This one is going to be a conundrum for luxury car buyers! Meet said conundrum - Volvo’s V90 Cross Country. The name suggests lots of elements that have helped create a particularly tantalising tease from Scandinavia. You see, traditionally, Indians have looked down at estates or station wagons. But, we have looked up to rugged SUVs. And, yearned for the luxury of limos. The V90 is promising to be all of that in one package. It has been called as best of the XC90 and S90, rolled into one package. Could it be that this conundrum is really an ingenious solution? Time to get closer.
It’s in the head
Actually, it’s in the face. After having spent half a day with the V90 Cross Country the memories that linger are centred on the ‘Thor’s hammer’ LED daytime running lights and the concave slats on the grille with 5 metallic studs that glitter like jewels. The face is borrowed from the S90, and until the B-pillar the two cars could be considered identical. But as you look down the side the wagon-like styling becomes apparent. While the wheelbase is the same as the S90, the V90 is slightly longer and of course has the estate-like roofline that extends all the way to the back before cutting down towards the bumper.
But surprisingly, the thought that has stayed in my head isn’t about the “wagon” look, rather, it’s the ground clearance. 210mm. You can’t scoff at that, especially since the V90 rides on air suspension at the rear and that means it won’t “sit” too much when loaded with luggage and occupants. The plastic cladding for the rocker panels and wheel arches does remind you that this is the more rugged V90. An anomaly for a rough road-oriented machine are those massive 20” rims. Along with the 245/45 section rubber slapped on the V90 CC, it ends up looking more sporty than rugged. The plot thickens.
The rear has a sloping tailgate with the signature Volvo waterfall tail lamps flowing down the D-Pillars. The discrete ‘Cross Country’ lettering stamped into the cladding on the lower bumper, the ‘D5’ logo signifying the engine and the ‘AWD’ tab hinting at the purposeful hardware underneath are the only badges here.
That isn’t something that the V90 CC is lacking in. Settle into the driver’s seat and there is a slight adjustment period, just a bit, as you get used to the long hood and the somewhat cozy cabin space. The raked A-pillar keeps this from feeling very SUV-ish. You do sit lower than in an SUV, but neither is it sedan-like. Nonetheless, there is enough space to keep even taller occupants satisfied. The seats are wrapped in sumptuous leather, are ventilated and are adjustable in a number of indulgent ways. The seat base extends outwards; the lumbar support and side bolsters are also ever willing to do your bidding.
While the S90 doesn’t offer a massage function, the V90 CC does. And it’s brilliant. Gentle but strong robotic fingers prod your back with an expertise that could make Scandinavian massages much sought after. People of Thailand, start worrying. There are three types of massages, levels of force and speed that you can choose from. But the massage function is offered only on the front seats.
The quality of materials used is lavish without being decadent. Responsible luxury? That might be a way of describing it. If you have spent time inside an S90 or XC90 this Volvo will feel very familiar. The simple but handsome looking dash is wrapped in leather and has panels that look like woven metal. The 9” infotainment system looks like a crown. Sensus, as the system is called, helps cut away the clutter and makes for a cleaner look.
In the second row there is loads of knee-room, and headroom is a bit more generous than in the S90 too. The seat backs are well scooped and cradle the occupant confidently. However, the seat base lacks under-thigh support. A slightly longer seat base and angled upward would help improve matters. Taller occupants will find the low and flat seat a bit tiresome over longer journeys. Shorter passengers will be able to make do as there is room to stretch out. Seating three abreast can be managed for short journeys as the middle passenger has to contend with the transmission tunnel and a slightly perched-on-top seating position.
The powered tailgate flips open to reveal a 560-litre boot. When you flip down the 60:40 split rear seats you get 1526 litres of space. Just as a comparison, the Skoda Octavia offers 590 litres of boot space and 1580 litres with the seats folded. So, storage space is a lot more than enough, but brag about it with caution.
Load it up!
There really is no dearth of equipment on the V90 Cross Country. The headlamps, as you might imagine, are all-LED units and even have cornering functionality. Watching the beams of light dart this way and that in the mist of Coorg was a fascinating sight.
Radar-based safety systems are also offered; City Safety can apply the brakes if the chance of a collision is detected at city speeds. There is also lane keeping assist and distance alert. Heads-up display is offered as standard and apart from speed, it also provides navigation and safety alerts. There is park assist, and yes, there is cruise control too. Enough?
What we couldn’t get enough of was the music system. Forget about the number of speakers (19) and the name (Bowers and Wilkins), because the experience is remarkably close to actually having the band perform right in front of you. Each sound seems to originate from a specific point and they all come together to immerse you in the music. Studio, Individual Stage and Concert Hall modes change the sound design emphatically!
The Sensus system is paired with a 12” display for the driver. Three preset dial designs, navigation information and basic infotainment connectivity is offered here. Volvo could have used this screen better for a richer and more fluid experience. For instance, changing the seat bolstering causes a pop-up to show on the central screen. As does any change to the drive modes. This interrupts anything that the co-passenger may be in the middle of.
