Not good for carrying washing machines.
When Volvo sought to replace the V70 estate with the new V90, they conducted a survey to figure out what would rank as a priority to their customers in important markets. Global consensus favoured a more style-driven estate car, something svelte and sweet and unmistakably Swede. But the Swedes themselves? They wanted something that could haul a washing machine, or at least that’s what CEO Håkan Samuelsson suggested.
Don’t think the Swedes are all to happy with the V90 then, because the long-roofed model appears to have compromised its cargo space in exchange for a whole ton of style. If you take issue with the V90’s relatively small rear, we invite you to look at it a little longer and feel your stance soften. The V90 Cross Country is an exceptionally pretty car, with its unmistakable design and oodles of presence. Gone are the bluff rear ends of old Volvo estates, with a far more sculpted rump found here. It’s gorgeous this thing, from any angle.
Available in this country exclusively as a Cross Country with a D5 turbodiesel, the V90 urges you to reconsider getting an SUV, giving you the all-wheel drive reassurance and slightly improved ground clearance without going the whole-hog and turning into an XC90. But can it put up a proper fight against the Audi A6 Allroad, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class AllTerrain, or will Volvo remain a luxury-segment outlier here?
“A veneer of wood-look siding once was de rigueur for the well-dressed wagon, but today it seems the only way to sell a station wagon in America is to adorn it with the trappings of an SUV.” - Car & Driver
We’d like to just tell you it’s very pretty and make you go see one in a showroom, but we’re told that isn’t professional. The V90 Cross Country is essentially a raised and beefed-up V90 estate, albeit one with a proper all-wheel drive system. As such, it benefits from the V90’s handsome styling and adds on some rough-and-ready body cladding all the way round to emphasise its increased capability.
Rather than some crossovers that sport increasingly fussy designs, the V90 is pared back and relatively conservative. Aside from the wide and prominent headlights and concaved grille (a nod to the beautiful Volvo P1800 sports car of the 1960s), the V90 XC is restrained. The flanks are sleek and smooth, with only the strong shoulder line of any note, while the rear pulls it all together stunningly. L-shaped taillights drop from the roof and frame the tailgate, with a light signature at night that you can spot from a mile away.
Despite the increase in ride height, the V90 Cross Country doesn’t look in any way less elegant or less stunning than the regular V90, which we don’t get here. That said, it certainly embodies the term ‘crossover’ more literally than most, being a literal cross between an estate car and an SUV, and it does so without looking in any way awkward or out of place. It’s rather nice.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The Cross Country is an extremely quiet cruiser, although we did notice that the D5 engine does sound clattery when cold.” - WhatCar?
Only one engine is offered with the V90 XC, that being a D5 Drive-E turbodiesel engine. Measuring in at just 2.0-litres in capacity, this high-tech engine produces 173kW & 480Nm, and comes fitted with a proprietary technology called ‘PowerPulse.’ Designed to mitigate turbo lag, PowerPulse consists of a 2-litre tank of compressed air that lives near the cars’ turbocharger, that injects that air into the turbocharger to spool it up at low revs. Theoretically, it eradicates diesel turbo lag in its entirety.
The 2.0-litre engine under the bonnet is from Volvo’s Drive-E engine family, which it committed to some time back. This will now be the maximum capacity of engine from Volvo, the design of which accommodates a supercharger and turbocharger to add on power (twin-charging can be found on T6 & T8 petrol units, which share the same basic architecture as the diesels). Fuel consumption is claimed at 5.3L/100km.
“The V90’s minimalist dashboard, plush materials and seriously comfortable seats mean it’s a great place to spend time but some effort to mark out the Cross Country would have helped matters.” - AutoExpress
Volvo’s minimalist approach to design extends from the exterior into the cabin, where you’ll be greeted by an uncluttered, simplistic, and minimalist design. There are only a few buttons on the centre console, with most functions controlled by the large central infotainment screen. Volvo’s Sensus infotainment display is not only crisp and intuitive, its design further enhances the appeal of the V90 XC’s cabin.
The seats in the V90 are more supportive than most spouses, with plenty of adjustment for everything from lumbar support to under-thigh cushioning. Despite their myriad of functions, they’re also remarkably thin, freeing up legroom for passengers in the rear. Not that they’d need it, with plenty of space behind the front seats or all but the tallest passengers. It’s a beautiful place to be, further enhanced by the soft Nappa leather in this Inscription grade car.
