For Want of an Interface: The 2022 Volvo S90 B6 AWD R-Design
Updated: Apr 1, 2022
Five years ago, my first drive in the then all-new Volvo S90 had me waxing rhapsodic over at the old TireKicker site. I outlined my many blessings, then confessed to coveting my press fleet's Volvo.
The Volvo S90 B6 AWD R-Design is still a thing of beauty to behold, though the '17s Mussel Blue Metallic is much richer and more flattering than the Thunder Grey Metallic of the 2022 tester.
Under the hood of the 2022 Volvo S90 B6 AWD R-Design is a 295-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo with a 48-volt mild hybrid system making an additional 13 horsepower. It's mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and it has all-wheel drive. EPA fuel economy estimate is 23 city/31 highway/26 combined. It's sufficiently quick, reasonably quiet and very smooth.
A major upside to the S90---a cavernous trunk and limo-like legroom. I'm six feet even. The driver's seat is set for me. The front passenger seat is all the way back.
And while we're talking about seats, the S90s, like every big Volvo I've ever driven, are superb. These are built for 1,000-mile days on the road.
The front row of the cabin also features tons of room, great materials, excellent fit-and-finish.
So what's wrong? For 2022, Volvo has done a deal with Google. The infotainment system is now Android-based. The control interfaces are similar to those Android phone owners use. As of right now, it does not have and it does not support Apple CarPlay. It will, in the first quarter of 2022, Volvo says. It'll come as an over-the-air software update. Eighty percent of new cars sold in the U.S .have Apple CarPlay. Most have both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We're talking about $20,000 cars on up to Rolls-Royces. More than half the market share in cell phones in the U.S. belongs to Apple's iPhones (see a chart of the last nine years here). And at least one well-respected industry analyst believes Android's about to lose half of its users to Apple as soon as the next-gen iPhone SE hits the market.
His point? That iPhone users are largely loyal, while a chunk of Android users are only there because of price.
Even if that defection doesn't materialize and make it a 75% iPhone world, Apple's got 52% of the market---and that's a lot of people who have good reason to either wait a few months to take delivery of a new Volvo---or just go elsewhere.
At this price point, there are too many choices for buyers to have to compromise (even for a few months) on the unavailability of a system like Apple CarPlay, with which they are familiar and which makes driving safer and easier by combining regularly used functions into a simple, direct interface that mimics their phones. And Volvo should know this. Heck, Volvo should know what percentage of Android users are only there because of price---and should realize that those aren't Volvo buyers. Volvo is a premium brand.
Volvo's finding out, in fact. This weekend, ads for Volvos on social media had comments from people saying that the lack of Apple CarPlay and/or an infotainment system based on Android ---to say nothing about privacy concerns regarding Google---were deal-breakers.
Again, Volvo says Apple CarPlay will be available as an update---but that there's "no set date at this time." A scroll back through the last few months of Twitter will set your hair on fire. The Android system in Volvos currently for sale not only doesn't support Apple CarPlay, it doesn't have Android Auto yet. Nor SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Nor AM radio. And the responses from whoever's at the keyboard for Volvo...well, what can they say? This is the point in the movie where the CEO walks into the boardroom, fires more than a few people, orders the lawyers to sue their way out of the Android deal, recalls all product to retrofit it with last year's infotainment system (you know, the one with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM and AM radio), sends all affected buyers a top-of-the-line '21 to drive in the meantime, along with an extravagant gift and a hand-written card that reads "Fan, jag är ledsen."
The base price of the 2022 Volvo S90 B6 AWD R-Design is $54,950. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are 19-inch alloy wheels, a Harmon Kardon premium audio system, a moonroof, four-zone automatic climate control and a full suite of safety features.
Our tester also had extra-cost options: A climate package (high-pressure headlight cleaning, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel) for $750, the Advanced Package (power operated trunk, head-up display, 360-degree surround-view camera and an advanced air cleaner) for $1,900, $695 for metallic paint, $3,200 for a tremendous Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system, $1,200 for Four-C adaptive air suspension, and $800 for an upgrade to 20-inch wheels.
With $1,045 destination charge, the as-tested price of the 2022 Volvo S90 B6 AWD R-Design is $64,540.
On so many levels, this is exactly what a large premium sedan should be. But to re-write an old Benjamin Franklin quote, for want of an interface, many sales will be lost.