Excellent estate gets a rugged makeover
2017 marks 20 years since Volvo introduced the V70 Cross Country. Since then the raised, rugged large estate has been a mainstay in the Volvo line up. So, with the V70 replaced by the V90, the arrival of a V90 Cross Country was inevitable.
Volvo V90 D5 Powerpulse AWD Cross Country
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Transmission:Eight-speed automatic driving all four wheels
Top speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
It picks up exactly where the V70 Cross Country left off, taking the standard car, jacking it up and banging on some suitably tough-looking cladding. More importantly, it also features a recalibrated chassis system to handle rough terrain, specially made tyres and bigger door mirrors, along with some unique exterior and interior design features.
Volvo’s product manager for the new V90, Stellan Sällqvist, says the V90 Cross Country is the kind of car to “take the family to the winter cabin up in the woods, no matter what the weather”.
While that might sound a bit like a twee TV ad featuring picturesque Scandinavian scenery and rosy-cheeked, blonde-haired kids, it’s pitching this car just about right. You won’t be scaling mountains or fording lochs in it but if your destination is a Swedish log cabin, a Highland hunting lodge or an isolated farmhouse you’ll feel confident of getting there.
Our off-road test route through a forest replicated the sort of rough, potholed, steep and slippery track you might encounter on a weekend escape to the country. Not massively taxing but tough enough to thwart a regular estate car. The raised ride height, retuned chassis system and electronic traction technology ensure that the Cross Country won’t bottom out and will make the most of what little grip there is.
The Cross Country is raised by 65mm over the standard V90. Getting in and out you notice that extra height but once you’re behind the wheel it doesn’t feel much different to the standard car. In fact, with its raised suspension and taller profile tyres the ride is even smoother and more cosseting. Presumably, if you were absolutely thrashing it around country lanes the handling would feel like it has suffered but why on earth would you be ragging a V90 in the first place?
Inside the cabin the Cross Country gets unique black walnut trim as standard along with crosshatch leather seats. It’s a bit too black for my liking, robbing the cabin of some of the its lightness but you can have the brighter mesh metal finish as a no-cost option. The darker feel aside the interior is the same effortlessly lovely place as always. It’s clear, stylish and beautifully finished and the seats are supremely comfortable. The only black marks are the lack of physical heater controls and a slightly busy instrument display.
As with all V90s there’s plenty of equipment, including the excellent Sensus media/navigation setup, Pilot Assist semi-autonomous system and a host of safety technologies to keep you, other road users and pedestrians safe.
The powered tailgate, power folding rear seats, heated front seats and dual-zone climate control are also standard. Our test car came with several thousand pounds worth of extras including keyless entry and start, 360-degree parking camera, a panoramic sunroof and a Bowers & Wilkins sound system, which are all very nice but do start to push up the price.
There’s space for four taller-than-average adults on board and if you spec the £450 family pack there are two built-in booster seats for the kids. The boot, with its clever fold-up retaining board will hold enough luggage for a family of four whether you’re heading for your log cabin or anywhere else.
Under the bonnet our test car featured the more powerful version of Volvo’s 2.0-litre diesel. This four-cylinder unit with its clever Powerpulse turbo pre-charger is good for 232bhp is an ideal fit for the car. It’s smooth and quiet with plenty of shove thanks to 354b/ft of torque and returns an official 53.3mpg. Both this and the lower-powered D4 come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard which is unobtrusive if not class-leadingly smooth.
Overall, the V90 Cross Country is a consummate family car. It gives as much off-road capability as most users will ever need, loads of space and a fantastic interior all without the brashness of a large SUV.
Volvo S90 R-Design
If the Cross Country is aimed at buyers after a rugged capable family car, the S90/V90 R-Design is for those after a sportier, more dynamic proposition.
Its intentions are set out by a host of tweaks to the standard car’s exterior. Its suspension takes a 15mm drop and there are some R-Design-specific matt black alloys and silver capped wing mirrors. A deeper, blacked-out grille, bumper-mounted fog lights, bigger air intakes and integrated twin exhausts complete the more aggressive, sporty styling. Inside there are also sportier seats and unique finishes for the cabin trim.
R-Design is available in saloon and estate body styles and with either the D4 or D5 engine. Our D5 model had the clever Powerpulse system which uses an electric compressor to fire a burst of high-pressure air into the turbo when the throttle is pressed hard. This pre-loading the turbo more or less eliminates turbo lag and makes for an impressive turn of speed.
Still, it’s a satisfyingly quick car rather that properly fast, but thanks to the all-wheel-drive system there’s plenty of traction even at higher speeds. On its lower, stiffer suspension the ride isn’t as pliant as the standard car but it’s not unduly firm.
Where the R-Design falls down a bit is in other areas tweaked for sportiness. Like many cars, the Volvo’s dynamic mode adds weight to the steering feel. Unfortunately the Volvo’s system feels horribly artificial and overly heavy without much sense of what the wheels are doing. The dynamic setting in the gearbox, too, introduces a harshness not usually present.
The key to the R-Design is in that name. It’s more about the design than the drive. If you want a sharp, dynamic-looking car then the R-Design is great, just don’t expect the driving experience to match the looks. This is still a car best left in comfort mode to waft along smoothly, quietly and calmly.