This new V90 model follows a legacy of other Cross Country Volvos that dates back to the launch of the original V70 XC in 1997. Conceived to bridge a gap between a load-hauling estate and a high-riding SUV, the V70 XC proved surprisingly popular with buyers in North America and Europe, thanks to its rugged yet understated looks and unshakable all-weather ability.
In fact, Volvo got the recipe so spot on that all subsequent Cross Country models have followed the original cars design to a tee, including this V90 Cross Country. So the ride height has been raised (by 65mm), the tracks have been widened (by 20mm at the front and 40mm at the rear) and the specially designed tyres are larger in diameter (by 42mm) than those of the standard V90.
The V90 Cross Country also receives black plastic wheel arch extensions, black trim and front and rear skid plates. However, the overall design looks more refined than the previous V70 XC. For the first time, buyers can select body-coloured alternatives to the black panels.
The cabin mirrors that of the standard V90, apart from a black walnut trim and leather-clad dashboard. Every surface feels impeccably well constructed and the9.0in portrait-orientated colour touchscreen remains one of the most intuitive systems of its type.
The added ground clearance only improves your view of the road from behind the steering wheel. When you’re under way, it quickly becomes apparent that the Cross Country has a remarkably different character from that of the regular V90. Where the standard car struggles to strike a balance between sporty handling and optimum ride comfort, the Cross Country is supple. Fitted with all-new dampers and the latest evolution of Volvo’s air suspension, which is optional, it rides with a pliancy that befits a large, luxury off-roader.
These qualities are backed up by impressive body control. Over crests and dips, the Cross Country remains resolutely unfazed, with those dampers doing an impressive job of smoothing out sudden vertical inputs. There is a touch more body roll during hard cornering, but it doesn’t detract from the Cross Country’s cruising capability.
Our test in Sweden was conducted on studded winter tyres, which 1imited our understanding of how the car will behave on British roads. However, with the aid of an ice-covered lake and some untreated Swedish roads, we were able to get a good idea of the car’s dynamic capabilities ,although it is unlikely many V90 Cross Country owners will regularly explore the limits.
Set up to be neutral, the Cross Country felt surprisingly mobile at the rear, but not worryingly so. Small slides were controlled and predictable, and larger sideways angles were quickly caught by the progressive stability control and smart four-wheel drive system.
Despite its surprisingly playful nature, the V90 Cross Country is at its best when driven smoothly. On open roads, any sound from the flexible four-cylinder diesel engine fades into the background and road noise is minimal.
Volvo has struck a good compromise between off-road looks and on-road ability. Despite the raised ride height, there has been very little deterioration in handling compared with the standard V90 and the additional surefootedness is appealing. Volvo predicts that the Cross Country will account for around 25% of overall V90 sales.
With any need for sporty handling taking a backseat, Volvo’s engineers have honed the V90 Cross Country’s ride comfort, making it an adept tourer with added all-weather ability.
Volvo V90 Cross Country D5
Cross Country Treatment results in a rugged, practical estate that feels like the most complete V90 yet
Engine: 4 cyls, 1969cc, diesel
Power: 232bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque: 354lb ft @ 1750-2250rpm
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1848kg
Top speed: 140mph
Economy: 53.3mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 139g/km, 27%
Rivals: Audi A6 Allroad, Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain