Volvo S90 and XC60 Review: Sedan or SUV?

  • Dec 30, 2021
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Volvo has updated the S90 and the XC60 for 2021 and interestingly, they both cost the same. Time for a cross-body comparison!

One look at the sales numbers and you will know that the days of the humble sedan are limited. Be it compact hatchbacks that are made to look like SUVs or luxury rollers like the Volvo XC60, everyone now wants an SUV. And there are valid reasons to prefer one; they are more practical, have better ground clearance and tackle our ever-evolving road condition with ease. However, most of these so-called utility vehicles live out their lives in the city anyway where you don't really need that extra utility. Have we forgotten that in the same family, and surprisingly for the same price, you also get a sedan - the beautiful Volvo S90. Is picking the SUV a no-brainer, or is the sedan, known for its comfort and driving dynamics, and purpose-built for cities, packing a few punches we might have forgotten about. Today, we will let these updated 2021 Volvos give us the answer.

Bragging rights of a flagship

Car buying, especially in the luxury segment, involves an element that can't be seen and can only be felt. Something that makes an iPhone 13 Pro Max better than the Pro. And that’s the bragging rights of being a flagship. The S90 is the flagship of Volvo sedans, the 90 series of cars they make. The XC60, on the other hand, is a mid-size SUV that sits below the XC90, so there's always the possibility that someday someone in a Rs 1 crore XC90 will pull up next to you in the 5-star lobby and make you feel inferior with that one gaze. And that just cannot happen with the S90.

Mark your arrival

The hunger for instant attention, be it social media or traffic on the road, has consumed us. It's a key reason why people today prefer SUVs. Simply put, they are hard to ignore. Be it in a crowded street or a parking lot, they are easy to spot. The XC60 is no different. It's taller and wider than the S90 which helps it get noticed more easily. However, since every other car on the road is also an SUV, they have lost the novelty and have become part of a more common crowd.

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While both of these get roughly the same hardware, the LED bending headlights and tail lamps of the S90 are the ones that look more elegant. And despite the shape of the alloy wheels being similar, the smaller 18-inch wheels suit the S90 better than the larger 19-inchers do the XC60.

The sedan does have a charm of its own, especially something as beautiful as the S90. The elegant flow of lines and the low proportions mesmerise you every time you look at it. Even here, the S90 is lower, longer and even has a longer wheelbase than the XC60. If you are someone with an eye for detail and design, the sedan is the more beautiful one.

Loaded with the same luxury. Almost

Volvo luxury is unlike any other on the market. The simplicity, charm and quality of the interior will have you spoiled in minutes. Both cars get mostly the same dashboard layout and materials, with just subtle differences. The centre console of the SUV is black plastic whereas the S90 feels more premium with a beige leather wrap.

Speaking of the centre console, this has to be one of the best layouts in the market.The crystal gear knob looks expensive and the rest of the storage is covered under a wooden texture tambor door. Slide it open and you get two cupholders and a wireless charger. If you close this cover after placing your phone, it locks the phone in place and looks like the display is a part of the centre console itself.

Then come the seats, wrapped in Napa Leather, designed to be so supportive they feel like they are hugging you. Especially when you set the powered side bolsters for a snug fit. Plus, they get powered thigh support, heat and ventilation, and finally, a massage that feels heavenly, especially with the heat on a cold winter morning. The best part: these seats are the same for both cars, a trend that continues to the features list as well.

Features: Same, but different experience

Common features include a 4-zone climate control, the 12.3-inch touchscreen with Google integration, powered front seats with memory, 4-way power-adjustable lumbar, auto-dimming IRVM and ORVM, a 360-degree camera, a premium Bowers and Wilkins sound system with a subwoofer, and a sunroof. Neither of the two cars will leave you wanting more features.

In this list, the 12.3-inch touchscreen with Google integration deserves special mention. You do not get Android Auto or Apple CarPlay here, but this system comes with Google Maps, Google Assistant and the Play Store as default. The familiar interface of Google helps in using these features.

More noticeable, however, is the 1400W 19-speaker (plus one subwoofer) Bowers and Wilkins sound system in the S90 that is possibly one of the best systems you will get in a car. The XC60 gets a 1100W, 15-speakers setup with a subwoofer which is great in its own right, but we were completely bowled over by the more premium system.

The XC60, on the other hand, gives you a much more commanding driving position. Also, you get a proper panoramic sunroof (the S90 only gets a single pane one) which will be much appreciated by the rear seat passengers as well.

Boss Seat

If you are a rear seat passenger, the S90 gets more features than the XC60. It offers you sun blinds for the windows and a powered rear windscreen sunshade. The seats here feel more comfortable as well, especially because of the more relaxed angle of the backrest. However, there are a few issues. The under-thigh support feels lacking and the space for your feet is slightly compromised because the front seats are mounted close to the floor. And then there is the issue of visibility. Smaller windows and the large front headrests make you feel a bit cramped. A panoramic sunroof here would have made this cabin airier.

