Turning out a big car that’s comfortable, wieldy, easy to drive and yet also dynamically coherent takes every bit as much tuning effort and skill as setting up a performance saloon.

Often it’s on coherence where manufacturers like Volvo fall down – by mating an unnaturally fast steering rack with particularly soft suspension springing, for example, in a misguided attempt to make a car at once agile and supple-riding.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Body roll is fairly pronounced, but the steering stays true enough to keep the car near the apex

Not here, though. By and large, the S90 feels like a big, comfortable car that’s at ease with its identity, happy in its own skin, and is all the easier to get on with as a result.

That it isn’t quite the perfect, laid-back, well-mannered, long-distance-covering executive car has more to do with the details of the S90’s driving experience: the particular elasticity of its steering and the slightly hollow and occasionally excitable ride that the car has at higher speeds.

For all that, though, the car probably does an impression of a full-sized limousine that’s good enough to fool most who are treated to the expansiveness of its back seats – and the car’s lack of sporting edge will most likely come as neither a surprise nor a disappointment to its owners.

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At three full turns between locks, the S90’s steering rack strikes a good compromise between handling response and stability. With inconsistent weighting and that aforementioned slightly woolly, rubbery tactile feel, it doesn’t have the sense of directional precision of certain rivals, but it’s light and usable.

The car’s ride is soft and particularly comfortable at low speeds, when it feels very compliant over bigger intrusions, such as sleeping policemen.

There’s a slight shortage of close wheel control at higher speeds and on bumpy B-roads, leading to a vague background fussiness to the rolling refinement at times.

Coarse surfaces can also elicit from the suspension a resonant buzz that just about penetrates the cabin and that our test car’s optional air-sprung rear axle may well have exacerbated.

Body control is perfectly respectable, though, and although the S90 certainly feels its size when negotiating tighter turns and spaces, it doesn’t roll excessively.

It grips moderately keenly and has a predictable, slightly nose-led cornering balance. On the motorway, there is also enough accuracy about the car’s handling to make it stable at high speeds.

It could be argued that it’s not a Volvo’s place to be any more adventurous than that on matters such as driver engagement and dynamism.

The S90’s grip levels are high enough that should you ever want or need to drive it hard, it’ll oblige. Its suspension is plainly biased to deliver stability over agility, and so in emergency situations, you can be confident of avoiding making a bad situation worse by over-reacting at the wheel.

Likewise, its stability control is always on (you can desensitise it slightly using a pseudo ESC Sport mode), and although it is more subtle in its interventions than you might expect, it simply and effectively prevents you from breaching the grip levels.

The car resists understeer better than you might imagine, considering its size and comfort bias, the traction neatly stopping you from forcing the car straight on with too much throttle. But the understated body control that manifests itself on the road quickly dissolves on the track, leaving the handling feeling inert and untidy through faster corners.

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