2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD Inscription Road Test Review

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 Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

A car that could cause SUV buyers to reconsider their priorities 

The new Volvo V90 Cross Country might be the spiritual successor to the XC70, but it's an altogether more advanced, more luxurious, better driving, and better looking vehicle.

Of course, any wagon fan worth their salt loved the XC70 when new too, but that was some time ago. It was actually introduced as the V70 Cross Country in 1996, and while "CROSS COUNTRY" remained boldly decaled across its backside in most markets, it was in fact badged XC70 ("X" for Cross and "C" for Country). In 2014 Volvo revived the Cross Country nameplate for a raised version of its V60 sport wagon with similar rugged 4x4-style matte black body cladding, Cross Country officially becoming the terminology for differentiating Volvo's raised crossover wagons from its XC-named SUVs. Hence we now have this beautiful new V90 Cross Country, base on the V90 Sport Wagon, and the recently redesigned XC90 SUV that's been winning awards galore while selling up a storm since debuting last year.


With a stunning design the V90 Cross Country turns heads wherever it goes 

The V90 series pulls design cues from that XC90, but it found even more inspiration from the new S90 sedan that shares most everything from the C-pillars forward. Handsome is an understatement, and that goes for everything coming out of Volvo's Gothenburg and California design studios. Near every eyeball within the V90 Cross Country's vicinity, not otherwise glued to a smartphone, craned to catch glimpse of my beautiful Osmium Grey painted example, its stunning Thor's Hammer LED headlights beaming, a proud P1800-inspired grille announcing its respected Swedish heritage, a complex LED fog lamp-infused matte black and metallic silver lower fascia posturing its off-road potential, yet more matte black body cladding wrapping around wheel cutouts that frame gorgeous machine-finished twinned five-spoke 19-inch alloys circled by 235/50 Pirelli Scorpion all-seasons that bespeak pavement pounding prowess, stunning LED taillights transforming a trademark vertical L-shape into something altogether new and fresh, and yet more matte black and silver metallic design elements detailing a dual exhaust infused bumper out back. For raised wagon crossover fans the V90 Cross Country is an instant classic, and that's before climbing inside.


Its taller profile makes that latter task easier than slinking downward to enter a regular car, the Cross Country ideally positioned for ultimate ease of access. The seats are beyond beautiful in top-line trim, my tester's covered in perforated Amber leather instead of the usual black, which gave it a rich opulence normally associated with upper echelon Bentleys and the like. The quality of workmanship is similarly superb, from its open-pore hardwood to its satin-finish aluminum, the latter including optional Bowers & Wilkins speaker grilles that featured large enough mesh to make their bright metal tweeters and beige-coloured cones clearly visible, a little techno-industrial design shining through the otherwise luxuriantly posh surroundings.


Class-leading refinement that will surprise you 

You'll be forced to search for hard plastics if that's your thing, nearly all V90 surfaces made from the best soft touch composites and leathers, as well as genuine metals, woods, piano black lacquered veneers, and digitized interfaces. The vertical tablet-style Sensus infotainment system could be Huawei's latest Matebook slotted into place, it's that good and that user-friendly. If you know how to tap, swipe and pinch a tablet you'll understand how to use Volvo's Sensus, and it's filled with most features one could think to want.

My tester's primary gauges were 100-percent colour configurable, placing key driving info, navigation routing and mapping, audio settings, and most other features otherwise available within the centre stack-mounted infotainment display between the primary instruments ahead of the driver, where they're more easily seen and dealt with via high-quality glossy black steering wheel controls.

The lower console switchgear boasts shiny black detailing too, but it's more like jewelry. The leather-clad shifter and boot is more on the conventional side, but the rotating metal ignition switch and similarly sparkling drive mode selector is the stuff of the ultra-premium brand noted earlier, or for that matter its British archrival Rolls-Royce. Seriously, the bejeweled switchgear is superbly crafted and second-to-none in any class.


A go anywhere attitude combined with efficient performance 

The V90 Cross Country will take you most anywhere you'd likely want to go in grand style and supreme comfort. After all, while many of us think we should buy a rugged SUV just in case we'll require its bushwhacking off-road capability one day, most of us merely need to get near the hiking trail mid-summer and up the ski hill come winter, so the V90 Cross Country is more than adequate. It boasts standard all-wheel drive, featuring torque vectoring technology so it won't only clamber its way out of a fresh dump of white powder when called upon but also manage the curving mountainside two-laner that got you there in record speed and total composure.


Yes, Volvos aren't only about safe anymore, their legendary crash protection now combined with the agility to avoid accidents before they happen. First via lightweight construction and sound mechanical engineering, the V90's rigid body shell made up of high-strength steel, aluminum and composites, its mostly aluminum suspension fully independent for superb handling and sublime ride quality. Volvo makes its Touring sport suspension standard with the V90 Cross Country, while those aforementioned 19-inch alloys and plenty of active safety kit (second on the list) keep the car planted on terra firma no matter how hard it gets pushed, or at least when kept within reason. It's a good thing too, as its eager powertrain is one of the most advanced anywhere.


