When it comes to estate cars, Volvo has a rich heritage, and the V90 is the latest in a long line. Not only is it one of the best looking load-luggers on the market, it’s a class act.
However, these days it’s not enough to have a regular estate car in your range – you need a crossover with extra height and more rugged looks.
Admittedly, the most these premium 4×4 estates (rivals include the Audi A6 Allroad and the new Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain) are likely to experience is driving into a festival field/car park, but it’s good to know what a car can do.
That said, for some people out in the country, it’s essential that your car can also handle the challenges that extreme weather produces including snow, ice, floods and mud.
As you can see from my review of the regular estate the V90 is safe, stylish and practical, and a refreshingly distinctive alternative to the German autobahn expresses which dominate the executive segment.
Frankly the Volvo V90 Cross Country isn’t hugely different in many respects. Up front, it continues the distinctive design language of the XC90 with its Thor’s Hammer LED headlights, while the profile is long and sleek.
Inside, it’s luxurious in a modern, Scandi way with plenty of light and plush materials. The seats are comfortable and the design of the cockpit follows on from the XC90 with a slick layout and a large 9-inch tablet touchscreen in the centre console.
There’s plenty of space up front, while rear passengers are treated to limo-like legroom, though the middle passenger will have to straddle a large transmission tunnel. Needless to say, luggage space is excellent, with 560 litres available, expanding to 1,526 litres if you fold the rear seats flat.
Volvo’s commitment to safety is as apparent as ever. The V90 Cross Country is packed full of tech and stacks of safety equipment is available including the latest version of Pilot Assist, which allows semi-autonomous driving on motorways at up to 80mph.
The most obvious differences between the Cross Country and the standard V90 are the extra ride height (65mm), skid plates, all-wheel drive system and tall 235/55 all-weather tyres on 18-inch alloys.
There are four drive modes – Eco (most efficient), Comfort (everyday), Off Road and Dynamic (high performance).
Switch to Off Road (it works up to 25mph) and the Cross Country is able to tackle surprisingly challenging terrain as long as you take it easy, because ultimately the V90 has larger overhangs and less ride height than an SUV.
I found it especially calm tackling steep downhill sections off-road, where the effective hill descent control kicks in.
Under the bonnet there’s a choice of two 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engines. The entry-level D4 diesel produces 187bhp, while the more powerful D5 manages a healthy 232bhp.
The less powerful unit on my test car (the £44,105, D4 AWD) had CO2 emissions of 138g/km of CO2 and claimed fuel economy of 54.3mpg, a 130mph top speed and a 0-62mph time of 8.8 seconds.
Both engines come with an 8-speed automatic gearbox and the gear changes are smooth, if not always the fastest.
Progress is definitely brisker in cars with the more powerful diesel, but the D4 is more than enough for most.
Like most diesels, engine noise is noticeable during quick getaways, but it soon settles down and the general level of cabin refinement is impressive.
Apart from its off-road ability, the biggest surprise is that the Cross Country rides beautifully and is a superbly refined cruiser with well controlled body roll on more flowing roads. Traction is excellent, thanks to all-wheel drive.
Verdict: The Volvo V90 Cross Country is a plush, practical and very capable go-anywhere estate. Safe and spacious, it’s a solid choice for those who’d rather steer clear of an SUV.