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Volvo V90 Cross Country Review

V90-offroad
The V90 Cross Country is an estate with a go-anywhere attitude about it. Is it the best of both worlds or of neither?

What is it?

The Volvo V90 Cross Country is a little bit of everything. On the face of it, it is an estate. Dig deeper and it blurs the lines between sedan and SUV. 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. What it is for sure is a car from Volvo’s 90 series (alongside the XC90 and the S90) —  a premium luxury offering, kitted to its door sills with equipment and features. It gets an estate body style, with 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. It gets everything you’d expect in a conventional three box sedan, but its got AWD and a massive 210mm of ground clearance. Just to put that into perspective, a standard Renualt Duster gets 205mm.

What’s new?

Quite a lot actually. For starters, the regular V90 hasn’t been launched in India yet, so this is really creating a niche of its own here. It shares its platform with other Volvos we are familiar with, and it shares the engine as well. This is the same 2-litre diesel engine that does duty on the S90 and XC90, but here in it in the D5 state of tune, it is slightly more powerful. It makes 232bhp 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 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 V90 CC 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 rather 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 mode is great for cruising around the city and for relaxed driving — the steering is light, throttle response is relaxed and the car goes about doing things in an unhurried manner. Shift it to dynamic and the steering weighs up nicely, the throttle response become 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 a part to play in this. These tyres are 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. Small 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 of 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.

The steering lacks any sort of feedback, however it is direct and predictable. It never leave 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 though 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.

V90-main

What about comfort?

Unbeatable at its (estimated) price. You’re getting all the tech that has been crammed in to Volvo’s flagship XC90 — Nappa leather 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 cabin exudes a sense of calm that Volvos have developed over the past couple of years. Everything is either a 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. Volvo isn’t launching the car with multiple trim levels, they are only launching the top-of-the-line Inscription trim so you know you aren’t missing out.

V90-interior

Rivals?

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 V90 CC will most likely be competing against more traditional SUV alternatives in its price range — with the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. However, since it is such a mixed bag, it might just eat in to the markets of traditional three box sedans, if prospective buyers can see the practicality it brings to the table.

V90-rear

Verdict?

Well, prices aren’t out yet and the car should be launched in India by the middle of July. We estimate the price to be around Rs 60-65 lakh. This is a fair bit more than the S90, but is also packs more tech (radar, AWD) and is a more rounded package. It doesn’t have any real rivals yet and it is worth taking a look at before just going ahead with your premium SUV purchase. It may lack the presence of a traditional SUV, but this car will definitely get you second looks (maybe even more than SUVs!) and you will most definitely be a happier person behind the wheel.


About the author

Aatish Mishra

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