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Volvo Styling Moves Upmarket in S90 Flagship

September 23, 2016 10:09 am
Volvo Styling Moves Upmarket in S90 Flagship

“Is it a Jag?” asked a friend as we approached the new Volvo flagship.

Noting the resemblance to the low and wide XF – at least from a distance – I nodded, but pointed him a bit further north than Coventry, England.

“Try Sweden. And no, you probably haven’t seen one on the road yet.”

Indeed, the all-wheel-drive S90 just hit showrooms in September, and at the price of $56,900 for base and $63,000 for the top-trim Inscription model (plus options), they may sell a few.

It’s a large vehicle with a coupe silhouette – long bonnet, short rear deck and steeply-raked (and lowered) roofline – with big wheel openings at all corners.


Controls and settings are managed by Volvo’s 9.3-inch Sensus infotainment, flanked by tall air blades and topped by stitched leather in the upper dash. Linear walnut trim connects the doors and front panel.

The upright grille with prominent ironmark logo is reminiscent of the early-sixties P1800 coupe, and it is flanked by narrow-cut headlamps with distinctive “Thor’s Hammer” running lights.

The S90 looks expensive, and that carries on inside. Here, you’ll see and feel premium materials and detailing, like heated leather seating in the base sedan, with leather in the dash and doors of the Inscription model, as tested. This top-trim S90 also receives perforated Nappa skins on the seats, which are cooled as well as heated up front, and as attractive as they are comfortable.

Front occupants also get eight-way power with cushion extenders, adjustments for lumbar and side bolstering, and seat memory for the driver.

Tired of overly-glossed wood that looks like plastic? The “linear walnut” in my ride had that raw, open-grained feel that looks authentic, not stodgy.

New air blades flank the 9.3-inch “Sensus” infotainment screen. Here, you’ll find audio, streaming music, built-in WiFi, navigation, vehicle settings, and the Volvo On Call app that lets you start remotely, lock/unlock the doors, warm or cool the cabin, or call roadside assistance.

A heads-up display is optional, but the road sign information system comes standard and helps avoid that awkward conversation: “Sorry officer, I didn’t see the sign…”

Also useful are power rear headrests that drop at the push of a button, aiding visibility through the S90’s smallish rear window.


There’s plenty of head, leg and shoulder room for three full-sized adults in rear. Occupants can also enjoy optional heating and separate HVAC for right and left passenger.

As you’d expect in a large sedan, there’s loads of head and leg room in back, along with separate HVAC controls for right and left passenger, and optional heated seats.

Seatbacks also fold to enlarge the 500-litre trunk. There’s a pass-through for longer objects like skis and lumber – and for those who might struggle to close it, a standard power trunk lid.

Although Volvo now punches harder against premium and luxury contenders, it hasn’t wavered on its traditional strengths.

The company’s standard-equipped City Safety is already impressive in its ability to detect people and swerving cyclists – even applying the brakes if you don’t. But that’s now been expanded to large animals, like deer. This may not seem an issue for city dwellers, but where I used to live, nearly every neighbour had at one time nailed or clipped one of our antlered friends. And I’ve had a few close calls.

The S90 also gets Volvo’s full suite of safety and driver aids, including collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert, adaptive cruise control, park assist camera and sensors, and lane departure warning with run-off road mitigation that now works at highway speeds, rather than just 50 km/h.

I know Volvo has put considerable resources into autonomous driving wizardry, and have done their homework on Pilot Assist. But are the lane markings, on which it relies, as good as this tech?

You can feel the system self-correct with a gentle nudge to the steering, should you veer to either side of the lane. And, yes, you do have to keep hands on the wheel. Which is a good thing, as I’m still hesitant to roll the dice on a strip of paint.

Optional on both S90 models is blind spot information with cross-traffic alert – included in the $2,000 Vision Package that also adds power retractable side mirrors and a 360-degree “bird’s eye” monitor with individual front/side/rear views.

With so many of today’s rides using more sheet metal and less glass – which looks great, but sucks for visibility – I’ve grown to appreciate these electronics.