Look over to its German rivals and you'll find plenty of turbocharged 2.0-litre fours, but none with an engine that's both turbocharged and supercharged. That's how Volvo boosts its efficient four-cylinder, the masterful little machine putting out a V6-like 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque yet capable of just 10.7 L/100km in the city and 7.9 on the highway via an efficient eight-speed "Geartronic" automatic transmission with manual mode and auto idle-stop. Remember, this is a mid-size crossover, not a compact hatch, just in case those numbers had you thinking otherwise. The previously noted three-digit numbers make it spirited off the line, plenty powerful for highway overtaking, and loads of fun through fast-paced corners, its aforementioned standard configurable drive-mode settings allowing for personal tuning depending on need and mood via preset Comfort, Eco, Dynamic and Off-Road modes, or Individual mode that lets you modulate as per unique preferences, the V90 Cross Country a wholly more enjoyable car than the already good XC70 it replaces.


A comfortable, roomy and quiet cabin 

As noted earlier it's enjoyable from a comfort perspective too. The suspension is particularly compliant over rough patches of pavement or worse, rutted gravel roads and the like, where the Cross Country likes to play on weekends, the cabin is especially quiet due to plenty of behind-the-scenes insulation including laminated windows, while the seats are downright dreamy, especially when upgraded with Nappa leather and seat warmers in back. Three fit across the rear bench comfortably, although when only two are onboard you can place long cargo like skis down the middle thanks to a centre pass-through within the 60/40-split rear seatbacks.

The cargo compartment is also beautifully finished with wall-to-wall carpeting, chromed tie-down rings, and even a pop-up grocery (or what-have-you) divider, while the retractable cargo cover is second to none, pulling up out of the way when the powered liftgate is raised, or alternatively easy to remove when larger loads necessitate laying all the seats flat. The V90 CC also includes a retractable mesh cargo divider that pulls down from the ceiling above the rear seatbacks, potentially critical in keeping wayward cargo from catapulting forward in the event of a crash.

Safety in mind, the V90 Cross Country is fully equipped with the latest near-autonomous driving kit with features like Pilot Assist, front and rear collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, and more. All the usual active and passive electronic safety features are part of the standard package too, as is a driver's knee airbag, whiplash protection headrests, hill start assist, hill descent control, etcetera.

More standard features than its German competitors 

Aiding safety and nighttime driving pleasure are standard full LED headlamps with active cornering and high pressure cleaning, plus front and rear fog lights, while other features include a leather "Inscription" key fob, illuminated door handles with puddle lamps, proximity keyless access, metal doorsills, pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, an 8.0-inch colour multi-information display, adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone auto climate control with CleanZone air filtration, front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, Sensus infotainment with navigation, satellite radio, speech recognition, Volvo On Call, road sign information, USB and aux connections, heatable powered front seats with four-way powered lumbar support and driver's memory, leather upholstery, Black Walnut inlays, a massive panoramic sunroof, a powered liftgate, a metal cargo scuff plate, power-folding rear headrests, and auto-folding rear seats, plus the automatically retractable cargo cover, luggage net, and cargo divider mentioned earlier, all for $61,900. There's a sizeable 723 litres of capacity behind those rear seatbacks, by the way, and a max of 1,526 litres when lowered.


My tester was upgraded with a $1,500 Premium Package featuring LED accent lighting, 12-inch configurable primary instruments, and four-zone auto HVAC; a $1,500 Convenience Package with Park Assist Pilot, a garage door opener, a digital compass and grocery bag holder; a $1,350 Climate Package with heated washer nozzles, windshield, steering wheel, and rear outboard seats; a $2,000 Vision Package with power-retractable auto-dimming side mirrors, blindspot monitoring, a surround parking camera and front "fisheye" camera; a $2,500 Premium Plus Package with Amber Inscription Nappa leather, a mechanical driver's seat cushion extension, and rear window sunshades; sensational sounding $3,250 19-speaker 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins premium audio; and $900 for metallic paint.


If you want more you can order your V90 Cross Country with a rear air suspension, a gorgeous stitched leather dash top and door uppers, Metal Mesh decor inlays, a head-up display, Apple CarPlay for the infotainment system, and integrated rear child booster seats from the factory, while dealer-installed accessories include a performance-tuned Polestar Performance Optimization package, a rear entertainment system, a unique red key that's designed to put limits on new drivers, a towing package, a protection package filled with rubberized winter mats and more, and the list goes on.


As good as crossover wagons get 

If I were buying a luxury car today this new V90 Cross Country would be hard to pass up. I appreciate the extra visibility of an SUV, yet it drives much more like a sport sedan. Likewise it has all the passenger and cargo flexibility of an SUV, but is much more efficient than anything so big (XC90 T8 hybrid excepted). Yes it's hard not to be a fanboy of this fabulous new sport wagon crossover, or Volvo on the whole these days. The Swedish brand has certainly come a long way in little more than a year.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press 
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

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