Behind the Wheel
“I have to admit, my expectations for this family hauler were exceeded.” - GT Spirit
For a while, Volvo seemed unsure about how it wanted to play its ride and handling game. There were cars that drove particularly well (the V40 and S60 come immediately to mind), and then there were cars like the S80 and XC90 that wafted along as if on a cloud. With the new series of cars however, Volvo appears to have firmly decided that it will play the luxury game, and so the V90 drives with a relaxed, calming demeanour that certainly befits the brand. ‘Serenity’ is the word here, with the V90 XC soaking up lumps and bumps with a certain smoothness, interrupted only by the most violent potholes.
Once you get your head around the V90’s focus on highway cruising, you soon forgive it for its little bit of body roll and lack of communication through the steering wheel. As a family car, the V90 progresses like little else, with little in the way of wind and tyre noise until you wander too far from the speed limit. Off the beaten track, and the V90 impresses further, with its all-wheel drive system capable of guaranteeing progress through all but the most difficult terrain. However, an off-roader this is not, as its ride height and approach/departure angles aren’t quite what you’d need.
This is a crossover in the truest sense, after all.
Safety & Technology
“Volvo has scored immensely well at Euro NCAP and ANCAP. The S90 scored five stars in the latest tests, and Euro NCAP says it is satisfied the V90 estate would do just as well. The V90 Cross Country is the same except for the higher suspension.” - Practical Motoring
It’s a Volvo, and so this segment reads exactly as it should. The Volvo V90 CrossCountry offers a great amount of technology for its six-figure asking price, with advanced driver assistance (ADAS) systems like PilotAssist, autonomous emergency braking, large animal detection (which can spot a moose in Sweden and possibly a kangaroo in Australia), intelligent cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, hill descent and start assist, and rear cross-traffic alert.
A small mention on ProPilot: This is essentially Volvo’s take on autonomous driving. Capable of maintaining a set speed, distance, and trajectory at speed of up to 130km/h, ProPilot is suited best to taking the strain out of traffic snarls rather than piloting you toward the horizon. Being Volvo, the system is very cautious, and requires you to rest a hand on the steering wheel during operation should you need to take over in a situation it can’t handle.
Naturally, there are ISOFIX tethers, a smattering of airbags, and even a system called ‘Run-Off Road Protection’ that primes the cockpit for a collision should the vehicle leave the road.
Volvo has long been an outlier of sorts in the luxury segment, though that hasn’t been the case since the brands’ renaissance, that undoubtedly began with the introduction of the XC90. The brands’ new engines, breathtaking interior architecture, and continued commitment to safety adds up to products that have a distinct focus on today rather than tomorrow, and that’s excellent. The V90 CrossCountry is no different, packing an intelligent and efficient drivetrain in a truly stunning package both inside and out, and will certainly find fans across the continent.
At $110,000 thereabouts, the V90 CrossCountry certainly isn’t cheap, and there are going to be more than a few people who will end up looking at an XC90 instead. That said, if you don’t need a car that enormous, or realise that you’ll never need the full capabilities of an SUV, then the V90 CrossCountry makes the most sense. Capable of eating motorway miles effortlessly while also trundling back roads comfortably, the CrossCountry is a wonderful tool to haul you, your family, their luggage and the dog in style, safety, and luxury.
AutoExpress – 4.0/5.0 – “The new Volvo V90 Cross Country still shows that, two decades on from its conception, the premium crossover-estate is a very appealing proposition. Buyers are still expected to flock to the XC90 SUV, but the estate’s sleek style, strong practicality and upmarket cabin should ensure it has a loyal following.”
GT Spirit – 8.2/10 – “While not marketed as a sports car, if you’re in the market for an responsible “adult” car but still want something fun to drive, give the Volvo V90 Cross Country a look. It’s responsible enough to haul the whole family cross-continent in absolute luxury or take the executive team to lunch, but it’s playful enough that you can tackle fun backroads at speed when you’re by yourself. Another great car from Volvo.”
Practical Motoring – 4.5/5.0 – “The Cross Country might look like just a jacked-up wagon yet it's actually as capable off-road as most crossover SUVs. Because the bodywork and centre of gravity are lower than crossovers, on-road dynamics and fuel consumption are better. The soft chassis and tyres give a quiet, relaxing ride. The cabin is a safe cocoon, but also a roomy and beautiful place to be.”
WhatCar? – 4.0/5.0 – “The V90 Cross Country is practical, and strikes a good compromise between off-road looks and on-road ability.”
Car & Driver – 4.0/5.0 – “The Cross Country treatment might help expand this Volvo wagon’s appeal beyond those traditional Volvo—and station wagon—strongholds. But given that its SUV veneer isn’t much more substantial than the Di-Noc vinyl that adorned yesterday’s Ford Country Squires, it’s probably not going to expand it that far. That’s okay by us, as we’re happy to let wagons be wagons.”