Volvo V90 Cross Country: Distinctive and sensible

The Cross Country is as smooth and willing to pilot as its standard estate and saloon siblings  (Volvo)
The Cross Country is as smooth and willing to pilot as its standard estate and saloon siblings (Volvo)

I’ve noticed some quite edgy commentary about electric vehicles lately, mostly rather unfair, and some ill-informed. It may be, though, that the official target of ending the sale of all purely internal-combustion-engined passenger vehicles by 2030 is overoptimistic, given the failure to improve the public charging infrastructure as well as some remaining public hesitancy, which in turn is partly down to some fairly bloody-minded anti-electric-car propaganda circulating on social media. That said, it’s still a tricky proposition for folk who live in flats and terraced houses, be they rich or poor.

If we are to persevere with fossil-fuelled cars then it might be an idea to try and wean ourselves off our taste for the SUV. A hatch, estate or saloon equivalent is often nicer to drive, just as roomy, and cheaper than the SUV it shares much of its mechanicals with. So it is with that greatest example of the traditional estate car, the Volvo V90, and especially in jacked-up four-wheel-drive Cross Country form. It’s as smooth and willing to pilot as its standard estate and saloon siblings, and gives little away to the towering XC90.

If you really have to have huge ground clearance and seven seats, then the XC90 is a fine choice. If not, the V90 Cross Country is a more distinctive and sensible choice, and marginally better for the environment with it. It’s a bit old in the tooth now, being about six years in the market, and has had relatively few updates since then, but it is still a perfectly serviceable and less expensive alternative to the equivalent “premium” Audi A6 Allroad and Mercedes-Benz E-class estate all-terrain. Personally, I’ve always thought of Volvo as more of a premium brand, but the trade insists that only the German Big Three count, so there we are.


Volvo V90 Cross Country B5 petrol

Price: £57,175 (as tested; range starts at £56,310)

Engine capacity: 2.0l petrol 4-cyl, 8-sp auto

Power output (hp): 250

Top speed (mph): 112

0 to 60 (seconds): 11.1

Fuel economy (mpg): 33.2

CO2 emissions (WLTP, g/km): 193

The standard-issue Cross Country is based on Volvo’s “Momentum” trim level, which means it gets the usual quota of superb safety equipment and the kind of modern niceties you’d expect on a £57,000 car – heated leather seats and steering wheel, full adaptive cruise control and driver assistance, big alloy wheels, and an electric tailgate that lets you operate it by wiggling your foot under the bumper (when you’ve got your hands full). As an off-roader with some ability, the ride height is raised, the bodywork has extra plastic protective cladding, and the transmission has a hill-descent system, which means it drives itself down mountains as well as on motorways. It’s a good rural compromise between a car and an SUV.

As a slightly older-generation Volvo, it also has a deep portrait-format touchscreen for most controls and settings around the car, as well as the reversing camera and a formidable Bowers & Wilkins sound system. Google Maps is built in, and works fine. There’s also some simple manual dials and steering-wheel thumb controls. Ergonomics was always a Volvo strength, so you also enjoy the extra convenience and safety of a “heads up” display of speed and navigation sort of floating in the windscreen. The quality of materials adds to the feeling of user-friendliness. The little crystal-style switch to start the engine epitomises the generally classy approach.

It’s a handsome beast, with a certain timeless, restrained elegance (Volvo)
It’s a handsome beast, with a certain timeless, restrained elegance (Volvo)
Ergonomics was always a Volvo strength (Volvo)
Ergonomics was always a Volvo strength (Volvo)

It’s recognisably a Volvo, with the signature “shoulder” running along the flank just like the “tank” 140- and 240-series did in the 1960s and 1980s, and the distinctive Volvo-shaped rear lights adding to the sense of a car with a proud personality. And it’s still a handsome beast, with a certain timeless, restrained elegance about its lines. So, yes, I’m a fan, and not least because I’ve seen the lengths the company goes to in an effort to look after its customers. These things are often not immediately visible, such as seats that have extra damping in them in case you accidentally go off-road abruptly in an accident. Things like that.

It goes well, and you feel as though you could easily cross a continent in it. In petrol form, with a mild hybrid available, it pulls well enough, but perhaps doesn’t match the refinement of the very newest models in the sector – Peugeot in particular have upped their game, and the new Genesis models (an upmarket Hyundai brand) are also remarkably civilised. Still, you’re in some comfort, and the Cross Country has more than respectable performance. Soon, though the all-electric Volvo EX90 will be with us, with the promise of being the most refined Volvo yet. For now, the V90 Cross Country is a very acceptable and well-proven way to look after a family.