By on November 27, 2017

2018 Volvo S90, Image: Jack Baruth

Many years ago, a friend of mine married the daughter of a local real estate kingpin. She was loud and large and her taste, as they say, was all in her mouth. She had her father’s friends build her a massive McMansion encased in beige stucco and filled to the brim with the latest furniture from Pottery Barn and gold-plated bathroom fixtures. She was a big believer in retail therapy.

I would go to their house and see dozens of freshly stuffed shopping bags from the local semi-upscale stores. Prada, Coach, Ann Taylor, the kind of stuff you find in the mall. It was all “Designed In California” or “Designed In Italy” or plastered with the name of a city: Donna Karan New York. But there was always a tag somewhere out of sight that said, “Made In China.” Almost without exception, it was ephemeral garbage, meant to be worn a few times then thrown away. The pleasure was 90 percent in the purchasing and 10 percent in the ownership.

So now we have this 2018 Volvo S90. Designed In Sweden, with a svelte, tasteful, proportional shape that makes the big barges from Benz and BMW look like ’99 Navigators by contrast. It’s a study in minimalist luxury, powered by a tiny engine and self-consciously focused on a low-consumption aesthetic yet possessed of enough backseat space to carry the King of Siam. As you will see below, it’s often delightful, frequently gratifying, and always respectable.

There’s just one little problem. The website might talk about “Scandinavian Design,” but just like everything you see at the outlet stores, the 2018 Volvo S90 T5 AWD is Made In China.


Shame, really, because there is so much to admire about this extremely sleek sedan. To begin with, it contains a lot of genuinely original, if not actively heretical, thinking. Like every other sedan in the market nowadays, it has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Choose the T5, and you get 250 early-arriving and relatively breathless horsepower. Choose the T6, and the engine adds a supercharger to the turbo for a boosted total of 316 hp. The T8 stacks a hybrid system on top of that for a combined 400 horses.

There’s no six-cylinder option, no V-8 waiting in the wings. Which leaves Volvo free to design a very machine-minimum chassis. Just enough space for the transverse four up front. The rest of the length goes to the cabin.

No doubt that is why this E-Class competitor feels S-Class-sized inside, perfectly up to livery or limo duty. Which was precisely what I needed it for. Danger Girl and I had taken a weekend trip to Florida so we could visit my grandmother and have dinner with the fellow who served as my mentor and advisor during my misspent days at university. He and his wife were absolutely thrilled with the Volvo’s back-seat space, pronouncing it to be better and more comfortable than the Jaguars and Benzes that surrounded their quaint little home back in the UK.

For 2018, every S90 sold in this country is a long-wheelbase version, which is why they all come from China now. Prior to this year, you could get a Swedish-built SWB car.

The front seat is scarcely any less accommodating than the back, and it’s surrounded by stitched leather, tidy chrome, and generous portions of stained wood. Compared to the budget-style trim in the lower grades of 5 Series Bimmers, it might as well be a Rolls-Royce Wraith. Yet there are some flies in the proverbial ointment. The wood on the doors is nicely inlaid among brushed metal, but on the dash it’s obviously just glued to the plastic. This is luxury from the Lincoln Versailles School of Interior Trim and it rankles a bit.

The car is started and stopped by twisting a cheap plastichrome knob, which always feels like it will pop off the next time you use it. There’s very little center stack in the traditional sense; as with a Tesla Model S, the vast majority of interaction with the car is performed via a vertically-aligned, iPad-sized LCD touchscreen. It’s possible to get ahead of the thing if you poke at it too quickly, and it fades to nothing in the Florida sun.

On the move, the S90 T5 is sprightly but not rapid. Compared to the 2.0T Honda Accord Touring I drove both before and after this test, the Volvo seems just a touch down on power but far better integrated with its transmission, which usually supplies the correct gear with a middling-length kickdown pause and a minimum of fuss afterwards. Fuel economy over the course of 475 combined city/highway miles was a solid but not compelling 22.9 miles per gallon. In the same circumstances, my 6.2-liter, 5,500-pound Chevrolet Silverado would return 19.5. But the shortcomings of a 2.0-liter turbo four have been well documented in this and many other outlets and at least you’re not carrying around a bunch of empty space under the hood.

The digital dashboard, which arrives as part of either the high-end trim levels or a popular-equipment package (as was the case here), is relatively effective and legible. The heads-up display is pretty good, as well. It’s easy to be cynical and speculate on Volvo’s cost savings from having three cheap-as-chips Chinese flatscreens replace the instrumentation and controls in the car, but in daily use you will rarely wish for anything else unless you’re exceptionally picky.

