Volvo did just announce a partnership with Electrify America...
I’ll warn you right from the top, the vast majority of what we’re going to cover here is (hopefully educated) guesswork. Normally, when a batch of spy shots roll in — a deep thank you all around to you folks who email your spots to email@example.com — we have a fairly decent idea what it is right off the bat. Take the Mazda CX-50 for example. Sure, I’m TFL’s resident Mazda nerd, but even dialing that out the styling cues were obvious enough to point out that it was at least a Mazda prototype. This one that our friend Walter spotted in Gainesville, Florida? It’s a bit of a puzzler at first glance.
Looking at the front however, the sort of flat-nose styling (even with the camouflage) suggests this could be a follow-up to the nearly six-year-old Volvo S90.
Walter’s only comment beyond the location: “Lady was not too happy about the photos.” That’s usually the case when you catch these folks out in the wild, but drawing more serious ire generally means you’ve happened on something seriously under wraps. We haven’t seen anything, really, that points to some sort of next-gen Volvo S90 follow-up. The Swedish automaker just subtly facelifted their flagship within the past 18 months, so would they follow that up with a completely new car? It’s not unprecedented to do that, but Volvo’s really been focusing on their electric crossovers (like the XC90 and XC60), leaving us mostly in the dark on what’s going on with this one.
Some noteworthy cues
What can help identify this car as a follow-up to the first-gen Volvo S90 is its overall shape. Four-door EVs we’re expecting — Audi A4 and A6 e-tron, Mercedes-Benz EQE, EQS and the like — have more rakish, sportback styling that all but eliminates the traditional rear deck from the design. Volvo’s only just started to get into that styling game, and only with its crossovers thus far. Here, we have a fairly flat front and rear end, for more of a comfortable, if conventional, exterior approach.
The second clue isn’t so much about what this car is, but where it is. Walter spotted this prototype charging at and subsequently leaving an Electrify America charging station. Volvo and Electrify America both just announced their collaboration to provide current Volvo EV owners with free charging, so it makes sense that this car would utilize one of those chargers. Volvo also has its Tech Center in Silicon Valley, which may explain why it’s on California plates (production models typically have New Jersey plates, which is where Volvo’s U.S. corporate headquarters is located).
Technical details? Provided this is the next Volvo S90 or whatever the company decides to call it, as word has it the automaker may switch to actual monikers in place of alphanumeric names, there’s little I can say with certainty. There are no exhaust outlets that I can see, and the charging port is located at the car’s rear. This looks like a pure EV, rather than a plug-in hybrid, so it should ride on Volvo’s newest all-electric architecture. Battery sizes, electric motor outputs and all those other specs are more or less a mystery. The firmest details we have lie with the Concept Recharge (crossover), pointing to an 800-volt system with some seriously impressive range, should Volvo actually make good on its development promises in the coming years.
Why a sedan?
As much as crossovers have driven other automakers to abandon sedans altogether, the S90 is still a flagship in Volvo’s lineup. It’s a strong symbol of the brand’s identity, and it’s still a fairly decent seller. So far this year, U.S. dealers have managed to shift 25,653 S90s, to say nothing of its V90/V90 Cross Country counterparts and the smaller S60/V60. There’s still some demand, and there’s still some competition, at least from the Germans.
Outside Tesla, we’re still in that frustrating period of “wait and see” when it comes to the next-generation electric sedans. Some of these reveals are right around the corner, though with Volvo’s plans we may have to hang on until 2023 or so to see the next chapter in EV sedans (and wagons, for that matter).