This week in Honda-Torque News I share Honda Motor Company’s sales report for February, yet another record sales month for American Honda.
Light truck sales, the Fed’s designation for any light-truck-like crossover or SUV drove the brand to a record February with 2017 CR-V SUV outselling Accord and Civic, for the first time in memory. Noteworthy is a double digit increase in sales volume for Honda’s HR-V subcompact CUV, and continued momentum for Fit, the entry portal to the American Honda lineup. Read my latest take on 2017 Honda HR-V here.
American Honda embraces alternative propulsion
For the second month of 2017, we note an interesting development on Honda’s electrification front, with 2017 Accord Hybrid posting a 385% sales gain over February 2016. Does the uptick indicate sustainable growth through the driving public’s acceptance of the electric car, or are Californian’s simply easing their way into a less crowded, quick moving Diamond Lane?
While Clarity FCV and Accord Hybrid owners do benefit from an environmentally friendly pass, as to congested L.A. and Orange County traffic congestion, I do believe the general appeal of a high-torque clean burning auto to be a bit broader than the outskirts of L.A., so do the engineers at Honda. Read our latest slant on Honda auto electrification here.
Clarity Battery Electric
As earlier reported by Torque News and others, the 3rd generation Clarity Fuel Cell manufacturing platform further expands into a gasoline/electric hybrid varient, and a battery electric offering. Honda, while not specific as to the near future application of electrification, has indicated that a crossover, SUV, or pickup truck may be in the works in the not too distant future.
Despite current low-fuel pricing, for Honda Motor Company, and other makers positioning for market share in California, still the world’s largest auto market, electric is the viable future in high-torque-output, super low to no exhaust emission, environmentally friendly, personal and commercial transportation.
You will see, and possibly drive, or ride in, a fully autonomous, (hands-free, sensory, computer controlled) long-range electric car within the next decade.
The adventure that is Volvo S90 begins with one’s first sitting behind the wheel of this very premium sedan on arguably the most comfortable, infinitely adjustable, ergonomically correct drivers seat in the midsize premium segment.
For me, as I hesitantly enter the 6th decade of this stay on planet earth, frankly, nothing in the drive and ride experience overshadows the importance of a well constructed, comfortable seat, Volvo sports the best fit for me in the midsize premium segment.
At 6 ft 5 inches tall, 2017 Volvo S90 presents ample “knees off the dash” driver and front passenger seat legroom, with seemingly yards of headroom. Yet visually and physically, S90 profiles close to the pavement for ease of ingress and egress. Featuring 10-way power adjusted seats, lumbar support, extended or retractable leg support, and adjustable steering wheel, S90 sedan affords the perfect seating position for most if not all drivers.
Volvo’s driver’s seat is therapeutically designed to form fit the architecture of the human frame — think $5,000 office chair on 4 wheels — cooled, heated, perforated Napa leather, infinitely adjustable and well worn driving glove soft. And yet the seat does hold you in prime position while driving aggressively–without the employment of restrictive bench and seat back bolstering.
A Scandinavian Sanctuary
Encapsulating the environs of what Volvo design refers to as “a Scandinavian Sanctuary,” is an understated, uncluttered compilation of real wood grain accents, leather covered steering wheel, arm rests, door panels, dash pad and instrument cluster.
Complimented by muted chrome-like accents, generously padded carpeting, luxurious trunk lining, plated and optionally lit door kicker panels, 2017 Volvo S90 presents a rolling Scandia Design-like drive and ride environment with unparalleled rivals in North America’s midsize premium sedan segment. I discovered nothing lacking here as to precision fitment and material integration, nothing!
Huge 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster/ i-MID/ 4 panel center stack and more
Rivaling a “King Air” glass screen aviation cluster, Volvo engineering and design incorporates what is arguably the most advanced and easy to manipulated 4-segment thermal touch (it will activate with gloves on) high resolution monitors in the industry today. There is actually a selection on the screen for Video and Television, I didn’t activate it.
I appreciate the balance of Volvo’s dash layout. The instrument cluster and center stack is well lit, easily viewed, and mostly intuitive as to its operation. I found Volvo’s voice prompted navigation to work better than some, although we did encounter a directive glitch or two as to pre-programmed directions on the roads of Malaga, Spain.
Volvo S90 does feature Apple Carplay connectivity, USB hub, multiple charging ports and a 12 volt accessory outlet in its spacious trunk. It works!
While Volvo’s “smart wheel” does duplicate several functions accessible through the monitor, such as stereo mode, volume and station settings, it’s primarily function is for steering the S90 and cruise control.
The steering wheel is available as an option throughout the trim range leather covered and heated. Paddle shifting? Not yet, although Volvo engineering promises shifting options in the near future.
On a personal note: I did find the electric power assisted steering to be a bit on the heavy side — although the ‘feel” can be adjusted out a bit by “personalizing” the drive dynamic through Volvo’s inclusive IDS roller toggle drive mode select. In my case I found that adjusting the shift response and suspension to sport mode and the wheel to comfort mode did ‘loosen’ up the wheel a bit.
Active safety features, personal electronic connectivity, and entertainment first and foremost
The aforementioned is what sells cars today, and Volvo runs just a bit ahead of the trend with what I believe to be the best working active safety features suite available in the segment today.
Volvo continues its historical emphasis on driver and passenger safety by presents a standard feature active safety suite on all S90 trim levels — including Pilot Assist, a semi autonomous assist driving technology — Collision Avoidance by City Safety ™ — Low and high speed collision mitigation — Pedestrian, Cyclist, Large Animal recognition and auto brake engagement — Run off Road Mitigation, Road departure warning, lane watch and more.