As you’d expect from a car that is used as VIP transportation in Asia, the S90 also has respectable trunk room, more than enough for a quartet of airline roller bags and a carry-on besides. It’s worth noting how little the optional AWD hardware intrudes on either the passenger floor or the trunk space; until I checked the badge I thought it was a front-wheel-drive model.

How’s it drive? In the words of a famous presidential candidate, what difference does it make? Surely anyone who is seeking a dynamic experience will skip a nearly 2-ton, 200-plus-inch FWD sedan with a four-cylinder engine. As a highway cruiser, however, the S90 acquits itself pretty well. The suite of assistive tech — lane-keeping, radar cruise control, blind-spot warnings — is effective and not overly intrusive. You can cover a few hundred miles with just a finger or two on the wheel, secure in the knowledge that the S90 can and will panic-brake you out of most problems. Road noise and wind noise are both remarkably low, the latter more than the former thanks to the needless foppery of 19-inch wheels.

One semi-serious complaint: Like most Mercedes-Benzes, this Volvo will send you directly to full-power automatic braking if you are too close to a slowing vehicle ahead and your brake pressure is (in the vehicle’s computerized estimation) insufficient to stop you. This is a nice feature because most untrained drivers are emotionally unwilling to use full brake force. As implemented in the S90, however, it has a bit of a side effect.

Let’s say you are running nose-to-tail with the lifted “bro-dozers” in traffic on Florida’s Interstate 75. The truck ahead of you lifts the throttle a bit. You don’t have as much aero drag as he does, so you brush the brakes. What happens then is simple: The car sees that you are doing 85 mph with a truck one car length ahead of you, so it engages full ABS. It doesn’t know that you’re doing it because leaving more than one Dodge Ram’s worth of space ahead of your nose on I-75 ensures that said space will be immediately filled by a Dodge Ram. And it especially doesn’t know that there is also a Dodge Ram behind you on a six-inch lift kit and load-rated tires. So, uh, that might get you killed some day. Your mileage may vary.

The as-tested price of $57,000 or thereabouts can be seen a few different ways. You can look at it as a screaming bargain compared to the equivalent German luxury car. Hell, it’s even cheaper than a Cadillac CT6 or Lincoln Continental equipped to similar levels. Or you can consider the fact that Volvo and Saab have traditionally been resale poison in the American market. Last but not least, you might want to think long and hard about spending the price of two well-equipped Honda Accords on a car that was built in China. What will the paint and leather look like in five years? How reliable will the boosted four-cylinder be? Is this really a half-million-mile car like all the Volvo 240s that still trundle around Boston and the Pacific Northwest?

As fate would have it, I happened to be right behind a Buick Envision when I returned the S90 to Hertz. There was something odd, and a little sad, about seeing two brands that used to mean so much to people used to sell Chinese cars to rental companies. Maybe that’s where the S90 is best experienced: as a rental car. You can enjoy the styling, luxuriate in the space, impress your friends with the back seat. Then you can take it back and drop it off. Then you can get on a plane and go home, where your American-built car (or Mexican truck, or Italian Lamborghini) is waiting for you.

That’s the Volvo S90 in a nutshell. Like southwest Florida, it’s a nice place to visit — but I wouldn’t want to live there.

[Images: Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars]

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93 Comments on “2018 Volvo S90 T5 AWD Review – Luxury With An ‘L’ VIN...”


  • avatar

    Harbor Freight, my we are on point today.

    I have very little faith in longevity for the S90L. It’s their first large car in a while, their first 2.0+T+S arrangement (along with the XC90), and their first Chinese-only built model sold on these shores.

    It’s always a good idea to avoid anything with that many firsts to its credit.

    And I’ve no faith those screens will be reliable long term, or that the trim will stay glued to the interior, or that the finish won’t wear off the buttons.

    This car is just a huge avoid to my mind. Like Jack says, rent or *maybe* lease one if you’re feeling frisky.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Cheap glue trim is a Volvo specialty!

      That reminds me of my ’90 240, where one of the headlight lenses fell out due to a mix of cheap glue and a car wash.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I had the same issue, age is also a variable which plays a part. I’d also point out the model was designed for glass headlights, not the US DOT spec plastic junk.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I believe, after owning first year Korean built Buick Encore, that the processes are in place for high quality from Korea and China. The Encore has proved a sales success and achieves very high quality scores. That was a lease, now I purchased a Buick Envision and am impressed again at 11,000 miles for a $25K vehicle.

