Volvo V90 Cross Country D5 PowerPulse14 | 02 | 2017Scotcars rating

    Can Volvo's new V90 Cross Country bridge the gap between on-road and off-road living?

    IT’S 20 YEARS SINCE Volvo, when it launched its first V70 Cross Country, created what has become something of an appealing proposition to any buyers; the premium crossover-estate. So it should come as no surprise that its new V90 D5 Cross Country is a seriously impressive, mudplugging luxury estate which is more than capable of coping with the worst the Scottish weather can throw at it. (Related: Roadtest — Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine)

    The latest addition to Volvo’s iconic large estate car, the V90 Cross Country is, on paper, a more rugged, off-road-oriented version of the Swedish manufacturer’s new load carrier. But what’s it like in reality? Can it really handle offroading?

    The answer, unequivocally, is yes. Ok, we’re not going to say it’ll do everything a Land Rover will do, but for the vast majority of people who are going to find themselves having to negotiate shin-high deep mud, or slippery 30-degree slopes, the Volvo will ace many of its rivals.

    This new 2017 incarnation follows in the footsteps of a number of other Volvo Cross Country models, and comes 20 years after the original V70 Cross Country entered Scottish showrooms.

    That model, with its rugged yet understated looks and impressive all-weather ability, proved to be something of a success. Essentially it spawned a new niche encapsulating all that’s best in a load-lugging estate and a high-set SUV. 

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    Other manufacturers saw the success and jumped on the bandwagon; as a result, this 2017 Cross Country now enters a market fighting the likes of the Audi A6 3.0TDI Allroad quattro and the more technologically advanced Mercedes E 350d All Terrain.

    But such has been Volvo’s recipe of off-road looks and on-road ability that its longterm success means the new Cross Country is an evolution of its proud predecessors.

    The 2017 model sees the ride height of the all-wheel-drive raised an extra 65mm — 5mm of that due to higher profile off-road tyres — while the front track has been widened by 20mm and the rear by 40mm. The car also sits on specially-designed Michelin tyres which are 42mm larger in diameter.

    And you’ll recognise the V90 Cross Country immediately: it still retains those recognisable iconic black plastic wheel arch extensions, blacked out trim pieces and front and rear titanium skid plates.

    But there’s no denying Volvo’s designers have given the latest model a more refined, edgier and slightly aggressive look when compared with the V70 Cross Country.

    Inside the cabin of the new Cross Country, it’s virtually identical to its road-going counterparts. Sure the newcomer gets a matte black walnut trim, cross-stitched leather upholstery and leather-clad dashboard, but everything else mirrors that of the already impressive cabin seen elsewhere in the range. It’s an exceptionally comfortable, pleasing and rather special place to spend time in, with a clever minimalist, yet upmarket, design

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    Thankfully, there’s also the 9.0in portrait colour touchscreen, which controls the satnav, infotainment, and just about everything else; it’s still one of the most intuitive systems of its type on the market. You also get LED headlights, an electric tailgate and the semi autonomous ‘Pilot Assist’ function.

    Once out on the road — our test car was fitted with Volvo’s 232bhp D5 diesel engine using the Swedish company’s innovative ‘PowerPulse’ technology —  it quickly becomes clear that the Cross Country has noticeably different character to the regular V90. And in this instance, that’s a positive.

    Boasting all-new dampers and the latest evolution of Volvo’s optional air suspension, it glides across the road surface displaying a smoothness you’d expect only from a top-end, luxury off-roader. That relaxed air continues when you head off into the rough stuff, where the Cross Country’s pliancy and versatility again echoes the ride of something rather sumptuous.

    Oh, and just in case you don’t know what ‘PowerPulse’ is: in simple terms (it’s the only way I understand it!) the system stores high-pressure air ready for release into the turbo on demand. This then eliminates the lag which is often present in engines of this type.

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    Worth highlighting, PowerPulse doesn’t make the car any quicker. Instead it means the car feels much more responsive to throttle inputs, whatever the rev-count; and that makes the D5 a punchy alternative to the cheaper D4 power plant.

    Capable of gobbling up the motorway miles in a serene and relaxed mode, allowing the occupants to enjoy the high-end ambience of the cabin, the V90 Cross Country was equally impressive on its trip round Volvo’s offroad course deep in Cannock Chase in the heart of the Midlands.

    Not only is there a good amount of ground clearance, giving it enough capability to keep up with most full-size SUVs, but Volvo’s hill descent control safely navigated the steep downhill descents. Equally impressive was the hill hold function which allowed me to pull away from standstill, having stop halfway up a muddy 30-degree climb.

    Let’s not forget: the V90 Cross Country is an estate car, which means it’s hugely practical. Not only is there masses of space for rear seat passengers, but the bootspace — despite, on paper, being slightly smaller than a few rivals — is cavernous enough to lose the kids in. And it’s versatile, aided by a gas strut which lifts the boot floor, and buttons to electrically fold the rear seats.

    Of course, we can’t review a Volvo without addressing safety. The Swedish car maker has a long reputation for building some of the safest cars on our roads, and the V90 is no exception.

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    Basically you get all the safety equipment you could wish for; plus there’s 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. Clever stuff; and potentially life-saving.

    That, plus a host of other safety equipment, is standard; it doesn’t cost you a penny extra.

    And just for good measure, you also get — as standard — Volvo’s Pilot Assist which will steer the car and control its speed in traffic jams or on motorways; that’s as long as the driver is ready to take control of the wheel again every 10 seconds or so.

    Personally, I’m still battling to get my head round this autonomous driving malarkey: either we, as humans, drive the car, or it’s completely self-driving. This current state when the driver needs to be ready to take control all seems a bit unnecessary. But that’s just me.

    Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I have to say, the V90 Cross Country D5 is a wonderful combination. Relaxed and measured on tarmac, with the reassuring ability to go offroad if, and when, you need to.

    Just be aware, while the V90 Cross Country D4 costs £39,785, the Cross Country D5 PowerPulse will take you above the surcharge in vehicle excise duty for cars costing more than £40k; it’ll set you back £43,585 … but it’s worth every single krona.

    Related: Volvo teases with images of all-new 2017 XC60

    See up-to-date with all the latest news by following us on twitter.com/Scotcars

    Jim McGill

     

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £43,585 / £56,485
    Engine / Power: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, with 8spd auto and AWD / 232bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 7.5sec / Max 140mph
    How big/heavy?: L4936mm W2052mm H1543mm / 1696kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 53.3mpg combined / 139g/km CO2
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / n/a
    Alternatives: Audi A6 Allroad, Mercedes E 350d All Terrain

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