The Costa Del Sol around Malaga on Spain’s Mediterranean coast is such an attractive destination that the coastal highway is often thick with traffic this time of the year. I’m more than happy, though, to be behind the wheel of a new mussel-blue Volvo S90 heading north toward the mountains. My destination is Lake Vinuela, a man-made reservoir about an hour’s drive as the crow flies, but I’m taking a longer, more indirect route that puts the S90 on highways and curving side roads that offer an inviting sense of solitude.
The S90 is available in a few different variants—perhaps most critically as an all-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive vehicle, rather than a more performance-driven rear-wheel drive. I’m driving the top-end, fully loaded T6 Inscription model. It’s a handsome car both inside and out, bearing unique signatures of its Scandinavian origins. The most striking of these exterior touches are the “Thor’s Hammer” headlights and iron elemental symbol on the front grille.
At 195.4 inches in length, the S90 is long compared to other vehicles in its segment, such as the Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series. That extra length translates into a very roomy, comfortable interior, especially in the rear. Details like aviator-style air vents, diamond-cut knobs, hand-stitched leather, and an easy-to-master vertical display that swipes between menus signals a sensitivity to classic markers of luxury, all married to a distinctive, uncommon driving experience.
This wouldn’t be a Volvo without some new safety features. There’s a Driving Assist technology package that steps in if you’re slow to react to dangerous circumstances and features semi-autonomous technologies that allow the driver to delegate some driving chores to the car in scenarios like bumper-to-bumper traffic. There also is a new, very Swedish “moose detector” that spots large animals in the road ahead—a feature that will appeal to anyone who has ever braked for bounding deer in the dark.
La Marona, a 6,785-foot mountain that overlooks the emerald waters of Lake Vinuela, is in sight. Powered by a turbo-charged four-cylinder, 316-horsepower engine that hits 60 miles per hour in 5.7 seconds, the S90 handles overtaking challenges on two-lane roads well. Overall the ride skews more toward comfort than drama, though the sport mode does add pizzazz as acceleration and braking become more responsive.
At Lake Vinuela, I step out of the car into a still, hot heat. The view is nice but the cooling breeze I left on the coast is more appealing. So is getting back into the S90. My next stop is for a deliciously cold Andalusian gazpacho, but I’m willing to let the anticipation mount while I savor some more time behind the wheel.
From $46,950; volvocars.com.