      I buy from HF too but I know that the stuff will break while forging the service plan to extend the 90 day warraty. But for the price and little I use some things it is a worthy bet.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    It is assembled in China, but do we know where the components are supplied from? Is it likely that the suppliers are Chinese as well?

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I don’t think Volvo is the only automaker sourcing parts in China. I’ve heard (admittedly anecdotally, from dealer techs) that Ford buys a lot of stuff from there.

      Maybe they’re okay, but I wouldn’t buy a Chinese-built vehicle.

      Would I have to wash my hands after touching it? I’m thinking of lead, cadmium, etc., used in Chinese toys. Only half joking.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        We usually only hear bad things about china car parts when things go wrong but even 10yrs ago, something like 50% of a typical GM Ford car here was made in china.

        Typically seat frames, entire seats, road wheels etc were all made in china… for BMW and Mercedes so you can bet a lot of components for everyone is chinese.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          “but even 10yrs ago, something like 50% of a typical GM Ford car here was made in china.”

          I don’t think is true, not 10 years ago. But in 2017, for certain models that number is more or less on the mark.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    “Like southwest Florida, it’s a nice place to visit — but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

    Amen, Jack.

    I’m south of Tampa right now helping my parents out with a fairly significant medical problem, and your analysis is spot on.

    Houses built by Jimmy Buffett Contractors and It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere Construction.

    People who roll through stop signs and weave in and out of lanes, but rigidly obey the speed limit.

    And of course, all the retirees who think Florida is paradise because they’ve got no metabolism left, can’t generate their own body heat and want to hang around out on the golf course and roast in the sun all day.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Ouch. I have some friends that have lived in Seffner for awhile. I’ll ask them if this is what they see, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Caboose

      This is no longer humorous or ironic:

      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-09-29/the-future-of-retirement-is-margaritaville

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      While you have to keep an eye on them, as is true elsewhere, new home constructors in SW Florida now have to meet some tough building codes. At least this is true in my county. How tough? An example is poured foundation with rebar sticking out of it, cinder block with intermittent concrete/rebarred filled cavities, continuous poured/rebarred lintel beam above the windows and doors with steel strapping that wraps around the roof trusses.
      The tragedy is the old stuff being winnowed by hurricanes is usually owned by the old-old whose financial resources are depleted. 13 years after Hurricane Charlie, I can still drive by what used to be trailer parks that are nothing but concrete pads. I often wonder what happened to the residents.
      Florida is paradise for retirees because of low taxes and a generally equable climate. Its ironic that so many are fleeing the Acela bubble states with their high taxes and high cost of living and that many of them voted for government that made the situation worse.

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        Yeah, I hate the fact that I’d have to live some place in the south, or in Texas or Florida, to avoid state income taxes (or at least high ones).

        I don’t want to live in Florida, Texas, or anywhere else that doesn’t have seasons or mountains.

    • 0 avatar
      Drew8MR

      Did you ever read John D. MacDonald? He spent a good few lines in every novel bitching about Florida’s over development. These were books written in the 50’s and 60’s. He’s probably glad he’s passed so he can’t see it now.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Meh, it’s better than shivering and shoveling snow all winter. Maine in the summer, Southwest Florida in the winter, the way life should be…

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Nice to know you can rent one.

    Now if I find a T8 on the rental lot or on my Uber/Lyft pickup then I’ll truly be worried about Volvo being long for this world.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    All the more reason to special order a short wheelbase V90 instead

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’ve seen a couple of these lately, and they look just plain weird. I have to say, the instrument display looks cheap, especially the graphics around the periphery (the temperature, clock, odo, etc.). Not as nice looking as in an Audi or Mercedes-Benz.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      That instrument screen looks a lot cheaper than the one in a V70 I rented two years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        yeah it does look like a very low rent non IPS type display

        i wish they didnt cheap out on certain bits as it just tends to reinforce stereotypes

        two things:

        i think this car looks great, but i reckon 2 ton sedans are kind of passe and I kind of think this is a limited market

        further to this 2.0 four only thing, i think Volvo were one of the 1st to declare that they are going EV only soon so I guess not developing V6 or V8 is probably all about going down that path

        but yes, a turbo 2.0 in a 2 ton sedan? like those BMW 520 Mercedes E200 things…

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    “Choose the T6, and the engine adds a supercharger to the turbo for a boosted total of 316 hp. The T8 stacks a hybrid system on top of that for a combined 400 horses.”

    This might be the furthest away that you can get from Volvos old tractor engines. Heck of a lot faster, better AC, probably wont have piston slap, I’d hate to work on it though.

    Can you customize the digital gauges? Its kind of a waste if you’re stuck with that economy car setup shown above.

