v90 - Volvo V90 Cross Country 05 - Volvo V90 Cross Country: Viable but invisible

What is it?

Volvo’s V90 Cross Country is an overlooked yet viable alternative to the over-saturated SUV market.

The five-seat wagon version of the excellent S90 sedan has been given a slight bump in ride height, plus some polycarbonate body moulding to suggest it’s an off-roader. 

It’s got a cracker of an engine in the form of a 173kW/480Nm five cylinder diesel that drives all four paws via a slick 8-speed Geartronic auto.

We finished on 7.8L/100km from the 60-litre tank of dinosaur juice, with a 90/10 urban/highway drive cycle. That’s close to the rated 7.2L/100km.

Naturally, being a Volvo, it’s as safe as houses, and nowadays they look pretty nice too.

v90 - Volvo V90 Cross Country 04 - Volvo V90 Cross Country: Viable but invisible

What’s it cost?

Cross Country is the only wagon variant of the S90 that Australia takes.

Without adding any of the extensive accessory packs, the driveaway price is $91,200, but for the coin you get a very well featured vehicle indeed.

Black Nappa leather, with power adjustment for the front seats and rear seat climate controls are complemented by family-oriented child seat boosters that are built into the rear seats.

There’s Volvo’s traditional portrait-oriented touchscreen that swipes left or right to reveal various forms of settings and information.

It does, however, attract fingerprints and takes time to get used to if unfamiliar with the Volvo way of doing things.

The driver also gets Volvo’s cool, multi-choice LCD screen display.

The rear has 540 litres of cargo space and is accessed via a powered tailgate.

The other four doors all open wide to make getting in and out easier.

Then there’s the extra 65mm of ride height that also makes access a little easier.

The wagon’s off-road possibilities are highlighted by the black cladding on the wheel arches, and under the front and rear lights.

“Thor’s Hammer” and hockey sticks define the front and rear light design, with the former also housing super bright indicators. Our car was finished in Crystal White pearl paint.

There’s airbags aplenty, including a driver’s kneebag and Volvo’s Intellisafe system includes a combination of lane keeping assistance.

Pilot Assist keeps the tiller on the straight and Oncoming Lane Mitigation reads the linemarking to assist. Oncoming Mitigation by Braking also watches for oncoming traffic and will apply the brakes automatically if it senses an oncoming vehicle has strayed.

Sound comes from a home theatre quality Bowers and Wilkins system, including DAB. It has sound modes that can fill the whole car or localise to just the driver’s seat. It’s beautifully balanced, punchy, and clearer than the finest glass.

Look up to the roof there’s a full length sunroof and a nifty compass feature incorporated in the rear vision mirror. It’s perfectly lit and placed to be visible but not distracting.

Outside the wagon is shorter than it looks.  A low overall height of 1545mm shortens the 4939mm overall length. The bonnet seems to make up a full third of its overall length, and the cargo space another third as well, with a long but low cargo area.

However, the warranty is still just three years, and servicing costs $3030 over three years, which is a hit to the wallet.

v90 - Volvo V90 Cross Country 08 - Volvo V90 Cross Country: Viable but invisible

What’s it go like?

Diesels have a characteristic lag from standstill and the D5 in the Cross Country is no different. 

Engage the engine via the Start/Stop dial in the centre console and the engine quickly fires into life.

Select Reverse, and hit the go pedal. There’s an intake of breath . . . a pause . . . then it launches hard with all four Pirelli 245/45/20s grabbing the road.

It’s quick too, with a 0-100km/h taking 7.2 seconds — but sound-wise, it’s muted and almost invisible to the ear.

The low end pull of the diesel enables the V90 to make everyday driving a simple yet enjoyable experience.

It’ll haul the near two tonne machine through traffic as easily as a machete slices coconuts. A gentle squeeze of the accelerator winds up the revs and it’s quick to respond. And it’s geared to sit with 1500rpm on the dial at 110km/h.

There is, oddly, some low speed understeer, but this disappears at speed.

Ride quality also sees some low speed body roll, but this again disappears at speed.

The chassis tightens up and although the suspension is compliant to a tee, there’s an underlying sense of tautness. By no means is this uncomfortable — in fact quite the opposite.

No problems braking either, but it does feel as if the lower end of the travel is spongy, rather than confidence inspiring.

v90 - Volvo V90 Cross Country 10 - Volvo V90 Cross Country: Viable but invisible

What we like?

  • Stylish Euro looks
  • Low end urge from the D5
  • Home theatre quality sound system

v90 - Volvo V90 Cross Country 06 - Volvo V90 Cross Country: Viable but invisible

What we don’t like?

  • Understeer at low speed
  • Touchscreen a fingerprint magnet (and not always intuitive to use)
  • Aurally too quiet and lacks character

v90 - Volvo V90 Cross Country 09 - Volvo V90 Cross Country: Viable but invisible

The bottom line?

Although largely invisible to Australian buyers, the V90 Cross Country is a viable option as a family car.

Features such as a large cargo area, looks of a (semi) off-road capable car, more likely to see puddles than anything, and a willing engine for easy and spirited driving, make the Cross Country a superb family choice.

The downsides are minimal but crucial. It’s pricey.

It’s a wagon in an SUV world. It comes with only a three-year warranty — but it’s worth driving for a decent comparison with SUVs.

v90 - Volvo V90 Cross Country 02 - Volvo V90 Cross Country: Viable but invisible

CHECKOUT: Volvo XC40: what’s the big attraction?

CHECKOUT: Volvo XC60: the Goldilocks option

 

Volvo V90 Cross Country, priced from $91,200 driveaway
  • 8/10
    Looks - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Performance - 8/10
  • 9/10
    Safety - 9/10
  • 7.5/10
    Thirst - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 9/10
    Comfort - 9/10
  • 8/10
    Tech - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Value - 8/10
8.2/10

Conole

Dave Conole hails from Perth where he co-hosted a car show on one of the city's major community radio stations. Although he's had formal training in stage, TV, and film, it's his face for radio that gave him his start in the automotive field, both reviewing and motorsport commentary. After moving to Sydney in 2004, Dave has worked for some of Australia's biggest media groups and is the anchor commentator at Sydney Motorsport Park. This has lead to anchoring major events such as the Top Gear Festival (and, no, he didn't get punched by Jeremy).