BLURRED LINES – no not that sexist, derogatory (but catchy, I must admit) song by Robin Thicke. I’m talking about what the Volvo V90 Cross Country has done to the luxury car market. On the face of it, it’s an estate but dig a little deeper and things get a little more confusing. Is it an SUV with car-like dynamics? Or is it a car with SUV-like go anywhere capabilities? Depends on how you like to look at your glass.
Volvo’s latest car from its 90 series (alongside the XC90 and the S90) is, like its brethren, a premium luxury offering kitted to its doorsilis with equipment and features. In this particular avatar though, it gets an estate body style, a jacked up suspension, AWD and a whole lot of other bits to make it off-road friendly. It is based on the same SPA -scalable platform architecture -as the other 90 Series cars, as well as the new XC60 and a whole lot of future cars expected from Volvo.
Erm, it is a completely new car to India. It is based on the V90 estate which isn’t available in India yet, with a few tweaks to make it all-road friendly. Apart from its platform, it shares its engine with other cars as well. This is the same 2-litre diesel engine that does duty on the S90 and XC90, in the D5 state of tune here – making 235bhp and 480Nm of torque. It gets a Haldex AWD transfer case that it shares with the XC90. The suspension has been raised by 60mm over a standard V90 and it gets large 20-inch wheels (shod, strangely, with Pirelli P-Zeros!). Just like the S90, it gets air suspension in the rear and this allows it to tackle bad roads and no roads better. The suspension is particularly useful as it doesn’t allow the car to squat when it is loaded, compensating for the weight and keeping the ground clearance high. This car also comes equipped with front radar, so a lot of Volvo’s driver aids like distance alert, adaptive cruise control, lane change assist and parking assist are available on this car.
Fun to drive?
Surprisingly, yes! The 2-litre engine makes some impressive power and torque figures, but it is even more impressive when you’re behind the wheel. The V90CC gets something called Power Pulse. It’s an interesting bit of tech that reduces turbo lag. The principle is simple. When the engine isn’t revving enough to spool up the turbo, compressed air is passed through the exhaust manifold to spool it up earlier that it normally would and provide boost. This is mildly discernible and the car pulls linearly from low revs. The engine is a refined one, and when driven calmly, not too much noise enters the cabin.
The car gets driving modes-Eco, Comfort, Off-Road and Dynamic. Comfort models great for cruising around the city and for relaxed driving- the steering is light, throttle response is relaxed and the cargoes about doing things in an unhurried manner. Shift it to dynamic and the steering weighs up nicely, the throttle response becomes sharper and the car tightens up around you. It feels almost sedan-like in the way it handles – it is extremely stable around bends and can hold a line well. Even though the car has been jacked up, roll is negligible and it won’t complain if you push it around a bend. You can tell that Volvo have engineered the V90 CC to behave in a very car-like manner on the road. The Pirelli P-Zeros also probably have apart to play in this. These tyresare specifically designed for Volvo, with off-road use in mind. So while they may be performance road tyres, they have been designed to take on uneven surfaces as well.
Ride quality is excellent – the increased suspension travel is put to good use. It is soft, but body control is tight and it is never bouncy. Sm all and medium size bumps are absorbed without breaking into a sweat, but bigger ones can make you flinch. The car thuds uncomfortably over big potholes taken at speed. The 20-inch wheels which come as standard are clad in rather low profile 245/45 rubber, and you’ve got to be careful lest you damage a wheel or pick up a puncture. The steering lacks any sort of feedback, however it is direct and predictable. It never leaves you guessing as to what the front is up to, though it refuses to send up chatter from the road. The biggest let down, however, is the gearbox. It is a bit lazy to respond, especially when you want a quick downshift to make a quick overtake or to power out of a corner. It is more comfortable being driven calmly, left to its own devices to shuffle through the cogs, without being called upon with sudden demands. We haven’t driven it off the road enough yet to tell you how it behaves, however, the pliant suspension paired with the AWD should make for a capable car when you run out of blacktop.
What about comfort?
You get all the tech that has been crammed in to Volvo’s flagship XC90 – Nappaleather seats, a Bowers and Wilkins 19-speaker system, heated and cooled seats, 4-zone climate control, a head up display, massage seats, that massive touchscreen that controls everything from driving modes to temperature and the headlights. You get LEDs, all the radar tech, plenty of room and quality that is unquestionable. The car has been launched only in the top-of-the-line Inscription trim, and it never leaves you wanting for more. The cabin exudes a sense of calm that Volvos have developed over the past couple of years. Everything is either soft-touch leather, or an expensive feeling metal. The screen is a bit of a pain to use on the move, however the layout of the cabin and the detailing cannot be questioned. In the back, you have a reasonable amount of legroom to stretch out in, however the seats could have been a little more comfortable.
This car doesn’t have any specific direct rival. The only other premium estate is the Audi RS6 Avant, but that car has a stratospheric price tag, stratospheric performance and a stratospherically stiff suspension. The V90CC will most likely be competing against traditional sedans and SUVs within its price bracket.