Volvo V90 Cross Country — Go anywhere in style

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

If a luxury sedan doesn't quite fit your need for interior space and you are one of a few who would rather not drive a taller crossover, but you need the bad-weather or off-road capability offered by a crossover, Volvo has the answer in the V90 Cross Country, a stunning mid-sized wagon that carries the gorgeous design language of the S90 sedan and the XC90 crossover.

The V90 Cross Country raises the ride height by two inches creating 8.3-inches of ground clearance, adds standard all-wheel drive, recalibrates stability control and electric power steering, and offers larger, softer tires. Hill decent control is also added for electronically inching down sharp inclines.

The Cross Country theme goes back to 1997 when it made its debut on the V70 wagon.  At that time, Volvo had no sport utility in the lineup — hence the Cross Country. Today, crossovers are all the rage and dressing up a wagon in the trappings of an off-road vehicle has caught on with a handful of automakers as another avenue for providing space and utility, but in a more car-like fashion.

Volvo has really brought its “A” game to the design table, and the V90 is no exception. Highlighting the styling is the concave grille inspired by the classic Volvo P1800 coupe, Thor’s hammer light design, long hood, and steeply raked windshield. The aerodynamic coherence of the sweeping arched roofline flowing to the raked rear hatch is automotive design at its finest.

The interior also demonstrates the pinnacle of Swedish design. You’re immediately immersed in Scandinavian luxury — elegant hand-stitched Nappa leather wrapping the steering wheel, instrument panel, door trim and seating. There’s even a tiny Swedish flag sewn into the front passenger seat as a reminder of its origin.

The cabin features high-quality open-pore wood inlays and polished aluminum trim pieces. Even the door handles have a beautiful-contemporary look. Most vehicle controls are operated via a 12.3-inch tablet-like portrait-oriented "Sensus Connect" touchscreen that’s attractive, bright and crystal clear. The dashboard is an exercise in the minimalist look.

The gauge cluster in front of the driver is an attractive representation of the instruments and there's space in between to display a map, turn-by-turn directions, a phone menu, and various sound-system functions. Steering wheel controls include adaptive cruise control and audio functions.

Importantly the drivetrain called the T6 is exceptional. Volvo is on the cutting edge with its engine, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that uses both a supercharger and a turbocharger to produce 316 horsepower and 297 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Vehicles with traditional turbocharged engines sometimes suffer from turbo lag. With the new T6 engine, the supercharger kicks in immediately to add power at low speeds buying time for the turbocharger to engage once the engine revs up. With the Volvo's supercharged/turbocharged engine set-up, the result is superb power without sacrificing responsiveness.

The proof is in the performance. The V90 Cross Country has been measured from 0-to-60 in just 5.9 seconds with a quarter mile clicking by in 14.4 seconds at 99 mph. Good numbers for a 4,266-pound vehicle propelled by a 4-cylinder engine. Gas mileage is commendable at 22 mpg city, 30 highway and 25 overall. At the same time, the V90 Cross Country has a good measure of utility for a wagon design with a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds. And there's a very useable 33.9 cubic feet of storage behind the seats and 53.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.

The hallmark of Volvo vehicles is the reputation for safety, and the V90 carries on that tradition with advanced architectural structure and materials, including ample high-strength boron steel. The standard forward-collision avoidance system, known as City Safety, is the umbrella name for all Volvo cars’ auto-brake functions. It also includes the world’s first automatic braking should the driver turn in front of an oncoming vehicle. Other standard safety features include pilot assist (a semi-autonomous driving system), a side-impact protection system, whiplash protection system, lane-departure warning, and run off-road protection/mitigation.

There is only one well-equipped trim level for $56,295 including destination charge. The base price includes all-wheel drive, leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats, the aforementioned array of drive assist features, 19-inch wheels, panoramic moonroof, two-zone climate control, power liftgate, 330-watt audio system with 10 speakers, and navigation. Options abound and can quickly run up the price. Our test car carried $13,145 worth of extras including the rather pricey $3,200 Bower and Wilkins Premium sound system that we most enjoyed, bringing the bottom line to $69,440. 

Base price: $56,295; as driven, $69,440
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo-and supercharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 316 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 295 foot-pounds @ 2,200 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 116.8 inches
Length: 194.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,221 pounds
Turning circle: NA
Luggage capacity: 33.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 53.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 22 city, 30 highway, 25 combined
0-60: 5.9 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Audi A4 allroad wagon, Mercedes E-Class wagon 

The Good
• Beautiful styling
• Off-road capability
• Plush cabin
• Energetic performance

The Bad
• No third row seating

The Ugly
• Cargo space doesn't match same-sized SUV