    The stylings not exactly impressive, its restraint but without any of the added practicality that you’d expect. The taillights look a bit like what Honda Accords had in ’09.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Speaking of customizing digital displays, the lack of hard buttons in the Volvo would drive me nuts! The whole purpose of hard buttons is to avoid having to look down to make any minor adjustment to the car. It drove me bonkers in a Tesla, and the Tesla has much more screen real estate than the Volvo.

      I wish more manufacturers would add hard buttons for things like the heated steering wheel (which the Range Rover has, but you cant always expect it to work), or the bluetooth number pad similar to Mercedes Benz.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    New model as a rental car fleet special – an efficient means of giving potential buyers (leasers) some seat time or a sign they aren’t selling at the retail level?

  • avatar
    jmo

    “Road noise and wind noise are both remarkably low, the latter more than the former thanks to the needless foppery of 19-inch wheels.”

    Is that a recent design change? Previous reviews I’ve read said the road noise was remarkable high for a premium vehicle.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Why does it matter that the cars are built in China and not Sweden? Either way, they are not built by Americans, which I thought was your bag.

    Americans Need Other Things To Do.™ And in an increasingly globalized world, place of manufacture is irrelevant. Place of conception and design is far more important, which is why you’re reviewing this and not a Ssangyong or Great Wall something or other.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      China is still a special case, will be for some time, and deservedly so. See dukeisduke’s lead/cadmium joke. It’s a joke when we say it, but even people in China will avoid Chinese products if they can.

      I’ve seen enough lapses in production protocols over there to be suspicious of anything they sell. I mentioned it in another article, but I had a Chinese company admit to me that they have no idea where their steel comes from, and that they falsify mill test certificates that they provide their customers. And that’s something they weren’t even embarrassed about admitting to.

      There’s just not a lot of fairness in Chinese business. Whether it comes down lopsided JV laws or a good old fashioned screwing of the customer, no one over there cares once they have your money.

      • 0 avatar
        Caboose

        Basically, China is House Harkonnen.

      • 0 avatar
        silentsod

        A good read on how manufacturer’s in China have (and probably still do) try to get edges on their customers is Poorly Made in China which is a good insider account on how the bosses running the plants believe it is normal to manipulate product/quality and see if they can get away with it.

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        Funny how Prada was mentioned in the article.

        Many luxury Italian brands – even when it says “Made in Italy” – usually means made by Chinese migrant workers in Italy.

    • 0 avatar
      Caboose

      Place of manufacture may be irrelevant, but quality of manufacture is paramount. It just so happens that, in modern China, chabuduo (https://aeon.co/essays/what-chinese-corner-cutting-reveals-about-modernity) is infused into every made thing by default. It permeates the culture. Manufacturers like Apple invest almost as much into outside quality control (i.e.-their own people sent to China to watchdog the process like so many rabbis at a kosher soda-pop factory) as they do into the per-unit price of manufacture.

      Since the non-domestic car companies are all joint ventures with Chinese brands by government diktat, they reputedly feel they have more leeway on quality because of the strong perception that they are protected by that government.

      And bully for the Chinese government: they have socialized the gains (lots of jobs, factories built largely at the foreign brands’ expense) and privatized the risk (if the quality is crappy and the joint ventures get sued, it’s Daimler or BMW that will take it on the chin, not the domestic companies. With Volvo, the risk is also privatized to the billionaires who bought the brand.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        The Aeon essay on chabuduo is what got me interested in that site. It’s a must-read.

        • 0 avatar
          onyxtape

          If you think “chabuduo” is a uniquely Chinese phenomenon, you must not have supervised a suburban construction site.

          The amount of stuff breaking within the first year on a brand new $2.5 million luxury home that my friend bought recently was astounding. Imagine the quality of homes of more pedestrian means.

          • 0 avatar
            OneAlpha

            Way back near the turn of the century, I worked for (insert national paint retailer here) delivering paint, and I found out that contractors are some of the crookedest SOBs in America.

            Apparently, common practices in the contracting industry include:

            1 – Maxing out credit accounts, opening new ones in their wife’s/son’s/daughter’s name when they were denied credit, then complaining to the RM when we cut them off for nonpayment.

            2 – Buying way too much paint ON PURPOSE and charging it to the job, knowing they were going to use it for their own personal projects.

            3 – Looking the other way and billing the GC when their ex-con crackhead employees stole boxes of nails, electrical conduit, cans of paint, tools and God knows what else from jobsites, on the theory that petty theft was okay if you were “just a poor workin’ stiff who can’t catch a break.”

            4 – Trying to bring back colored paint they knew damn well wasn’t returnable BECAUSE it was custom-tinted for them.

