What is it? The Volvo V90 Cross Country is the soft-roading final member of the brand’s flagship 90 series.
Key features: Raised ride height, all-wheel-drive, off-road styling.
Our View: The Volvo V90 Cross Country offers all the refined performance and upmarket luxury of its sisters, but with a welcome extra dose of versatility. When the road stops, it doesn’t.
Type of Test: First Drive.
The Volvo V90 Cross Country arrives in showrooms in February, the final variant in a trio of flagship models that have raised the image quality of the Swedish brand.
The S90 saloon and V90 estate models launched in August 2016 to sit alongside the established XC90 SUV. Now with the arrival of the soft-roader variant of the estate, along with the more sports-pitched R-Design trim across the range, Volvo’s range-topping line-up is complete.
It is 20 years since the Swedish brand first launched a Cross Country model with the V70 XC of 1997. The aim was to provide an answer for buyers who need a level of off-road ability, for example for weekend equestrian acitivites on muddy fields, but who don’t want to go the full SUV route. Now with the V90 Cross Country joining its V40 and V60 sisters Volvo can offer the soft-roader option across its model range.
Cross Country outside and in
Volvo V90 Cross Country variants can be distinguished from other V90 models by an exterior makeover designed to give the car a more muscular presence and add a degree of off-road protection. Wheelarch extensions are included, as is lower body cladding and sills in a charcoal finish, and front and rear protective skid plates. The body mouldings can be had in body colour for an additional cost.
Visually it looks the part, and on slipping inside matters just get better. Back when we reviewed the standard S90 and V90 models we were seriously impressed with the quality of fit and finish, and the Cross Country maintains the breed.
As we stated then, the driver’s surroundings have clearly been thought through very carefully indeed, with by far the best aspect being the vertical-format nine-inch touchscreen in the centre console – turning the screen on its head seems such a natural thing to do.
Initially, admittedly, the system is complicated, taking some getting to know as one learns how to control the various aspects of the car, including the Sensus Connect and Navigation system. However it would soon become second nature to an owner using it regularly.
Cross Country powertrain and chassis
Volvo V90 Cross Country models are, currently at least, only offered with diesel powertrains, the four-cylinder 2.0-litre D4 and D5 units built under the brand’s latest Drive-E efficiency programme. There’s no clue yet as to whether the petrol engines offered on continental models, or the forthcoming T8 TwinEngine plug-in hybrid, will be extended to the soft-roader.
The D4 diesel offers 190hp, while the D5 has 235 horses along with the clever PowerPulse tank that injects compressed air into the turbocharger to overcome turbo lag and dial in the maximum torque much earlier in the rev range.
Both engines are combined with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and of course all-wheel-drive. In fact the Cross Country is the only way one can have the D4 engine with AWD, whereas all D5 options across the S90/V90 range come with traction on each wheel as standard.
There are other mechanical modifications made to suit the Cross Country specification. Most pertinently, the car’s ride height is increased by 60mm, producing much more effective approach and departure angles for negotiating difficult terrain.
The drive-control system gains an off-road mode, which operates at speeds under 25mph and automatically brings extra safety systems into play, notably hill-descent control.
Cross Country on the road
While the D5 and its plentiful torque was tempting, The Car Expert tried the D4 variant on the launch, and we can confirm that it really is all one needs. It accelerates smoothly while producing a very high level of refinement, and the 8.8 seconds to pass 62mph is hardly pedestrian in such a car.
On the road the extra height really makes very little difference, apart from providing a more commanding view of the road ahead. The Cross Country rides very well, and while there is a little extra body roll in corners, it’s hardly noticeable and very controllable.
Where the car comes into its own of course, is away from the tarmac. The launch event included a ‘soft-road’ course, consisting of very muddy tracks, stiff gradients both up and down, and the Cross Country took everything in its stride. With off-mode road selected, hill start and hill descent control taking charge, one could negotiate the course with hardly a concern.
Prices and specification
Cross Country variants are offered as a distinct grade on estate V90 models only, based on the existing Momentum entry-level trim, but with the extras we have already described plus such details as larger door mirrors and leather-faced upholstery with stitching bespoke to the model.
At the same time Volvo is adding R-Design trim to the general S90 and V90 range, to offer a more sports-pitched grade between Momentum and the range-topping Inscription level.
R-Design cars gain a bespoke exterior look. The radiator grille mesh is finished in gloss black, as are the lower bumper inlays. Matt silver door mirrors are added, along with bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels.
The changes go beyond the visual, however. The sports theme extends to lowering the car’s ride height by 15mm compared to other S90 and V90 models, and fitting faster-responding monotube dampers with firmer settings.
Inside the front occupants enjoy sports seats with leather/nubuck upholstery, while the perforated leather is added to the steering wheel and gearknob, and the driver’s information display in the dash information panel increased in size from eight to 12.3 inches.
Choosing an R-Design model over the Momentum version will cost the buyer an extra £2,500. The cheapest V90 R-Design is the D4-engined version at £37,455. Cross Country prices, meanwhile start from £39,785, again with the D4 and £4,830 than the stock V90 in Momentum grade. The price is also very close to the £40,000 barrier that on cars bought after 1st April 2017 will add an extra £310 to road tax bills for the first five years. So even the slightest scrutiny of the options list could have financial implications!
Volvo predicts 25 per cent of V90 buyers will choose the Cross Country specification, with the other three trim levels split equally at 25 per cent each. Those that choose the soft roader will have an effective and highly versatile car. It is very accomplished on the road, but when the road runs out, it keeps going…
Volvo V90 Cross Country – key specifications
Models tested: Volvo V90 D4 Cross-Country
On sale: February 2017
Range price: £39,785 – £43,585
Insurance groups: TBA
Engines: 1969cc diesel x 2
Power (hp): 190/235
Torque (Nm): 400/480
0-62mph (sec): 8.8/7.5
Top speed (mph): 130/140
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 54.3/53/3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 138/139
Key rivals: Audi A6 Allroad, Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain
Test Date: February 2017