It is 20 years since the introduction of the Volvo V70 XC, the company's first Cross Country model. Devised as an alternative to the SUV, it matched Volvo's signature boxy estate style with all-wheel drive, helping to kick-start a fresh segment. The new Volvo V90 continues this, except now the V90 is a sleek, sophisticated estate car that rivals the established premium players. Its additional cladding adds further appeal and it's combined with a capable chassis.
In the metal
While how good a car looks is subjective, few people are likely to find fault with the job that Thomas Ingenlath and his team have done in styling the V90 Cross Country. It is an exercise in minimalist design where less is more. Side on it appears stretched and seems even longer than its nearly five-metre length would suggest. The V90's low and wide stance is exaggerated by its broad grille and headlights that feature the company's now signature 'Thor's Hammer' daytime running light design. There's simply no mistaking this car on the road for anything else. Even though the Cross Country has been raised up by 60mm on the new suspension to aid ground clearance, it doesn't look ungainly.
Inside, the cabin is no different to that of the regular Volvo S90 and V90 models. It is simply beautiful thanks to its minimalist design and layout that sees the dashboard dominated by the nine-inch Sensus infotainment system. This screen handles everything from heating controls to satnav and is as slick to use as an iPad. Naturally, for a car at this price point, Volvo offers an excellent variety of trim and upholstery options, though regardless of which you choose it is almost impossible to find any areas that look or feel cheap.
Our experience of the Volvo V90 Cross Country was slightly limited by the snowy conditions of our Swedish location, which meant that our test cars were fitted with studded winter tyres, so we'll reserve our final real-world verdict until we drive the V90 Cross Country on Irish roads. It was, however, ideal conditions to see just what the all-wheel drive transmission is capable of.
The biggest mechanical difference between the Cross Country and regular V90 is a new suspension setup that leaves the car sitting 60mm taller. They aren't simply longer springs, either; the suspension has been set up so that the Volvo still delivers a composed ride that doesn't result in excessive body roll through corners. In fact, you hardly notice any big difference at all. The rear also gets air suspension, although this is only used for self-levelling when carrying a heavier cargo load. The Cross Country's steering is well judged too, with just the right amount of weighting in it.
As with other models in the 90 Series, such as the Volvo XC90 SUV, there are several different drive modes to choose from including a dedicated Offroad setting. This works only up to speeds of 40km/h and is designed for more challenging terrain.
The D5 engine provides a good spread of power, thanks in part to its PowerPulse technology. This gives it strong acceleration from a standstill and there's so much torque that the engine rarely feels strained. You can't have a manual gearbox with this engine, but the eight-speed automatic works very well.
What you get for your money
Volvo Ireland offers two variants of the V90 Cross Country. The standard car includes 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless start, Pilot Assist, leather upholstery and a powered tailgate as standard, while the Pro specification adds the 12.3-inch digital driver display, Drive Mode settings, ambient interior lighting and Nappa soft leather upholstery.
As the Cross Country costs around €5,000 more than the regular Volvo V90 it is going to have limited appeal, but this is a niche segment of the market in any case. It remains a very desirable car and for those in the market, the added premium may not be an issue at all.