            I figure you could shave a good quarter off the construction cost of a house IF you could find honest people to build it.

            The upside was that I learned many fascinating things at the job – like that a 1999 Ford E-350 van will do 94 MPH while carrying a dozen unsecured five-gallon buckets of industrial epoxy primer.

      • 0 avatar

        ” like so many rabbis at a kosher soda-pop factory”

        The analogy is apt, but a kosher soda-pop factory wouldn’t really have many rabbis on the site.

        There’s usually only one mashgiach in a facility like a bottling plant that only processes kosher soda pop. Most of their job involves checking supplies.

        I have friends who have worked as mashgiachs, kosher supervisors, most aren’t rabbis. While many mashgiachs are ordained, you don’t have to be an ordained rabbi to do kashrut supervision. You just have to know the rules and be a religiously observant Jew.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I mean, for one point, I’ve never heard of a Swedish factory having to install a suicide net.

      And of course, Volvo didn’t use Swedish factories so some exec could get a 5% bigger bonus this year.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      iPhones are made in China. Absent proof to the contrary, I very much doubt it makes any difference. Having owned a Baker’s Dozen Volvos over the years, I can assure you the Swedes weren’t all that great at bolting them together either. They were fine cars due to being agriculturally simple, and made of decent quality materials (other than the plastics) but finely assembled they absolutely were not.

      As for the actual car, it’s enormous, it’s cheap(ish) for the luxury class, it’s boring to drive with a kind of crap interior. Sounds like a Volvo to me. And best of all, you can get a proper wagon version. Too big to be interesting to me, but nice to see. I would be perfectly happy with the “small” turbo only motor, and I bet I would significantly exceed Jack’s mpg result since I rarely drive with Baruthian vigor.

  • avatar

    Ugly, and no personality–like 96.5% of ’10s cars.

    Fun to read about though!

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Vorvo

    Ok, that wasn’t nice of me. But seriously. Does the VIN plate say Made in China? How are the dealers going to obfuscate this fact before the conscious typical Volvo buyers who read labels to make sure their purchases are truly organic, super-natural, locally-sourced and very humanely grown? I can’t even say Good Luck to Volvo because now I care a bit less for their survival than I cared about the Opels dressed in Saab attire.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      It has an “L” VIN which denotes Made in China.

      To Volvo’s credit, they aren’t obscuring it the way Porsche did with “W” VINs on Finnish Boxsters.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        VW Group did a lot of obscuring. I noticed that the Touareg and Q7 also have vins starting with W for Germany, even though they are made entirely in Bratislava, Slovakia. Doubtless, the Bentayga and Cayenne have VINs that start with S and W…but then those cars just start out as body stampings in the Bratislava plant before being shipped to England and Germany, respectively, for assembly. Ditto for the Continental GT / Flying Spur; I believe their bodies start out in Germany and are sent to England.

  • avatar

    The thing is that Chinese manufacturers are starting to get a clue about quality and customer service.

    I bought a cheap kit to make a low watt laser engraver/cutter sold by a Chinese company called Eleksmaker. There is a forum for those machines run by a couple of guys who have written cutting and engraving software that works far better than what’s supplied with the kit. The manufacturer of the kits has an engineer active on the forum and recent versions of their kits reflect paying attention to user complaints and suggestions.

    Likewise with an all-tube guitar amplifier sold by Monoprice, an American based company that rebrands existing Chinese products (mostly in the electronics realm) and sells direct. Earlier versions of the amp (a rebranded Laney Cub12R) were supplied with a cheesy plastic reverb tank and an iffy incandescent indicator light. Monoprice now specs a real metal tank and the bayonet mount lightbulb has been replaced by a soldered-in LED. Those were in direct response to customer complaints.

    Jack collects Matsumoku built Electra and Westone guitars, but when I showed him a photo of an early ’70s Electra hollowbody, he told me that they made crap then and didn’t start making good guitars until later in that decade.

    Today, Japan is a benchmark for quality manufacturing but I’m old enough to remember when Made in Japan meant cheaply made with little attention to QC. The Japanese learned from Demming and the Taiwanese learned that you can’t sell crap in the West. The Chinese are learning as well.

    Unskilled labor costs about $4/hr in China with skilled labor about double that. That’s cheaper than here, but it’s far from free, and Chinese workers want improved standards of living. It will probably take a generation of so but eventually there will be no cheap-labor countries. Of course, by then, artificial intelligence may have completely disrupted labor as we know it.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      This. Chinese workers aren’t going to put up with slave wages for much longer. And there aren’t enough tanks in the whole damn world to put down two billion p*ssed off Chinese folks.

