2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country D5 AWD Review
Paul Horrell’s pre-launch 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country D5 AWD Review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Why do you want a tall luxury crossover? If you don’t need seven seats, Volvo’s stealthy alternative might suit you better.
2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country D5 AWD
Pricing Not announced yet Warranty 3 years, unlimited km Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 173kW at 4000rpm Torque 480Nm at 1750-2250rpm Transmission eight-speed auto Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4936mm (L); 2052mm (W mirrors out) 1895mm (W mirrors in); 1543mm (H) Turning Circle NA Seats 5 Kerb weight 1881kg Fuel tank 60 litres Thirst 5.3l/100km (combined cycle) Fuel diesel Spare space saver
VOLVO’S CROSS COUNTRY, along with Subaru’s Outback, popularised this class of jacked up, soft-road wagon. The Cross Country has got standard four-wheel drive, reasonable mixed-surface tyres and good clearance (although the departure angle isn’t that great). Locally, the Volvo V90 Cross Country will launch in the next month, so Australian specifications and pricing will have to wait until then.
Volvo’s 90-series product manager Stefan Sällqvist told me that in its native Sweden, and in many other parts of the world too, it’s the V90 Cross Country that’s used for off-road work, not the tall XC90 crossover. He says that’s because the Cross Country is just as capable off-road, and because its roof is lower it’s easier to lift up bikes and surfboards and skis.
By contrast, he says, XC90s seldom actually go off-tarmac. They’re bought either because they have seven seats, or as visible status vehicles.
WHAT’S THE INTERIOR LIKE?
If you’ve seen the XC90 or S90, there are no surprises here. But it is a delight. Volvo uses simple shapes and soft ‘Scandinavian’ materials – the leather seems thick, the wood is beautiful dark-stained matte-finished walnut. If you find German cabins too aggressive and cold, this might be for you.
The front seats are superbly comfortable for long journeys. They might not look exaggeratedly supportive, but they just work. Optional (in Europe) packs give extra electric adjustments, but most people won’t need that. In the rear, there’s lots of legroom and head clearance. But the middle passenger has a transmission tunnel in the way of their feet.
Four-zone climate control is available so two rear passengers can select individual temperatures from the low-mounted vents. Another option pack brings built-in foldaway child booster seats, a brilliantly executed convenience and safety feature. Reading lights sit in the top side rail, and extra 12V outlets in the rear console and boot.
The head restraints flop forward on a driver’s control, for better rear vision when no-one sitting back there. The same mechanism is used when dropping the rear seat to give a huge flat boot floor. That said, the floor-to-ceiling dimension isn’t as great as an SUV, and the raked tail glass means you might not get a whole wardrobe in.
The boot has a flip-up flap with elastic mounts to keep your grocery bags upright. An end to disorderly fruit’n’veg misery. A roll-up dog net is provided, so the animal shouldn’t end up your lap either.
In front of the driver is a TFT display that clearly simulates dials, and a 3d representation of the road ahead for navigation. Buttons on the right spoke of the steerig wheel bring up other menus on this screen so you can easily redial recent phone numbers, go to recent destinations, change radio station or track, or show trip details. It works reasonably well but isn’t quite as intuitive as the system Audi has used for several years.
A head-up display is optional, bringing right to your field of view your speed, the speed limit, cruise set, and navigation arrows.
The wow screen is the tablet on the dash. It the graphics are clear and it reacts with no noticeable latency. The mapping especially is very quick to zoom and pan. It integrates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto more tightly than almost any rival system (though that still isn’t perfectly so).
Menu screens for car settings and safety systems are well-organised too.
In the end though we still question whether a touchscreen is best. It’s sometimes hard, as you bump down the road, to hit exactly the desired point on the screen. Miss and you’ll get the wrong function.
WHAT’S IT LIKE ON THE ROAD?
The D5 version of Volvo’s two-litre diesel engine has something labelled ‘Power Pulse’. It’s a small compressed-air canister fed by a little electric pump. When you floor the accelerator at low revs, a valve releases compressed air into the intake, so you have some boost even before the turbo has spooled up to speed. The result is less sense of turbo lag. Sure enough it is a responsive engine over what is, for a diesel, a wide effective rpm range. It’s pretty quiet most of the time, too.
This runs through an eight-speed auto transmission and all-wheel-drive.
On the road, cornering is very secure, thanks to an undemanding steering setup and all the traction you could need. It runs straight and true on open highways too. This is a soft suspension system though, and the tyres have tall sidewalls, so it’s no surprise you don’t get the steering precision of a BMW 5-series.
In return, the ride is very supple over big bumps, if a little shuddery across small undulations.
You can specify air suspension on the Cross Country, but it’s only on the rear end. So it self-levels the car under load, but it can’t be used to alter the ride height – no lowering at for stability at speed, no raising for better clearance off-road. (The XC90 has a four-corner air spring option.) So unless you carry heavy loads or tow big trailers, the advantage is slight.
Whether running the standard chassis or the air option, the Cross Country is raised up by 60mm compared with the regular S90. That’s a worthwhile amount. Driving it off road I winced as I entered a couple of sets of deep ruts and potholes, but I was wrong – it didn’t ground out. Clearance is 200mm with two people on board, and it’s claimed to wade 300mm.
Skid plates front and rear provide some protection, and the plastic perimeter cladding should fend off some brushwood scrapes.
WHAT ABOUT THE SAFETY FEATURES?
Volvo has scored immensely well at Euro NCAP and ANCAP. The S90 scored five stars in the latest tests, and Euro NCAP says it is satisfied the V90 estate would do just as well. The V90 Cross Country is the same except for the higher suspension.
The S90 full points for the comprehensive effectiveness of its autonomous emergency braking (which can spot vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and large animals), and for its lane departure support.
If the autonomous braking doesn’t stop the car in time, the active bonnet will lift up at the rear, cushioning the blow to a pedestrian.
To this driver, the ‘Pilot Assist’ systems operate very smoothly – lane keeping and radar control of speed are among the best-executed and smoothest-operating in the industry. But Volvo is careful to emphasise the driver must always remain fully engaged. The Swedes are diligently working on autonomous driving as part of their safety vision, but until that day comes you’re responsible.
Side blind-spot warning is also included, and rear cross-traffic alert (for when you’re reversing out into a road) and rear collision mitigation.
In Australia, Volvo fits as standard ultra-bright LED headlights which throw a beam of variable shape, so they can mask other cars to avoid dazzling them, but otherwise blaze a full beam. Great for safety in rural areas at night. In Sweden, hitting a moose at night is every rural driver’s worry – Australians have their own wildlife to worry about.