Visual Park Assist & Front “Fisheye” View
With our 360° camera you can see a virtual bird’s eye view of the area surrounding your Volvo. A high-resolution image is shown in the centre display and will be a great help for example when manoeuvring or reversing in tight areas with impaired visibility – you can even see what’s going around the corner at a 180° side view in front or at the rear of your car. The system uses four hidden cameras: two at the door mirrors, one at the front and one at the rear. And by gently touching the camera images on the centre display touch screen, you can get a view from just that camera. The rear camera can also be switched to a zoomed-in view close to the car – very convenient when hitching a trailer, for example.


The S90’s wide shoulders, nicely-integrated dual exhaust finishers and large wheel openings filled by (optional) 20-inch alloys, present an athletic look from the rear.

But Volvo hasn’t left safety to the tech nerds, as the vehicle still relies on the company’s bank-vault build quality. The S90’s safety cage is made of rigid boron and lighter steels, which not only helps hold its shape in an accident, but disperses energy.

Sensible stuff, but to compete against German rivals like Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Audi A6, not to mention Lexus GS and the previously-mentioned Jag, you need reasonable performance.

Volvo has been moving away from V8s and sixes, replacing them with inline fours – with boost. For the S90, this means a turbocharger and supercharger, giving its 2.0-litre engine the ability to produce 316 hp and 295 lb/ft of torque.


Long, low and steeply-raked, Volvo’s S90 flagship points to a design direction that is anything but boxy.

Those are heady numbers, but keep in mind that the S90 is no lightweight at 3,889 lbs (over two tons with passengers). Yet it manages the zero to 100 km/h sprint in under six seconds, and with my less-than-conservative throttle application, still delivered 10.7 litres/100 km for the week.

The driving experience can be tailored, using a knurled chrome roller to select one of three drive modes: Eco, Comfort and Dynamic. These do what you’d expect – slower throttle response and earlier gear changes in Eco; the opposite in Dynamic.

The S90 may not be a high-strung German sports sedan, but it handles the twisty-turnies just fine. Its suspension is more on the comfort side than firm, but body lean is minimal in the corners. A nice balance of Euro and North American tastes – even on the optional 20-inch ‘diamond cut’ alloys and skinny rubber.

S90 is the latest effort in Volvo’s product line renewal, and with the sleek V90 Cross Country coming in 2017, it appears the automaker has finally shed its box-like ways.

SNAPSHOT: 2017 Volvo S90
BODY STYLE: full-size sedan
ENGINE: (as tested) 2.0-litre inline four cylinder with turbocharger and supercharger (316 hp, 295 lb/ft)
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic manual mode, electronically-controlled AWD
FUEL ECONOMY: as tested, 10.8/7.6/9.4 L/100km (city/hwy/comb)
CARGO: 500 litres
PRICING: T6 AWD $56,900; T6 Inscription $63,000 (plus options)
WEBSITE: volvocars.com

From the Rock to the Capital, Séan McCann’s Road to Recovery: Part 2

9:43 am
From the Rock to the Capital, Séan McCann’s Road to Recovery: Part 2

Photos by Dave Howells / Artwork by Meaghan Smith

In part one of our interview with Séan McCann, we discussed his battles with alcoholism, his choice to leave Great Big Sea and uproot from his Newfoundland home. We catch up with McCann, now a solo musician in need of work,  adapting to his new life here in the Ottawa area.

In the year since he’s been here, McCann has played a few shows in support of his deeply personal release Help Your Self.

McCann was surprised to discover how his story affected others, many who shared their own experiences with him and showed him that he was not alone. Eventually, he would start giving talks to others who have dealt with alcoholism.

Adapting to life in the capital, he has found a love of kayaking the Ottawa River and a city that has four definable seasons. He’ll be performing for his new home crowd on October 22 at the National Arts Centre. He’s also working with Ottawa Life Magazine and Vets Canada on a project which looks to bring a charity concert to the city in 2017 in hopes to raise funding for 1,000 guitars for homeless Veterans suffering from mental health issues.


Ottawa Life: How have you found adapting to a solo career?

