Despite their best efforts over the past few decades, none of the American, Japanese or Italian brands have been able to convincingly beat, or even match the German troika of Audi, BMW and Mercedes when it comes to the executive saloon segment. At least that has been my firmly held belief so far. Or, should I say, had been.

Having driven our long-term S90 for over a week, I can say with conviction that Volvo is the only brand that stands out as a legitimate competitor to the Teutonic big three.

Everything from exterior and interior styling, build quality, refinement and performance is on a par with the best of them.

In fact, in some areas such as design, it arguably outshines its foes. To my eyes, the S90 looks much more striking, contemporary and timeless than even cars like the all-new BMW 5 Series.

It’s the same story when it comes to tech, the S90, for instance, was among the first cars in that market to offer semi-autonomous driving capabilities.

Cabin design, too, is another strong point. Notwithstanding the fact that my colleague Imran does not approve of the wood inside the S90, I think it looks elegant, understated and unmistakably Swedish. Surely that can’t be a bad thing.

Everything that you see and touch in the S90 feels thoroughly upmarket, be it the leather, the metal trim pieces or the plastics. The seats are supremely comfortable and there is plenty of space for a small family.

Now, you’re probably expecting me to rubbish the performance — well, because it’s a Volvo — but you’d be wrong. That four-cylinder engine is superb and unlike group motoring editor Amit, I have been able to eke out a decent 11.7 litres per 100km!

However, I have noticed a minor niggle. The speed limit on the head-up display, that changes based on your location, does not always align with reality. The system was convinced I could safely do 130kph on a road with a clearly posted 100kph limit. Still not a deal-breaker in my view.

The Germans finally have some real competition and it’s here to stay.

 

The progress

Week 9
Features writer Imran Malik gets his hands on the S90 and immediately starts to moan about the car’s noisy AC fan. He reckons the fact that the rear air vents are on the B-pillar, just behind the driver’s head, doesn’t help matters much either.

Highs: Lovely 2.0-litre four-pot engine

Lows: AC makes a racket, Lane Keep Assist is a bit iffy

Week 10
Imran begins to appreciate the spaciousness and practicality of the S90 and while in a fast food drive-through realises that the electric windows have two speeds. He’s overjoyed. Yup, he’s easily pleased.

Highs: Spacious, cool two-speed electric windows, superb reversing camera

Lows: Pointless two-speed feature in the electric windows