You’d have to have been living under a rock for the last 10 years to have missed the rise of the SUV and its dominance of the car market. Even Volvo has transformed itself, with its XC60 and XC40 among the most popular and best SUVs available.
But what if you like the idea of all-wheel drive car that can handle some rough stuff, but don’t want an SUV? Volvo has the answer in the shape of the V90 Cross Country. Taking its large V90 estate as a starting point, the V90 Cross Country is equipped with all-wheel drive and 65mm of added ground clearance.
Volvo’s heritage in this line of jacked-up estates is strong, with the company having invented the genre with the V70 Cross Country back in 1997, since when the likes of Audi, Mercedes and Skoda have produced their own interpretations.
The V90 Cross Country distinguishes itself from the V90 estate with its raised ride height and a healthy dose of plastic trim round the body which Volvo calls ‘Charcoal’. This isn’t just for show either, with the dark trim there to protect the paintwork when you take the vehicle off-road.
It’s big as well, putting some SUVs to shame with a length of 4,936mm and a width of 1,879mm. This does mean the V90 Cross Country will swallow four adults with ease, and while the boot space isn’t class-leading there’s still a voluminous 560-liter capacity with the seats up, while fold the seats down and you get 1,526 liters, which should satisfy even the most committed IKEA junkie.
Volvo has got its interiors pretty much spot-on at the moment, and the V90 Cross Country is no exception. Drop into one of the incredibly comfy seats and you’re wrapped in a welcoming mix of light colors and premium materials, including matte woods. It’s a very nice place to be, especially if you’ve got a long drive ahead of you. Rear visibility could be better, but rear parking sensors are standard, and we’d recommend opting for Xenium Park from the options list - this comes with a handy 360-degree camera that’s a huge help when parking.
With a definite twist of Scandi design, the center console is both smart and modern, and as in other new Volvos is dominated by a large, portrait-orientated 9-inch touchscreen display.
Pretty much every facet of the car is controlled from this display, and the overall user experience is very good considering, with only a few minor niggles - some controls or settings require a couple of presses of the screen to access. The minimalist design also means there are no dedicated controls for climate control, and adjusting these settings requires a bit of a fiddly flicking of the touchscreen.
There are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto options, with both integrating very well into the Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system, along with two USB ports.
The V90 Cross Country sports a 14-speaker 600W sound system from Harman Kardon as standard, while for the serious music aficionado there’s a punchy 18-speaker Bowers & Wilkins system that delivers 1,400W.
Think Volvo and you think safety, and that’s certainly true with the V90 Cross Country, with a wide selection of safety aids on hand to anticipate and avoid potential accidents. This includes automatic emergency braking that uses an integrated radar, and a forward-facing camera to detect objects in front of you and warn of a potential collision; it’s even clever enough to apply the brakes to either avoid or, worst-case scenario, limit the impact of, a collision should you fail to react in time.
There’s also a Blind Spot Information System, so should you start to pull out of your lane on a highway as someone is creeping up on your blindside you’ll get a beep and a flashing light in the corresponding wing mirror to warn you to stay put.
A feature that has impressed in the past on other Volvos is the excellent semi-autonomous Pilot Assist drive technology, and it's great to find that it’s a standard feature on the V90 Cross Country. This automatically keeps you at a set speed or distance from the vehicle in front, braking and accelerating with the flow of traffic, and gives gentle steering inputs to keep the car within lane markings (you can’t take your hands off the wheel however) at motorway speeds up to 80mph. It's clever stuff that always leaves us feeling impressed - and not quite as tired on long journeys.
The V90 Cross Country is available with four engines, two diesels (a D4 with 190hp and a D5 with 235hp), and two petrol units (a T5 with 250hp and T6 with 320hp). All are automatic, while the V90 Cross Country differs from the standard model in that it features an ‘Off Road’ Driving Mode; and should you get serious if and when you take the V90 Cross Country off-road, a hill descent control.
We test drove the T5 engine, and on the road, and thanks to the extra suspension travel, it happily wafts along, taking potholes in its stride on country roads. While it’s perhaps not the most dynamic driving experience, that’s not this car's brief. It’s an incredibly quiet and refined vehicle that delivers a relaxed, stress-free driving experience.
You might be paying a premium for the V90 Cross Country over the standard V90, but it certainly makes a compelling case for itself. Delivering the best of both worlds, the V90 Cross Country is a large and comfy estate with off-road credentials to match many SUVs.