There was a time when having an estate with raised suspension, four-wheel-drive and maybe some extra plastic cladding around the wheel arches was the height of automotive sophistication. Enjoying all the practicality of a family estate, plus the ability – or suggested ability – of being able to go off-road was the Nineties equivalent of owning an SUV.
Along with the likes of Audi and Subaru, Volvo was among the first to float the idea. While not all of the subsequent Cross Country models have been perfect (witness the V40 Cross Country as a prime example), it’s a formula that translates very well to the bigger cars in the range.
With the standard V90 estate being such a fine estate, you should expect great things from this Cross Country version. As with the standard V90 it is available with a 2.0-litre diesel engine in two power outputs, albeit only with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox. Rivals include the Audi A6 Allroad and Mercedes E-class All-Terrain.
You’ll find bigger boots elsewhere
Those more accustomed to traditional Volvo Cross Country estates might be surprised by how much the V90’s angled roof eats into boot space. So while this is still a commodious car, it still falls short of the space offered in its rivals from Audi and Mercedes. The flat loading lip is useful, however, as is the way the rear seats can be folded at the touch of a button.
Further forward, passenger space is exceptional, with a huge amount of legroom in the back, and plenty of head and elbow room all round. The only drawback is a large lump in the centre of the floor for a rear seat passenger to straddle, but that applies to rivals as well. There are some useful cubbies and sizeable door bins up front, plus a large glovebox.
Engines can get a little vocal, but otherwise smooth
Compared with a standard V90, the Cross Country’s ride height has been increased by 65mm, and new, softer tyres have been fitted. The result is a car that is even more comfortable, with a wonderfully relaxed feel to the way it gets around. It rides so well on the standard 18-inch wheels, in fact, that there’s no need to add the optional air suspension.
The seats and driving position are also excellent, and the 2.0-litre diesel engine only becomes particularly vocal when revved hard. At other times it simply fades into the background. With no real wind noise to speak of the only thing you’re left with is a gentle road from the tyres.
Dashboard Layout 9/10
Beautifully styled and finished
Where once Volvo interiors were boxy, these days they are defined by their soft curves and fabulous materials. Only the Mercedes E-class All-Terrain, with its optional twin screens, feels more special inside.
The centrepoint of the interior is a large touchscreen, which is almost tablet-sized, and controls the car’s major functions. For the most part, it works pretty well, and means fewer fiddly buttons, but simply by dint of the fact that the one screen does so much, you do sometimes find yourself trawling through submenus to find the function you want.
Easy to drive 8/10
A largely stress-free experience
As with the standard V90, over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t brilliant, so the Cross Country can be a difficult vehicle to park. That said, the controls are nicely weighted, with a long travel to the throttle pedal that allows you to carefully measure out the car’s performance, and a smooth shifting automatic gearbox.
The D4 diesel engine has sufficient power for overtaking, while the D5 is genuinely swift, with fantastic response from low revs.
Fun to drive 7/10
On a muddy track, yes
The Cross Country’s high ride height and soft suspension results in more body lean in corners than you’ll find in the standard V90, but because all models have four-wheel drive it also grips very well.
Admittedly its steering is rather slow, which means the front end seems reluctant to turn, but this merely suits the laid-back style of the car.
Where the Cross Country of course comes into its own is off the beaten track. With an Off-Road setting for its all-wheel drive system, plus hill descent, skid plates and that extra ground clearance, it’s a fairly capable car.
Volvo’s warranty could be better
Volvo’s warranty is limited to three years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. That’s on a par with the Audi, but Mercedes offers unlimited mileage on its three-year warranty.
Volvo also didn’t do particularly well in the most recent JD Power UK Vehicle Dependability survey. The manufacturer finished in 17th place out of 24 car makers; that did at least place it above Mercedes, BMW and Audi, mind you.
Fuel consumption 7/10
Reasonably respectable figures
The Cross Country falls short of the economy figures of the standard V90, in part because it uses four-wheel drive on all models. For example, in official tests the D4 managed 54mpg to the V90’s 63mpg, while the D5 Cross Country achieved 53mpg to the V90 D5’s 57mpg.
That still places it ahead of the six-cylinder Audi A6 Allroad and Mercedes E-class All-Terrain, though.
Carries a hefty premium over a V90
On the face of it, the Cross Country D4’s near £5,000 price premium over a standard V90 looks rather steep, even if it does feature four-wheel drive. However, move up to a D5 and the gap narrows significantly.
It’s also usefully cheaper to buy than an Audi A6 Allroad, with similar projected servicing costs, and it is predicted to hold on to its value well.
The increased fuel consumption compared with a standard V90 also pushes up CO2 emissions, which means it will be more expensive to run as a company car.
If you’re a private buyer and want to avoid the surcharge in vehicle excise duty for cars cost more than £40,000, you’ll need to stick to a D4 with no added extras.
Loads of safety kit and a great reputation
Volvo is known as a maker of the safest cars around, and the V90 is no exception, scoring full marks in Euro NCAP’s industry-standard crash tests.
As standard, you get all the safety equipment you could wish for, including a sophisticated network of sensors that can detect when you’re about to crash and apply the brakes or when you’re about to run off the road and steer you back on to it, as well as a host of other equipment you’d usually have to pay extra for. Volvo’s Pilot Assist, also standard, will steer the car and control its speed in traffic jams or on motorways, so long as the driver is ready to take control of the wheel again every 10 seconds or so.
Standard spec 9/10
Even the entry-level version is well equipped
The Cross Country’s spec is similar to that of the V90 Momentum, only with the added off-road elements and 18-inch alloy wheels. That means you get pretty much everything you could want as standard. Dual-zone climate control, satnav, leather seats - heated in the front, keyless start, adaptive cruise control, self-steering technology; the list goes on.
True, a V90 Inscription is more luxurious still, but there’s really not a great deal in it. The only point to note is that full smartphone connectivity including Apple CarPlay is an optional extra, as is a CD player.
Our favourite version
2.0 D5 Cross Country, list price: £43,585
Options you should add: Metallic paint (£700), Blind Spot Information System (£600), rear park assist camera (£400), smartphone integration (£300), CD player (£100)
The verdict 8/10
The Volvo V90 Cross Country is a very fine car indeed. While it carries a price premium over a standard V90, the even more cosseting ride alone is arguably worth it, while those who live down muddy and rutted tracks or need to get to remote locations will appreciate this car’s useful off-road ability.
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