2017 S90 self driving characteristics
S90 will assist in driving up to 80 mph, but the driver’s hand is required to stay on the wheel in 15 second intervals. Yes. I did test this option, it worked flawlessly with near dead center lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, brake mitigation and parking assist. Take my word for it. In heavy small town traffic the collision avoidance feature is very effective
Drive performance: Are 4 cylinders enough? As my co driver John stated: “One would have to look under the hood of the S90 T6 to discover the 4 cylinder,” source of exceptional power and seamless torque.
In all truth this aluminum 2.0 Liter twin cam, direct injected, supercharged and turbocharged 4 cylinder gasoline engine produces seamless torque, with ZERO turbo lag noted up to the red line — is fuel efficient,and works seamlessly in tandem with the 8 speed Alson Warner automatic transmission.
Producing 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque in the mid-range, Volvo 90S T6 achieves a respectable 5.7 second standing start 0 to 60 mph sprint time — quick enough for the majority of drivers in the midsize premium/ luxury sedan segment.
Note: A 2.0 liter inline 4 cylinder gasoline turbocharged rendition of the same mill will come available in the Momentum trim package producing a respectable 250 horsepower/ 258 lb-ft torque @ 2200 rpm, rivaling many 6 cylinder engines on the market today.
Scheduled to arrive first in the U.S. July 2016, will be the S90 T6 AWD (all-wheel-drive) followed by the FWD (front wheel drive,) S90 T5 and the Volvo V90 estate wagon in early 2017.
With a stated MSRP of $46,950 T5 Momentum FWD to the top of the line S90 T6 Inscription MSRP $56,250 + destination charge, options sales tax and fees if applicable, Volvo S90 may be in actuality the bargain of the midsize luxury sedan segment.
As a first generation S80 T6 owner and driver, I hold an innate fondness for Volvo going back to the 4 cylinder, manual transmission duck-tails of my youth. My current personal ride is a twin turbocharged straight 6 generating around 250 horsepower. Torque steer and turbo lag? Yes. However, I love driving my near vintage Volvo and looked forward to experiencing the latest manifestation of the sedan, I wasn’t disappointed.
2017 Volvo S90 T6 delivers as promised. The sedan has been developed and produced to enable a comfortable, safe and quiet near luxury sedan drive and ride experience. It does that in spades! While not an AMG optioned Mercedes E63 S, it doesn’t claim to be, nor does it carry a 3 figure MSRP.
What Volvo presents here is a well optioned, visually appealing executive/family sedan that eagerly doubles as a measurable performance sedan when coaxed to do so. This car screams sustainable financial affluence with a dash of Swedish conservative sensibility, design and panache.
Volvo believes that buyers will reward themselves for hard work driven success with this car, it is rewarding to drive.
While I found the S90 quite capable as to handling an aggressively driven country 2-lane roads, were this sedan truly shines is in long-range highway driving. When one settles into the drive environment afforded by Volvo’s latest sedan, comfort overtakes fatigue as driver meshes seamlessly with arguably the finest near autonomous driving technology available in any segment today.
Surprisingly, I found Volvo’s therapeutic seat to require no break in time. Ours was equipped with cooling, heating and message.
One’s attention to the road was further ensured by a well positioned “heads up “ display, where one’s current speed, engine temp, etc, can be monitored while keeping one’s eye on the road.
2017 Volvo S90’s quality of ride, thanks to Volvo’s option available rear air suspension, superior hydraulic dampening and active electronic noise cancellation, rates with the best in the industry, while facilitating a split personality sport-like-driving capability required by today’s all inclusive consumer mindset.
Some back seat time
Again, I discovered a superior , comfortable seating surface in S90’s second row. With center pull down armrest extended, I “kicked it” in the back for a few miles while co-driver John put the S90 through its paces.
Visibility to the front was very good from the slightly elevated 40/ 60 split bench with access to the trunk for those longer items. Cooling and heating is accomplished by a passenger adjusted center council heating grid and touch panel control interface.
With the optional 19 speaker stereo system tuned into one’s favorite music source, and the rear passenger window screen employed, near limousine comfort is enjoyed by second row passengers in the S90.
Ingress and egress is effortless through Volvo’s rather wide rear side door. However, there is just a tad more tire to the road noise generated in the rear, however it is minor. Although a large car by midsize sedan standards, S90 remains nimble while maneuvering in town thanks to superior suspension logic, automated parking assist, and optional 360 view camera technology.
A closing thought of two
Volvo is on track to reinvent their entire car and SUV lineup within the next 24 months. Furthermore, in view of “Diesel Gate,” Volvo is committed to across the car brand integration of small displacement, clean burning high output 4 and 3 cylinder gasoline fueled engines for the North America markets.
Although the initial introduction of the S90 does not present a gasoline hybrid or plug in alternative, according to Volvo engineering, it will come.
Looking to the engineering, technology rich marvel that is the 2017 S90, Volvo is well on its way to not only sustaining sales growth in North America, but returning to prominence if not dominance in some automotive segments.
When one looks closely to standard and optional active safety and near autonomous driving features presented through S90, it’s not a “how” but when we will safely transition into an automotive age of self driving cars.
Volvo holds autonomous driving technology and implementation sophistication in their arsenal now. It’s a question of corporate liability and the timing of municipality and public acceptance. Reading between the lines, Volvo is ready to pull the trigger.