Séan McCann: Going solo has been very hard work but I have never been a lazy person and as long as I still love what I am doing I will never give up. I believe the music industry (not unlike a typical alcoholic) has been in denial for many years and it’s inability to face the truth has caused it to lose it’s way. Good management would have served Great Big Sea well in it’s time of need but instead ours acted as a divisive force. I will not let that happen to me again. I have learned to help my self and now handle all aspects of my own career directly. I have found that most people are comforted and refreshed by my hands on and personal approach. I don’t know how much of the “music business” will really be left in 5 years, but I can guarantee you that I will still be right here doing what I love to do; writing sincere songs and sharing them with those who can still remember how to listen.

sean_mccann_june2015-01cPutting together Help Your Self must have been pretty cathartic. Can you tell me about that project and what it meant to you?

People always ask me how I managed to quit drinking, what therapy did I use to get me through the really hard days that are always part of exorcising an addiction. I believe that music is powerful medicine. These songs helped me make sense of my own desperate situation. It was a very personal record but something remarkable happened when I shared the songs online. My story resonated with thousands of people who felt the same pain. I realized that I was not alone and that made all the difference.

Last year you left the East Coast and moved close to Ottawa. What made you decide to come here?

Like many Newfoundlanders before me, I left home primarily for employment. I was only offered two shows back home last year. 2016 will see me doing over sixty events in Ontario alone. I love my job and I want to keep working.

Was it a difficult transition?

Moving is never easy but I have been coming here for 25 years and Ottawa has always been good to me. Everyone has been so helpful and my family has been made to feel right at home. We are all very grateful for the kindness this great city has shown us. I am very proud to be an Ottawa citizen.

sean-5What have you found to be some of the main differences between where you came from and where you currently are?

I am an avid kayaker. I miss the big North Atlantic swells but it is nice to paddle over water that isn’t actively trying to murder you. That and maybe sunshine.

Can you tell me some of your favourite things about the Ottawa area now that you’ve had a year here?

I like that there are four definable seasons. Where I come from Spring and Autumn are a usually a bit of an afterthought. The Winter is much colder here but the increased exposure to sunlight helps make up for that. I also like the fact that most days I can drive to work. I have travelled all over this planet and Ottawa is a truly world class city. People are friendly and my family feels safe.

You have done some speaking for people going through alcoholism. How has that experience been for you?

Sharing my Truth is never easy but I believe it helps people find their own way to recovery and inspires them to help them selves. Secrets kill but a song can save a life. I have learned that we are all worthy of love and this is why I released my new songs in a book complete with lyrics, notation, guitar chords, and original artwork by my good friend Meaghan Smith. “You Know I Love You” is a natural progression; my continuing evolution out of darkness and into a lighter life.

sean-6You also involve yourself with charity groups and, recently, released “Proud (To Be a Canadian)” to benefit victims of Fort McMurray. What are causes that are important to you and why?

I would like to help overcome the stigma that still persists around Mental Health and Addiction and to that end I do a lot of public speaking for a variety of organizations, sharing my story in the hope it will encourage other’s to face their own pain and move forward. After all, if the singer from the biggest party band in Canada can quit drinking, then anyone who wants to is capable of  living soberly. We all have problems but I believe that many of these can be overcome when we realize that together we are never alone. I greatly admire people who have been able to face their own fear and speak their Truth. People like Sheldon Kennedy and Clara Hughes. This year I have been very impressed by the efforts of  Vets Canada and Guitars for Vets. I am a devout pacifist and I have learned that most Canadian soldiers are too. We are working together to put off a show in Ottawa in 2017. The goal is to raise enough money for 1000 guitars to give to homeless Veterans offering from mental health issues.

Finally, now with roots in Ontario, what does the future hold for you?

I feel like I have been granted a second chance and I fully intend to make the most of this opportunity. Now that my freedom from addiction has been found,  my future shall remain unlimited.


McCann performs at the National Arts Centre on October 22nd. Tickets can be purchased here.

Weekend What’s Up- September 23-25

9:24 am
Weekend What’s Up- September 23-25

Here at Ottawa Life, we’re always looking for fun events that our city offers each weekend. Here is what the city has in store for you this September 23-25. See you there!


