By Sami Haj-Assaad
Volvo’s cars are all full of surprises. They have clever windshield wipers, handy safety technology and none of its cars seem to sweat the small details.
Sure, they’re a bit quirky – the Swedish automaker seems to be chasing something a bit more niche than just the usual luxury customers that Mercedes and Audi are attracting, but that’s what makes a Volvo.
This V90 Cross Country is a perfect example of all that uniqueness coming into one great product, but maybe not the most popular.
In simple terms, the V90 Cross Country is a wagon with raised ride height that will appeal to those who want the capability of a crossover or mild SUV, without the image of one. In less simple terms, the V90 Cross Country is a raised version of the V90, which is a wagon version of the S90, which is a luxury sedan that uses the same platform, engines, technology and design language as the XC90, which is a three row luxury crossover that won AutoGuide.com’s 2016 Utility Vehicle of the Year award.
So why get this full-size, raised wagon? Well, it’s much better looking than most crossovers or SUVs, yet just as spacious and plenty capable. Ground clearance of the V90 Cross Country measures in at 8.3 inches, which is more than you’d find on some utility vehicles like the Ford Explorer or BMW X5. It’s fair to expect that this car might have some off-road capability after all.
In fact, there’s a dedicated off-road drive mode in this vehicle. When you select it, the car sends more torque to the rear wheels, but will still transfer torque back and forth between the axles and torque vectoring from side to side for added traction. Unfortunately this mode is limited to just 25 mph (or 40 km/h), but it automatically enables hill descent control, which makes it easier to travel hilly terrain.
The V90 Cross Country is offered with only one powertrain setup. Naturally, it features all-wheel drive (with torque vectoring) and mates that to an eight speed automatic transmission and the brand’s twin-charged four-cylinder engine.
Under the hood
Called the Drive-E T6, you might have heard about it by now – it’s turbocharged and supercharged, making 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. It’s supercharged to help reduce the amount of lag and hesitation that’s normally associated with turbocharged vehicles, and as a whole the engine feels really powerful, but not as responsive as a naturally aspirated engine.
Fuel economy is adequate, with a rating of 22 MPG city, 30 MPG highway and a combined rating of 25 MPG. If you were wondering, it can hit highway speeds in just over six seconds, which is plenty quick.
SEE ALSO: 2018 Volvo XC60 Review
Capability is one thing, but practicality is another. This wagon is big, so it’s not suited for tight off-road trails, but it is possible to take this off-road, and it seems right at home in more open off-road settings, like driving through muddy, sandy or snowy trails.
One last note about off-road mode is that the steering is nice and light in off-road mode. That’s because this setting combines the other drive modes into something more appropriate for rugged stuff, where lighter steering allows easier control and reduces risk of obstacles drastically jerking the steering wheel out of your hands.
Not Just Off Road
When you get back on road, you have three drive modes to choose from, Eco, Comfort and Dynamic. Naturally Eco is to help you get the maximum mileage out of a tank of gas, while Dynamic is designed to make the car feel responsive, aggressive and fun to drive. Comfort is right in the middle, and pretty much perfect for daily driving.
There’s also an individual setting, which allows you to dial in settings as you see fit. I always love this kind of customizability. As a whole the Cross Country feels really luxurious and comfortable. It floats over road imperfections, and never feels stiff or aggressive.
So the V90 Cross Country is capable, off road and on, but it also boasts a superb interior with plenty of space. The front seats are extremely supportive with awesome bolstering, but there are some oddly shaped leg extensions that take some getting used to. However, there’s a ton of space in in both rows no matter what seat you’re in. The rear seat space is downright limo-like.
The cargo space is another eye-popping asset, with 34 cubic feet of storage in the trunk, and 54 cubic feet of storage, max. I love how high the tailgate rises, and that you can flip the rear seats down from the trunk. There’s also a really cool automated trunk cover as well.
And if you haven’t noticed, Volvo has recently started offering some of the cleanest and best designed interiors on the market. While some features take some getting used to (like the engine start knob and large vertical touchscreen) they all end up being a very important part of an experience that can only be described as unique.
Additionally, the car is very well equipped. Some highlights include a four-zone automatic climate control setting, and a park assist system that uses a whole array of cameras to help you place this big car in tough spots, or park the car automatically. The vehicles can also read road signs, which does nag you to slow down to the speed limit, and points out red-light cameras and school zones, too.
There’s an attractive digital dash, which is very easy to read and extremely customizable. Finally, while talking about the technology in the car, I have to give major props to the standard Bowers and Wilkins sound system which, simply put, is one of the best sound systems I’ve heard in any car. It features a 12-channel amplifier, 1,400 watt output and 19 separate speakers. There’s also a neat setting to give the car a really cool sound environment, like you’re in a studio, or even the famous Gothenburg concert hall.
Of Course It’s Safe
And no description of a Volvo is complete without discussing its safety features and heritage. This car comes standard with a ton of driver assistance and safety technology. The forward collision warning system works at high and low speeds, it automatically applies brakes and can even detect bicyclists and pedestrians. You also get a fantastic adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a complete stop in a fairly smooth manner. Finally, there’s a lane keep assist that really locks the car into the lane, instead of letting it bounce around from lane marker to lane marker. There’s also a blind spot monitoring system that is helpful when you’re trying to get used to the size of this vehicle.
SEE ALSO: 2017 Subaru Outback 2.5i Review
Safety is kind of Volvo’s thing and it’s important to bring this up in this world full of “brand identity.” The company opened up the patent to the three-point seat belt, introduced rear-facing child seats, side impact airbags and curtain airbags and also pioneered the blind spot monitoring system. If you’re the type of car buyer who only cares about safety, then your car search should probably start and end with Volvo.
If the V90 Cross Country sounds like a good blend of everything, then you must be wondering where the catch is. Critically, it has one significant issue and that’s the price tag. It costs over $55,000 to start, which is a good chunk of change more expensive than the XC90. Sure, it comes with more features and a more powerful engine but the V90 Cross Country seems to be narrowing its audience with such a high price of entry.
Furthermore, consumers have long ditched wagons for SUVs, and are now dumping sedans for crossovers. If you’re a hold-out on this trend, then maybe this V90 Cross Country will appeal to you, but fortunately Volvo offers a number of variations of its 90-series vehicles. If the Cross Country isn’t for you, you can opt for a regular V90 or more SUV-like XC90 instead.
The Verdict: 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country Review
The V90 Cross Country is a car that packs all those safety and driver assistance features in a gorgeous wagon body. Sure it’s expensive, but people on the road will probably look at you a bit differently than someone who owns a big Mercedes or BMW. It should come as no surprise that the vehicle has a whole different persona than those vehicles, and for some buyers that may be worth the big price tag.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo- and supercharged four-cylinder
Output: 316 hp, 295 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Cargo Space (seats up/max): 33.9/53.9 cu-ft (960 / 1,526 L)
US Fuel Economy (city/hwy/comb.): 22/30/25 MPG
CAN Fuel Economy (city/hwy/comb.): 10.7/7.9/9.4 L/100 km
US Price: Starts at $56,295
CAN Price: Starts at $63,915
Only 1 powertrain option
Infotainment system takes getting used to