Volvo! What are you doing? Why are you building such epic automobiles? This is the V90 Cross Country, the all-terrain wagon version of the batshit attractive, full-size, S90 luxury sedan I drove this winter. It’s big, jacked up, and seems to have been prepped for an apocalypse. Yes, the V90 Cross Country is actually a thing people. And it’s absolutely gorgeous.
Here’s the controversy with Volvo’s paradigm these days: they’ll sell you an SUV, and not just the big one; there’s a smaller version coming soon, the XC60. But then, with this V90 Cross Country, Volvo’s also telling you to forget the SUV. What you need to keep your family safe is a big, brown all-wheel-drive station wagon with extra road clearance. Contradictory? Absolutely. Am I complaining? Nope!
If you’re addicted to SUVs, like, pretty much everyone in North America these days, you’ll be happy to know that this station wagon not only sits on the same platform as the XC90, but also measures the same total length, albeit with a slightly shorter wheelbase. So don’t worry, this thing’s got enough room for your kids and their toys.
Great, now that argument is settled.
And what a car this is. There aren’t many luxury vehicles on the road today that can mimic this V90 Cross Country (the Audi Allroad comes close). Sitting at just about five meters long, and a smidge under two meters wide, the V90 XC is nothing short of spectacular. It’s sleek, hunkered down, and beautifully sculpted. While I yearn to get behind the wheel of the non-cross-country version of this car, the V90 (review coming soon), this is arguably Volvo’s best design yet. And they’ve been dishing out quite gorgeous automobiles lately.
There’s just something about wagons that really sets my pace going, especially Volvo wagons. I love how the rear tapers down on this one to meet the stylish LED tail lights that are not only reminiscent of past Volvos, but have also been designed to make the car as visible as possible on the road. Up front, there’s the now traditional “Thor’s Hammer” LED treatment, and the bold, shark-like Volvo maw we now all positively embrace. For the Cross Country, Volvo raised the suspension by 66 mm, gave it a set of model-specific 19-inch wheels, thicker tires, a more rugged front fascia and rear bumper with Cross Country lettering, a darker front grille, as well as plastic wheel arches and lower body panels. Those can either be ordered in black, like my tester, or in the car’s body color.
Speaking of body color, my Cross Country was very brown – an appropriate shade for this type of vehicle. Volvo calls the hue Twilight Bronze, a very fitting camouflage for my drive across a wet and muddy Canadian spring season.
By now, I’m starting to get rather familiar with Volvo cars and trucks in general, since, except for the V60 Polestar I drove a few weeks ago, they all share the same platform and drivetrain. This V90 XC is pretty much a mechanical carbon copy of the S90 sedan, which is a mechanical carbon copy of the XC90 SUV. The engine and drivetrain combination remains, of course, the same. I’m talking about the immensely impressive T6, 2.0-liter, turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder, an engine that continues to humiliate the competition with its size/performance ratio. As in the S90, 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque are sent to all four wheels via a Haldex-type all-wheel-drive system. An eight-speed, smooth as a buttered corn-on-the-cob automatic remains the sole gearbox option at the moment.
For the Cross Country, that engine continues to pull strong throughout the rev range, even with the extra 212 kg it needs to carry around. It still comes with its usual quirks such as a jolty and laggy throttle pedal, and a rather un-mechanical whirling sound. What the engine lacks in smoothness and refinement, however, it makes up in impressive performance off the line and class-leading fuel economy. Volvo claims a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 5.8 seconds. That’s just 0.2 seconds slower than its sedan counterpart. But guys, seriously, 5.8 seconds for a full-size brown wagon, we can live with that now can we?
While I was out there in the open with the V90 XC, driving as I usually do, allowing myself to smash the throttle pedal to my liking, and not trying too hard to save fuel, I got an average consumption rating in the high eights. Seriously, that engine truly kicks ass.
Go Ahead, Get it Dirty
On the road, the V90 XC exhibits the same planted, secure and impressively nimble driving dynamics as its sedan sister. Of course, being lifted off the ground with thicker sidewall rubber all around does mean extra body motions are felt. But it’ll still out-handle any crossover, which is the bit of important information you really need to remember. Because no matter how “sporty” carmakers attempt to make their utility vehicles, they’ll never match the low gravity center of a car, meaning it will always be the safer and more enjoyable option to drive around in.
The V90 Cross Country is probably the coolest middle finger to SUV domination.