Harmonic Generation Auditions, Ottawa Public Library, September 25
Harmonizing has always been your interest? Join this weekend’s Harmonic Generation auditions on Saturday, September 25th from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in room B125 at the Ottawa Public Library located on 120 Metcalfe Street. All vocal parts are welcome to audition.
For more information please visit:
www.harmonicageneration.ca or call (613) 836-6070.

Ottawa International Animation Festival, Downtown Ottawa, September 21-25Animation Festival
Join this year’s celebration of 40 years of the International Animation Festival. Somewhere you can learn and talk about the best animations from around the world. Stay tuned to know more about celebrated stars, studios and characters; don’t miss out! From September 21st to 25th in Downtown Ottawa, 120 Daly Avenue. For more information, please contact: (613) 232-8769.

Beau’s Oktoberfest, Vankleek Hill, September 23-24
From a Malt Sack Race to a Sausage Eating Contest, that’s right, it’s Beau’s Oktoberfest time! Starting on Friday, September 23rd to Saturday, September 24th, on 92 Main Street West, Vankleek Hill, Ontario. Enjoy an afternoon full of fun activities and lots of prizes! Gather all your friends and don’t miss this great event! For more information, please access: http://www.beausoktoberfest.ca/

ferris-wheelCarp Fair, Carp, September 22-25
Don’t miss out on this year’s Carp Fair! Known as the “Best Little Fair in Canada”, Carp Fair will be taking place from September 22nd to September 25th at 3790 Carp Rd, Carp, Ontario. Gather friends and family to enjoy a lovely afternoon with musical performances and agricultural exhibits. For more information, please access: http://carpfair.ca/

Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa, September 20 – October 9theatre-masks
Make sure to get your ticket for this weekend’s performance of The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble, presented to you on the GCTC stage. Written by Beth Graham, the story unfolds the life of Bernice, a mother of 3 children who finds out she has early onset Alzheimer’s. From September 20th to October 9th, gather friends and family for a journey into the world of entertainment. For more information regarding showtimes, please access: www.gctc.ca 

OLM Pet of the Week- Meet Gino

September 22, 2016 1:11 pm
OLM Pet of the Week- Meet Gino

Photos used with permission from Freedom Dog Rescue. 

After a brief hiatus, we’re happy to bring back our Pet of the Week! Each week we feature adoptable pets from around Ottawa who are looking for a home to call their own. You may remember a couple months back we featured Adria, a Jindo mix who was rescued from the South Korean dog meat trade. This week we’re excited to introduce you to another pup who has started a new life here in Canada thanks to the efforts of the Humane Society International. Meet Gino, an adorable Siberian Husky who, like Adria, was brought over to Canada after spending the first part of his life crammed in a cage at a dog meat farm. Gino is approximately 1-year-old and is being fostered with Freedom Dog Rescue.

Gino has been adjusting very well to his new life in Canada! If your favourite things include: jogging, hiking, and/or taking long walks, Gino might very well be the perfect pup for you! This boy LOVES to race around outside and would be the perfect companion for your outdoor activities- whether it be a jog, or an adventure around town. Gino’s ideal home would include an active family with a fenced-in backyard for him to play in. Gino would also thrive in a home with another dog who matches his energy-level to wrestle and race with!

While his transition to a new life hasn’t been smooth sailing, Gino has been working very hard to overcome his fear of humans and strange noises. All he needs is a little patience and a tonne of love and with enough exposure, he could be the perfect addition to any family!

If Gino sounds like the right fit for your home, you can fill out an adoption application form on the Freedom Dog Rescue website, or email freedomdogadoptions@gmail.com for more information.

About the Rescue:

Freedom Dog Rescue is an Ottawa-based not-for-profit organization founded in 2015. Running entirely on volunteers and foster homes, Freedom Dog is dedicated to helping dogs locally and internationally find loving forever homes. All dogs from Freedom Dog Rescue are spayed/neutered and are up-to-date on their vetting. Their adoption process includes an application form, a home visit and a meet-and-greet to ensure that both and owner and the dog are the right match.

OLM Pet of the Week is a weekly segment on our site which showcases adoptable pets in our Capital. Each week a new pet will be featured in order to help them find a loving forever home. Any Ottawa-based animal rescue interested in having an adoptable pet featured can email isabel@ottawalife.com.

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