The SUV sports seats are more upright, but are mounted higher and offer better under-thigh support. So if you are taller or older, the XC60 will be easier to get in and will feel more spacious as well. But if you want a traditional boss seat experience, with more features and better comfort, the S90 it is.

Space for Gucci and Chanel

The S90’s boot is deep and long, which means you can keep even larger suitcases with ease.

The XC60 does one better. The taller boot here means you can stack up the luggage and have more permutations and combinations to place them. Also, you can fold the seats flat to open up a bed’s worth of space.


After a long day at the office, you’d want the drive back to be in peace. And that requires two things - good ride comfort and cabin insulation. Luckily, the cabin insulation on both these Volvos is incredible. It’s strange that on louder volumes of the stereo, a lot of the music spills outside the cabin. But no matter how loud things get outside, the cabin remains calm.

As for ride comfort, both keep the occupants well cushioned. The XC60 gets standard double-wishbone front suspension and Volvo’s integral axle rear suspension. This almost offers a magic-carpet like ride. The road surface is insulated well and the ride remains plush throughout. On the highways, it does tend to feel a bit too floaty from the driver’s seat, but the occupants won’t mind that.

The S90 does one better. It gets air suspension at the rear to further increase comfort. It absorbs undulations and bad road surfaces well, and keeps the ride flat and composed. Even at higher speeds, it is the S90 that offers the plusher ride of the two and remains more stable as well. If you like to meditate in the car, the S90 would be better.

The path less travelled

The XC60 is an AWD SUV with hill descent control whereas the S90 is an FWD sedan with some ground clearance issues. There was no chance that we would take it off-roading. The S90 did scrape some of the more aggressive parking entries and had us on our toes while going over aggressive speed breakers. The XC60 has no such issue. If you live in an area where there would be ground clearance issues or frequent a farmhouse in the woods, the AWD SUV it is.

Corner carver

Another place where AWD has a natural advantage over FWD is in the handling. But the sedan has physics on its side with a lower center of gravity and less body roll. This was going to be interesting.

In our cornering test, the XC60 managed to not knock any cones at 60kmph. But at 70kmph, it killed one cone. It shows maturity while cornering. While the nose of the SUV is not as sharp to turn in as the sedan and it suffers from body roll, it still manages to feel confident. And while it does understeer a bit y when pushed hard, the AWD system ensures grip and turns the car around with confidence.

The S90, on the other hand, feels nice and stable through the corner. Even at 70kmph, not only did it avoid hitting cones, but did so with a lot of clearance. The clear winner in handling, despite FWD, is the S90. While neither of these cars feel particularly sporty or agile in handling, they do feel safe and confident - just like a Volvo should.

Turbo micro-hybrid power

Both these cars get the same 2-litre turbo petrol engine with 250PS and 320Nm and come mated to an 8-speed torque converter. This powertrain replaces the older 2-litre diesel which was less powerful, but torquier. To aid fuel efficiency, both of these cars come with a 48V mild-hybrid system which offers a seamless auto start/stop function and a mild torque boost.

Acceleration feels effortless and the 2-litre engine is eager to build speeds. It chugs through the revs quickly and shifts feel comfortably quick. The best part: you can barely hear the engine inside the cabin and this experience gives you a proper luxury car feel. But despite the same specifications on paper, it’s the S90 that changes speeds more quickly. It is more eager while accelerating, and more responsive to throttle inputs as well. The same can be seen in the tested numbers as well. The XC60 took 7.78s to 100kmph whereas the S90 took 7.60s. The thing to note is that the average runs for the SUV were close to 8 seconds whereas the S was constantly doing 7.7s. Even the kick-down acceleration time of 20-80kmph for the S90 (5.00s) is better than the XC60 (5.38s). Both of these can cruise on highways and go for gaps in the city with almost equal enthusiasm.

Volvo safe

Volvo cars are among the safest in the world and their ADAS tech is far ahead of the competition as well. Both the SX60 and S90 get adaptive cruise control, Collision Mitigation Support, Pilot Assist, Lane keep Aid and Blind Spot Alert, With these activated, the cars will follow the lane on a highway at a set speed safely. The rear auto braking system though, while parking, feels a bit harsh as it jams the brake with some space left. You know there is more space because of the excellent camera quality. The good thing is you can then continue the manoeuvre by getting on the throttle again. And of course, both the cars get six airbags.

What would you pick?

Our sedan, the Volvo S90, is surely packing some heavy punches. It looks beautiful, drives and handles better, keeps you more comfortable and offers a plush rear seat experience. In this little experiment of ours, it has been able to win hearts. But the head has a few issues. The biggest is the ground clearance. The S90 scrapes on some parking places in the city, and you can't even think of taking it to a farmhouse in the woods.

That you can do with the XC60, along with the family and their camping equipment. Also, it is close to the S90 in the other departments that stand alone, it will never feel like a compromise. And that is enough to convince the head. No matter which body style you choose, these two Volvos make very convincing cases for themselves in the segment.

Volvo S90
Volvo S90
Rs. 66.90 Lakh
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