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Detroit 2016: Volvo S90 – a most human car

12 January 2016 | by Owen Ready

Some observers have called the new Volvo S90 dull and lacking progression, but there’s such a depth of design quality when you see the car in person that it’s hard not to be thoroughly impressed.

Volvo S90 1

It all begins with the basics – this car’s proportions are fundamentally right, and even more impressive when you consider it’s front-wheel drive. The wheels are in the right place, the overhangs are well controlled and the minimal graphics tie together key elements in a way that’s genuinely pleasing. The return to a six-light DLO is a very welcome addition to the composition.

Volvo S90 3 (1)

It’s a very mature design, very sparse on extraneous details – design director Thomas Ingenlath is an avid detractor of styling entertainment and that approach is clearly shown here. Yet the very carefully-curated detailing and its graphics are extremely well-judged and give the car a strong character despite its quiet nature. That is authentic Scandinavian design.

Volvo S90 2

Downsides? The rear treatment feels less precisely resolved than the rest of the car and the way the lamp breaks the corner ‘boundary’ is slightly awkward.

Volvo S90 5

The interior is perhaps even more impressive. The sense of high quality pervades through the entire cabin, not only though the materials, but also through their use. The wood, for example, is a three-dimensional form rather than a flat surface with no edges, so it looks like a solid piece. The minimal switchgear is genuinely jewel-like and the action and graphics of the HMI are consistent with the character of the car – mature and precise but not cold.

Volvo S90 7

On a macro level the cabin is more progressive than it first appears – its architecture is (visually) constructed from ‘building blocks’ of components brought together rather being a large, abstract plastic sculpture with holes punched in for switches. the result is a cabin that feels genuinely built by people. This is a very human car.

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