Aiming to offer additional comfort for the occasional off-road goer, Volvo has given its V90 estate the jacked up off-road treatment. Geoff Ashcroft reports.
A few subtle curves help to soften the V90’s shape, though they do eat into load space.
It is hard to imagine Volvo has been producing a rugged, off-road version of its estate car for over 20 years, and this unconventional idea, know as the Cross Country, continues to evolve for those who do not want to tread the SUV path.
The format of generous ground clearance, all-wheel drive capability and spacious load lugging credentials is one which has led the Scandinavian maker to roll out V40 and V60 versions. And you can now get your Cross Country fix through the new V90 estate.
In Cross Country guise, the V90 can venture deeper off-road than a conventional V90 thanks to an extra 65mm of ground clearance, with body protection afforded by plastic wheel arch extensions and underbody skid plates. You also get an off-road mode, which dulls the throttle response so any bouncing or jostling over rougher terrain will not have you stabbing at the throttle and inducing whiplash.
Interior is uncluttered, but the central touchscreen is complex.
Off-road mode did a good job of taming our test model’s D4 power unit. This is the lesser powered of two four-cylinder engine options, with a more powerful D5 version offering much more grunt from its 235hp.
Its ability to negotiate rutted field tracks and terrain usually accessed with a double cab pickup is impressive. There is no compromise on load space or security either, though you might struggle to get the VAT back on a car. And if you forget to switch out of this mode, any speed above 20mph will send the system back to its default Comfort mode.
This model is auto only, and the eight-speed box makes full use of the engine’s torque, to move the V90 swiftly along. On 18in wheels and tyres, it delivers a soft, comfortable ride which is so relaxed, it is perhaps how you would expect a sofa to glide along if it were given and engine.
Load space and comfort is what the V90 continues to be good at.
Steering is on the slow side and the body does roll thanks to soft suspension. However, there is a Dynamic mode for those who want a bit more fizz from the Cross Country, though it is so un-Volvo-like that Comfort mode will suit most of the time.
Subtle curves do their best to add style and move the V90 away from being a box on wheels, but the trade-off is rearward visibility and headroom in the load area is compromised.
Spending time in the V90 Cross Country does highlight just how good an alternative this is to some of the brash, less comfortable and clumsier SUVs out there. And it offers so much more than just being a sure-footed, winter-weather alternative.