The Volvo XC90 is one of our favourite large SUVs but Volvo know that there are plenty of people who havenít yet bought into the whole SUV-thing. This is why Volvo created the very pretty V90 Cross Country.
The V90 really does take all the qualities car buyers love about SUVs. Qualities such as space, practicality and 4x4 capability are all wrapped up in a stylish and understated package that really wouldnít look out of place in a display of a Swedish design store. This car basically builds on years of Volvo expertise in designing cars that can cope with the very worst of Scandinavian winters and competes with cars such as the Audi A6 Allroad. However, we honestly think that this car is a far more elegant alternative to any of its rivals.
The V90 provides a 65 millimetre raise in ride height which is combined with a standard four-wheel-drive system to provide extra ground clearance and better traction. Inside the cabin the story is very similar with it being very simple, understated and elegant. We love the little touches that this car gives you such as the crystal trim you get on the start button whilst all the storage compartments are beautifully hidden away. The whole interior really is an array of really tactile contrasting materials. One of the things we like most in here is the tablet-like infotainment system. Due to the fact it just looks like a huge tablet on the central console it means that you get none of the usual clutter that you find in so many other cars. Ok, we werenít great fans of this setup in the Volvo XC90 but this is probably more due to the fact that weíre luddites and arenít used to new technology very well. However, today we think itís absolutely fantastic as itís extremely intuitive and really easy to use. You have everything you need on the central screen and we really like the fact that the climate control isnít hidden away in a sub-menu. Instead, itís placed sensibly at the bottom of the screen where itís easy to access. Thereís also a manual audio control and you can pinch and zoon the screen just as you do on your regular tablet. We think that this has to be one of the best premium systems out there simply because it does exactly what great technology should do. It doesnít confuse and actually makes your life easier.
One thing you donít get with this car is a huge amount of choice when it comes to specification and trim. This is because the Cross Country is really a trim level all on its own. However, itís pretty well equipped particularly in the top of the range Pro version. Every V90 comes with a huge list of equipment as standard. This equipment includes the 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system we mentioned earlier, semi-autonomous drive technology that can take care of the steering accelerator and speeds of up to 80 miles per hour (mph), keyless entry, LED headlights, two-zone climate control, heated front seats, 17 inch alloys, split folding rear seats and a whole raft of safety kit. This safety kit is part of Volvoís commitment that nobody should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020.
When it comes to practicality, the V90 does take a hit over its larger SUV sibling the XC90. The boot space is considerably smaller but itís the price you pay for the lovely low roofline. However, it does compare well against rivals in the estate class. Thereís more than enough space for day-to-day use thanks to a wide opening, low load lip and plenty of tethering points. The practical nature of the boot means that you probably wonít need to drop the rear seats to often but when you do then they do fold flat.
Sit in the back and youíll discover that the Cross Country will easily accommodate a family of four even if every member is 6ft tall. Thereís room in the middle for a fifth passenger though the rather large transmission hump means that itís best suited to children as legroom wonít be at a premium. When it comes to children you do get a couple of IsoFix child-seat points and the back seat doors open nice and wide to make getting the little ones in and out easier. The rear also gets its own climate control complete with a touchscreen to keep everyone in the back warm or cool.
When it comes to engines, and diesels are for you, then there are a choice of two. Thereís the 2.0 litre D4 or D5. Thereís also the option of a 2.0 litre V6 petrol which feels both smooth and fast. All engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic gearbox.
The car were reviewing for this article is the less powerful D4 diesel engine fitted and it isnít as punchy as the D5 which picks up really well right throughout the range. We have to say that the D4 is a bit blustery when itís not doing much but as the model weíre driving has the rather excellent, although rather expensive, Bowers and Wilkins sound system fitted youíll soon forget this. Once you do open the engine up then itís absolutely fine and things get an awful lot quieter. The regular Volvo V90 and the Cross Country version isnít quite as focused on the driver as the BMW 5 Series Touring or the Mercedes Benz E Class estate but we think this is a rather refreshing decision on Volvoís part as it has other things going for it. Itís a comfortable, relaxing and peaceful car to drive and this allows those motorway miles to slip by almost unnoticed. This isnít to say that the Cross Country doesnít handle well. Ok, the steering might be on the light side but it still responds well on twisty roads when itís pushed. The only thing weíd say here is that the raised ride height does mean it leans a little into bends. You also notice those lumps and bumps in the road more than you do in the standard V90. While you can opt for a sport mode, which sharpens up the handling, this also have a negative impact on the ride making things feel even harsher. If you want to venture off-road then thereís also a mode that lets you make use of the 65 millimetres of extra ground clearance by activating the rural descent control and tuning the four-wheel-drive. Ok, itís not going to handle ultra-tough terrain but it will get you through a muddy field without any problems. The system will also cleverly disengage itself once it senses that you are back on the road which is handy.
Thereís certainly no shortage of rivals for the V90 Cross Country both in the form of SUVs and Estates from other premium brands. However, we think itís the understated blend of practicality, luxury and safety that really makes this car stand out from the bunch. If the idea of a rugged estate car appeals then check out the Used Volvo V90 cars for sale we have available on DesperateSeller.co.uk.