The softer suspension setup and thicker tires on the V90 XC do help at toning down the loud tire roll and heavy-footed nature of the S90. While much smoother over rough surfaces, the Cross Country remains a rather stiff wagon. Let’s just say it’ll let you know when you’ve driven over one of Montréal’s legendary potholes. The V90 XC can be had with the same optional adaptive suspension as the XC90, which changes its settings according to the car’s four different drive modes, Comfort, Eco, Dynamic, and Off Road, all adjustable through a button located on the center console.
Yes, when equipped with the fancy shocks, your V90 will raise its ride height in Off Road mode to take on the rough stuff, just like the XC90 does. But as you can see in these pictures, not having the option ticked off on my tester didn’t stop me from having some good old fashion off-road fun with it. You can only drive the V90 XC in Off Road up to about 40 km/h. The setting merely fiddles with the traction-control system, activates hill-descent control, and sends more power and torque to the rear wheels to enhance overall traction. But it definitely helps.
From my experience in the muddy stuff, I can say that the V90 XC’s long wheelbase, wide track and exemplary all-wheel drive system allow it to crawl its way out of the tricky stuff rather effortlessly. While I wouldn’t take mine in a rock-climbing contest, it’s competent enough to get you and your family out of serious trouble – probably more so even than most mall-finders out there.
Swedish Minimalism at its Best
The V90 Cross Country comes, as expected, with a supremely comfortable, serene and madly well-crafted interior. I’m getting spoiled because I’m no longer impressed with this cabin. Only when I had a family member sit in the car was I reminded at how beautiful this thing is.
For the Cross Country, things are slightly toned down and more business-like than in the uber-classy S90. Wood trim is replaced by brushed aluminum. My tester had the black Nappa leather seats, which continue to hold you firmly in place to the setting of your liking while looking equally stylish. The complimentary Swedish flag is a no-cost option for all modern Volvo seats.
As with the S90 and XC90, the dashboard is clean, elegant and unobstructed by useless lines and curves. This is a straight-edged slab that spans the interior of the car from left to right, with elegant vertical air inlets for the climate system, digital dials that can be customized to your liking. Volvo’s touch-operated infotainment system remains quick, intuitive and enjoyable to use, and there’s the usual Bowers & Wilkins circular tweeter adorned in the center of the dash just aft of the windshield.
The exquisite sound system also shows its muscle through the door-mounted speakers, peaking behind a stylish brushed aluminum cover that looks, again, absolutely stunning. It’s all so freakin’ beautiful in there. I swear, I could write an entire column just on Volvo interiors. The attention to detail is almost orgasmic.
Of course, all this luxury, craftsmanship, and off-road capability come at a price. The Volvo Cross Country kicks off at $61,900, only $2,000 more than a conventional V90. While not exactly cheap, Volvo wants you to see the XC package as an optional trim level, and not a different car than the V90. Of course, add all the optional packages on your battle wagon, and you’ll easily top the 80k bar. Ouch! At least, Volvo now has several good reasons to justify its high sale prices, which wasn’t always the case in the past.
At the end of the day, you can’t deny how appealing the Volvo V90 Cross Country is. Its rear seats offer more legroom than the XC90, with a tad less head room due to the lower roof, but remains a very comfortable place to spend time in. Then, there’s the cargo space, which is a show-stopper all by itself. With all seats folded flat, the V90 XC will engulf a total of 1529 liters of your junk.
While significantly less than the XC90, the V90 still puts to shame some similarly priced utility vehicles in the likes of the Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace.
There goes Volvo with another homerun. As Volvo Canada’s own spokesperson, Kyle Denton, so eloquently put it at the 2017 New York Auto Show: “We’re in a good position at the moment, with many options ahead of us from the Polestar division, hybrid propulsion, wagons, and now the new XC60. This is definitely exciting.”
Indeed Volvo, you’re on a roll. Considered to be the biggest threat to the current luxury car market, the Swedish carmaker is steadily coming out of the ashes, dropping Scandinavian bombshells on the entire industry, while us auto journalists sit here in absolute awe, digging deep in our vocabularies to properly interpret in words how this all feels. As for me, I’ll go out and write the first words that come to mind: absolutely epic.
Review of the 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country by William Clavey
- Stunning exterior and interior styling.
- Powerful and efficient powertrain.
- Impressive off-road performance.
- Unrefined engine sound.
- Awkward throttle delay.
- Still a rather stiff ride.