      Before too long, they’re going to have the same problem we do – too many former light-industrial workers chasing a smaller number of light industrial jobs.

      The market for super-cheap labor has already shifted to other countries. And don’t be surprised when a lot of cheap-goods manufacturing shows up in Africa.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        They have more of a hive mentality than you may think. I could see a situation where wages slowly rise (at least in some regions) but I do not see a Homestead Strike style situation developing.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I don’t either, if for no other reason than this: the folks in charge in China know there’s absolutely no way their government survives large-scale political unrest. I mean, for God’s sakes, there’s two billion people there – if only 1% of them get militant, that’s a torch-and-pitchfork brigade of ***20 million*** people. Best of luck with that.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Those in charge of China have spent a considerable amount of time trying to understand why various communist and/or totalitarian regimes have failed. Even studying democratic countries yield clues. Basically, you must keep the middle class fat and happy or at least have the hope of advancement. China’s middle class is bigger than the population of the USA. Eventually they will have no choice but to allow improvements in living standards right across the board. That works better than turning the military loose upon their own people on a mass scale.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree.

            @Lou

            I hope Beijing has learned, never go full Stalin.

        • 0 avatar
          tekdemon

          The wages are ALREADY high in the industrious cities filled to the brim with factories, it’s only in the undeveloped rural areas that you still find folks willing to work for lower wages and even those are rapidly climbing.

          That’s why if you look at the clothing labels at the stores they’ve already moved production to much cheaper places like Bangladesh for most clothing. Only a few very heavily automated Chinese clothing factories remain competitive.

          And having dealt with Chinese suppliers in my businesses, you’ll get the occasional crackpot upstart operation that cuts corners to try and compete solely on price, but generally I’ve found that they’re capable of producing very high quality goods, MUCH more flexible than American suppliers, and always deliver the goods quickly. At this point the folks who think the Chinese just compete on price are delusional. Our production partners were shocked at the level of quality since they had assumed that Chinese parts would be shoddy, lol.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      “Made by the J-a-pan Company,” my Father also.

  • avatar
    NN

    My guess is there won’t be any substantial quality issues on the Chinese made Volvo’s that isn’t apparent on Swedish made versions as well…in other words, design problems and not assembly quality issues. The automotive factories in China are the world’s most modern.

    I’ve said this here before and I will again, we need to match the 25-35% import tariff that American-manufactured cars already face in China by taxing the Chinese cars coming here the reciprocal amount. Currently our automotive import tariff is 2.5%.

    This Volvo, and the Buick Envision, are still not really large volume products. The first large volume Chinese import looks to be the next-gen Ford Focus

    • 0 avatar
      tremorcontrol

      “design problems and not assembly quality issues” –> this seems like the more likely scenario as quality control improves and more of the work is automated. I don’t doubt that Chinese factories churn out crappy products. We all have experience with stuff that’s shoddily made in China. Problem is, the stuff is getting better.

      I just did the tour of the BMW plant in South Carolina, where you can see the results of state-of-the art manufacturing on a continent separate from where the design is done. They’ve been building some form of BMW there for 25 years, and now pretty much every X series car is built in America (except the X1 and the M version of the X5). 70% of the BMWs built in SC are exported around the world. Crazy that the right-hand drive X3 you see in Japan was built in the American south.

      Maybe Chinese production “traditions” will mean something like BMW’s Carolina success won’t ever translate, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

      A more interesting review might be somehow doing a “blind” drive test (turn on the safety features! haha.) of a Swedish-made S90 and a Chinese-made S90.

      And in a couple of years, doing a blind comparison of the same model of Swedish-made, Chinese-made, and American-made Volvo (South Carolina) would be interesting. And no peaking at the VINs.

      Btw, I don’t really like the S90 but not because it’s now going to be built in China. The rear design is terrible. The V90 (non-Cross Country R-Design) on the other hand looks like a winner (if winning is having an ultra rare wagon).

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    If the quality of the electronics in this thing are similar to the Chinese-made “Dynavin” head unit in my BMW, it’s worth making fun of them. Maybe the whole car is run off a pirated version of windows CE.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Previous owner of my 3 series installed one of those, I ripped it out the first week. I don’t know how that company isn’t crushed by negative feedback on user forums.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I LOL’d at that first picture, very fitting. My wife can’t go into HF for long periods of time due to the terrible smell of Chinesium inside.

    Although HF seems to be trying to improve their image recently with their new Lithium Ion tools that they’re comparing to Dewalt and other name brands.