The infotainment system also allows you to set different driver profiles and these can store preferences of your seating position, the ambient lighting, the music settings and even the custom Drive mode settings. The V90 also offers a four-zone climate control. The only niggle here is that there is a bit too much blower noise experienced in the front seats as it starts channeling more air to meet the needs of the passengers in the rear. The rear seats do not get massage functionality, but there are manual sun-blinds. Also, there are booster seats for children built into the seat base!
For complete bragging rights remember to remember that the V90 CC also offers a heated steering wheel for the cold Delhi days, a panoramic sunroof to cut away the gloom and powered folding second-row of seats.
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The V90 CC is powered by the latest iteration of Volvo’s two-litre, four-cylinder D5 diesel engine and now it comes packed with Power Pulse technology. Power Pulse shoots compressed air from a tank to the turbo to get it to spin faster. This helps combat turbo lag at low speeds. Interesting? You bet. Impressive? That too.
On the climb to Coorg from Mangalore the V90 was delightfully sprightly from under 1500rpm. You could amble, canter or cruise without having to step past the 2000rpm mark. In a more boisterous mood, the surge from 2500rpm felt like a willing accomplice on our uphill attack. The all-wheel drive system helps put the 480Nm of torque most effectively. You won’t complain of any apparent drop in power as you hit the redline, although 4800rpm is clearly a bit early. Put simply, you just can’t call the V90’s performance lacking, be it in the city or the highway, but we wouldn’t accuse it of being exciting either.
It is a properly domesticated engine, that just utters a bit of diesel murmur at idle and remains politely subdued at higher revs too. Only a bit of the pulse could be felt at idle. The 8-speed gearbox proved to be quick and smooth to shift up gears. Paddle shifters allow for more control too. Even the obvious but mild shudder from the gearbox when required to downshift urgently won’t deter us from spending more time behind the wheel.
The V90 also comes packed with drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Dynamic and Off-Road. If in the mood for some torque-induced kicks, Dynamic does the trick beautifully. For commuting, the milder throttle response of Comfort mode is more appropriate. Off-road mode makes it easier to crawl around in the muck and sends equal amounts of torque to all four wheels as standard. However, this mode is deactivated at speeds above 40kmph. The V90 Cross Country isn’t meant to be a mechanical mountain goat, but it has plenty of ability to find grip and keep going in slushy and slippery conditions. If our time with it is anything to go by, it makes the going seem a bit easy, even when the conditions really aren’t.
Check Out: Volvo XC90 Review
Roughing things up
The V90 CC’s suspension rocks, because it doesn’t rock occupants around. The steel and air combo works remarkably well, encouraging us to drive faster over some very uneven cement roads. Where we should have been see-sawing wildly there was only mild bobbing. Neither does it thunk, and that’s despite those massive 20” rims. Expansion joints and light potholes were gobbled up with ease.
Does the suspension crash? While tackling bigger potholes or carrying speed through the rougher sections, it does. If the V90 CC had 17 or 18” rims and taller sidewalls, those would make desi roads a non-issue. Just so you know, there is a space saver hidden under the floor of the boot. Just in case. No doubt, there is more class in the way the V90 CC rides than the S90. It doesn’t feel too flighty in Comfort mode and shows more poise through the twisty bits in Dynamic, but you wouldn’t call it sporty.
What you will call it is grippy. The all-wheel drive system makes sure you can carry lots of speed through corners. It doesn’t feel light on its feet, or telepathic, just very sure footed. The initial nose-heavy and understeery nature when entering corners can easily be corrected – just keep your foot down! The all-wheel drive system channels more torque to the rear axle and that helps it steer into corners better, as a result the faster you drive the better it steers!
Off the tarmac, the Haldex all-wheel drive system showed an uncanny ability to paw its way up rain-soaked and grass-covered slopes without any fuss. No scrabbling, no sliding on the slick red mud, just traction. We indulged in mild rough-roading but the sense we got from the hardware was of confidence. The Pirelli W tyres use soft rubber and rounded shoulders for better grip. For extended sessions in the slick brown mud that we find in plenty around India, chunky block-pattern tyres are a must have. The Off-road mode stiffened up the suspension and made it easier to crawl at lower speeds. This is no hard-core off-roader, but the V90 CC will go where no luxury sedan would dream of going.
The V90 Cross Country isn’t ostentatious, but handsome; and it is also capable, luxurious and good value. Simply, we likey. It isn’t going to give you the attitude or the stature of an SUV, but it surely delivers the ability expected of a luxury SUV. The way the V90 Cross Country cloaks serious go-just-about-anywhere ability under a modest body form makes it a delightfully different and twisted machine. The sense of luxury is cemented by the long and rich equipment list but the less than ideal backseat ergonomics makes it less attractive for those looking to spend time only in the rear. Cracking pricing, expected to be around the Rs 55-60 lakh range, will bring the V90 CC into consideration for anyone looking to buy a full-size luxury sedan. However, those looking to balance time between the two rows and imbued with a sense of spirit and adventure will find Volvo’s V90 Cross Country a delicious conundrum.
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