 300h and full-EV Tesla Model S.
That being said, the S90 Recharge is a wonderfully composed roadgoing companion. The transitions between combustion and electric usage are seamless, and though you can barely hear the four-cylinder engine fire up and tag in, there are some rough engine vibrations under idle and hard acceleration. The stressed four-cylinder sounds and feels coarser than the V6s that it competes against, and slightly undermines its premium pretense.
The 8-speed automatic transmission on the other hand is buttery smooth and ride quality is exceptional. Our S90 tester adorned the optional air suspension ($2,350) and is well worth it in my opinion. It provides a cosseting ride that may be shy of an S-Class, but will be comfortable enough for most drivers.
The cabin is a refreshing place to spend time in, not just for its contrastingly simple and clean design language versus the German competition, but for its charm and ergonomics. The touchscreen is massive and a focal point of the interior. It may be fingerprint laden but it’s vibrant, high-definition, and offers one of the cleanest 360-degree camera views in the business. The optional Bowers and Wilkins tweeter is full of bass and crisp notes, and remains neatly perched on the dashboard while the open-pore wood further complements the soft leather touches.
The seats are incredibly supportive with a great range of adjustment, and even come with a massage function. A crystal gear knob made by a Swedish company named Orrefors is exclusive to the Inscription model, and this rounded obelisk that looks like a paper weight feels nice to hold, though its shifting mechanism might be a little different than what you are used to. Alongside the conventional Park button, you tap the shifter up twice to hit Reverse, and tap the shifter down twice to hit Drive. Wherever you push the shifter, it will always bounce back to its neutral position.
The Volvo S90 Recharge may not be the most effective zero-emission sedan but it does dress itself up as a properly competent Volvo with an exceptionally comfortable ride and a charming interior. The marriage between the modes of propulsion are polished and though it lacks any sort of performance headwind, we don’t think its target audience would mind one bit. There’s much to love with the S90 sedan with its low seating position and excellent road handling. We just hope it sticks around while living in the great dark shadow of the more popular XC90 SUV.
Model: 2021 Volvo S90 Recharge Inscription
Paint Type: Platinum Grey
Base Price: $76,050
Price as Tested: $89,550
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo- and supercharged inline-four + electric motor
Horsepower: 313 hp @ 6,000 rpm + 87 hp @ 7,000 rpm = 400 hp (combined)
Torque: 472 lb-ft @ 2,200 - 5,400 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 8.3 / 7.5 / 7.9
Electric Range: 34 km
Observed Electric Range: 32 km