    Nice review of the S90. Seems like a pretty disposable luxury car. I wonder if we’ll see a junkyard find in 12 years like the 2005 Sprinter.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    First of all , great piece.
    I wonder how this compares to another outsider luxury brand, Genesis.

    For some reason I’m more open to S. Korea in the luxury realm than China. They started with econobox, built a fairly reliable brand name ala Lexus and now on second generation seem to have figured it out (well except missing out on the luxury SUV thing)
    Geely just bought a name, some taller than average engineers with a new platform and jumped right into the fray. Seems like cheating.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Compared to the Volvo S90, the Genesis G90 is a first-generation Maybach rebuilt by Singer.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I’m actually really fond of the G90. It’s extremely well-put-together, drives and handles well, is insanely comfortable and has soft, understated design language.

        Kind of like the Lexus LS did until recently.

        Or…dare I say…the Phaeton?

        I can’t wait until the G90 depreciates.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I want to like the G90. I really do. But it does zero for me.

        • 0 avatar
          johnny_5.0

          I saw a nice G90 yesterday in what their website just told me was Serengeti brown. My first thought was “I’d drive that”. My second thought was “who am I kidding, that thing must be right around (the admittedly smaller) S6 money”. I was shocked by the lack of color options for the G90. I was hoping for a nice dark green and expecting to be disappointed. But there wasn’t even a red. 2 grays, 1 silver, 1 black, 1 white, 1 brown, and the required blue. I wouldn’t say it had a plethora of interior color choices either, and some of the restrictions were strange.

          • 0 avatar

            I’d say the lack of color palette on the largest model is down to Korea. Large cars for businessmen aren’t purchased in colors other than those you cited.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            The first time I was in Korea, I looked out of an office building at the parking lot and noted that all the cars were white, gray, or black. The Koreans explained that these were the only colors anyone was willing to buy. There’s not much of a car culture over there. Everything is conservative.

            I did notice a lot more GTI’s on my last few trips though, all MKVII’s. So maybe things are shifting a bit, but even the GTI is a pretty conservative design.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Honestly, the pictures and description sound more like a Lacrosse or Cadenza competitor.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Agreed. I’m not even sure the S90 rises to Continental / CT6 levels. It seems poised to do about as well as the S80, whose unceremonious tenure was as successful as those of other forgotten products, like the RL / RLX and the current M / Q70 / Q70L

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    This car has the biggest transmission tunnel hump I have ever seen. Which really surmises this vehicle in general. Fashionable, flashy, but devoid of substance. I cannot see any good reason to pick one over a 3.0T A6.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “There’s no six-cylinder option, no V-8 waiting in the wings. Which leaves Volvo free to design a very machine-minimum chassis. Just enough space for the transverse four up front. The rest of the length goes to the cabin.”

    Well, the old 3.0L T6 engine was transverse as well, and I can’t imagine it’s meaningfully longer front to back than the 4.

    I think the real reason is “addicted to only having one basic engine block”, honestly.

    (If the 4-cyl T6 engines end up being long-term reliable and tough, they’ll be fine, natch.)

  • avatar
    V16

    The Yamaha sourced V8 engine from the previous S80 would look good under the hood of this current Volvo.
    Four cylinders generate ZERO excitement, or perceived status.

  • avatar
    Furious George

    Hey, that’s my Harbor Freight! I’ve been here 14 years and I don’t disagree with your assessment of FL, but as an owner of various Volvos I am bothered by your assessment of their direction in quality.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The interior on this car looks sensational (then again, I’m a sucker for the Scandanavian design ethos).

    But I’d put the feel of the materials and general build quality on a par with something like a Camry.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    This review reads like an attempt at an anti-China meme, yet lacking the substance you’d need and filled with a bit too much cliché-soup. It might have worked if the S90 was an attractive car for that friend’s cheap bling oriented wife – but that’s not at all the market it’s aimed at.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      yep. Baruth is hit or miss this days. No analysis here, just China China China China China…. like you know who. As far as I am concerned, where analysis ends, bigotry begins.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      This comment reads like an attempt to be effortlessly superior, yet lacking the grasp of sentence structure you’d need and filled with try-harding like “cliche-soup”. It might have worked if the review was a Doug DeMuro piece for the drooling mooks at Reddit — but that’s not at all the market at which it was aimed.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        What is the ‘Jack Score’ on this S90 and how does this score compare to a Ferrari 575M and 1972 International Harvester Travelall?

        Also did the door panels and trunk release have any quirks?

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        Frankly your hit piece only solidified what was just a vague consideration of taking Volvo up on their extremely aggressive lease offers for the S90. You can lease the power upgraded T6 Momentum AWD version of this car for a price in the mid $300s if you qualify for Volvo’s A Plan pricing, and frankly any idiot can qualify by joining the Volvo club if their employer doesn’t already qualify them. You can’t even lease a 2018 Accord Touring for that kind of money. Maybe you think people are all mindless fools who still equate Chinese production with poor quality but frankly I find that some of the best engineered and produced goods are coming out of China these days and the quality will only further improve.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          So let me get this straight.

          After reading my “hit piece” on this “Chinese production poor quality” you decided to PROVE ME WRONG by doing a short-term giveaway lease that makes a $56,000 MSRP car cheaper to drive than an Accord.

          You showed me. For your next trick, will you refute my swipe at Harbor Freight by demanding to pay no more than $49.99 for a complete drill press?

          • 0 avatar
            vlangs

            Jack, have you compared the new L VIN to the old Swede VIN?

            I have a 2017 S90 Inscription and have had absolutely zero quality complaints. I bought it after getting a 2016 XC90 Inscription for my mother and being impressed.

            I know L vin is going to cause pause for a lot of Americans (maybe deservedly or undeservedly so) but I have been so impressed with the Fit and Finish of my S90 (previous rides include an 03 RS6, 09 Arnage, and 16 Fiesta ST), I really think it might be the best car I’ve owned especially on the tech side.

            If the L VINs are much worse then that’d be a major shame.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            Vlangs, my “L” VIN Buick Envision is very solid for a $25,000 vehicle. The paint is very good but chips easily and the plastics are the same a Lexus NX just not as thick. But you are in either a Lexus or Buick and don’t tab your finger nails on the bottom half of the door you won’t know any better.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        I am surprised you take a personal turn here instead of keeping to the topic. English is my third language, so sorry if that doesn’t please you. The point remains that apart from cliché and unfounded expectations, your review rides the “comes from China”-theme as hard as a round of “Made in [insert Western country]”-committee at a pub would have done. If the new S60 made in the US was tested, would you expect it to have soft suspension and low hp per displacement? The haptics of that knob and glued applications are the only specific points of critique.

  • avatar
    pprj

    Of all new Volvos I like the X60 the best. Really liked that car.

    The engine killed the deal. I tried the T6 and it just didn’t work. At the end of the day, it is still a 2 liter 4, and this configuration will never provide the ride a V6 can.

    Put the Toyota V6 on that car and I will show up with my checkbook.

  • avatar
    EspritdeFacelVega

    Much of what I’m seeing in this thread about China is what I recall hearing 30+ years ago when Hyundai first entered the market, and what my Dad heard about Japanese cars in the 60s and 70s…And in fact there is a development curve, but I would argue China, as the world’s largest car market, is already there and I suspect the differences between a Volvo made in China, Sweden or (soon, unless You Know Who ruins the terms of trade and makes it impossible to build global-market cars here) the US will be truly minimal.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      Exactly. So far, no one can tell how this car will hold up. Other reviews of build quality and interior material choice are very much contrary to what is written in the story labelled “review” above. It is most certainly a world apart from the Brilliance, Landwind and Geely cars we’ve seen over the years. A lot of the Chinese products we own in our household or see at work have a high quality and they perform durably day in, day out.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    Looks like the parking garage/rental return at TPA.

    I adored my RWD Volvos, had horrible reliability with the FWD ones and would be hard-pressed to spend big bucks on one now, as pretty as the S90 and V90 are.

    The thing that struck me was when I visited the parts dept at my local dealer, and they had a stripped-down S60 on the floor, cloth seats, no sunroof, super basic…stickered at $34K. Why on earth would I buy that when I could get an Accord LX for $22k?!? There’s no snob appeal in a stripped-down Volvo and I doubt it would be as reliable as the Honda so there’s little argument that “Volvos run forever”. I simply don’t get it.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I’ve had MUCH better success with Alamo at TPA…had a terrible, beat up little Hyundai from Thrifty that was probably the worst rental I’ve ever had…started using Alamo and have had several really nice, clean cars.

    On my last go-around, I had reserved a “Nissan Altima or equivalent” and when I went out in the garage, I had a choice of a Maxima or 3 Impalas…I took a black on black Impala V6 LT and was duly impressed. Of course the condo we use in Siesta Key has a Cadillac SRX parked in the garage underneath so we drove that while we were on vacation, only took the Chevy to, and from the airport.

  • avatar
    PeterW

    I’m doubting 19.5 mpg in a 6.2-liter, 5,500-pound Chevrolet Silverado. 16.5 sounds closer to me.


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