2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country: Paradigm Shift for the Maker of ‘Swedish Bricks’

Automotive expert Brian Armstead talks about the latest vehicle innovations from Volvo

(Image: Getting Dirty with the V90 CC | Photo by Brian Armstead)

 

Throughout its storied history, Volvo, the  Swedish brand now owned by Geely of China, has long been known for safety and less than stellar styling. Volvo invented the three-point seat belt in 1959. It was the first manufacturer to utilize side impact airbags in 1994. It lauded safety cage construction as a lifesaver in advertisements that showed Volvo cars stacked up—six high—to prove roof strength, and with the passenger compartment intact, to show the cars were heavily reinforced to stand up to the realities of life and death on roadways.

 

(Image: Photo by Volvo)

 

These ads were a dramatic, sometimes humorous, way to drive home the fact that Volvo has built its reputation on safety. And we all know that safety is not a joke. According to the National Safety Council, 40,200 people died last year on American roadways, a 6% increase over 2015 fatality numbers.

The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country continues to uphold Volvo’s safety legacy in a major way. Check the standard list of safety equipment, and you’ll be reading for a while. Some key safety gear includes:

  • LED headlights with auto bending and active high beams
  • Lane-keeping aid
  • Blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert
  • Front and rear collision mitigation support
  • Nine airbags
  • Whiplash protection for front seats
  • Road sign information, displayed in cluster or head up display
  • Electronic stability control
  • Volvo on-call emergency and concierge assistance
  • Pilot assist: semi-autonomous drive system with adaptive cruise control
  • Park assist camera and park assist rear
  • Intelligent driver information system

While Volvos have been known for safety, they’ve also been known for their boring, lackluster style. Well, cancel all of those thoughts, as the 2017 V90 Cross Country is—in a word—sexy. I know that doesn’t even sound right, but it’s true; style is now a serious part of the Volvo equation. The new S90, XC90, and now the V90 and the V90 Cross Country are a testament to a paradigm shift for the manufacturer, which used to build cars known as “Swedish bricks.”

 

(Image: Photo by Volvo)

 

The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country’s exterior styling is lean and muscular. The most dramatic view is from the side, where optional 21” wheels fill the rugged, plastic-clad wheel wells. A tall waistline is accentuated with deep door sculpting and a sharply creased accent line just inches below the side window frames. Those window frames can be dressed in black or polished trim, and the smallish aperture of the windows gives the V90 Cross Country a powerful stance. At the rear, a roof mounted spoiler caps highly mounted tail lamps on the power-operated trunk lid. Below the trunk lid are dual, rifled exhaust tips shrouded with a stylish diffuser panel. Up front, three different grilles—according to trim level. Headlamps styled like Thor’s hammer completes the styling of a vehicle, which combines luxury, safety utility, and swagger for the best looking wagon Volvo’s ever built.

 

(Image: Thor’s Hammer Headlights Accentuate the V90 CC Photo by Volvo)

 

Step inside the V90 Cross Country, and you’ll experience what Volvo deems “the Scandinavian sanctuary where form and function equal beauty.” I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description of the V90 Cross Country’s full-tilt luxury.  According to Volvo, “It’s an elegant interior with every component working in harmony and designed around you.”

 

(Image: Photo by Volvo)

 

Key interior features include:

  • Three- inch digital instrument display
  • High-performance audio
  • Remote audio controls on steering wheel
  • Bluetooth
  • Sensus navigation
  • Smartphone integration with USB hub (iPhone and Android)
  • Sirius satellite radio
  • Two-zone electronic climate control with clean zone air quality system
  • Nappa leather upholstery
  • 10-way, power driver/passenger seats
  • Dark walnut wood inlays
  • Heated steering wheel

 

(Image: 12.3″ Touchscreen in V90 CC Photo by Volvo)

 

With the 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country, it’s not just about the amount of standard and available interior content. The interior really makes its mark by melding all components without fuss. You can touch pretty much anything inside, and its operation is fairly intuitive. The only exception is the 12.3” center console touchscreen, which is a bit complicated, until you spend time learning the interface. Once you learn, adjusting audio and temperature, plotting navigation, and checking text messages are among myriad tasks you can accomplish with a simple touch or swipe of your finger.

Should desire to replicate your music as if it were being played live at the Gothenburg Concert Hall,  which is in Volvo’s home city in Sweden, then opt for the 19-speaker, 1400-watt Bowers & Wilkins Premium Audio System. This aural wonder allows you to scroll through different ‘soundstages,’ so you get the best sound, no matter the musical genre.

In case you were wondering, the Cross Country in the V90’s name means a couple of things. First and foremost, it means you get an impressive 8.3 inches of ground clearance, 2.3 inches over the base V90 Wagon. During nearly 30 miles of off-road testing, the V90 Cross Country proved its mettle on washboard roads, inclines, declines, with loose gravel surfaces, and through shallow streams about a foot deep. Is it like a Land Rover while off-roading? No, but it’s not designed to be.

If you live an active lifestyle that includes hiking, cycling, kayaking, hang-gliding or mountaineering, Volvo has a Cross Country with your name on it. Cross Country also means towing capacity, as the V90 Cross Country tows a maximum 3500 pounds. Be sure to order the optional hideaway tow hitch, which at a touch of a cargo area button, pops down from it secret hiding place, which you can then lock it into position. It’s a very trick and very useful feature. During the media launch for the V90 Cross Country, Volvo set up a towing demonstration with us towing a 3,500 pound Zodiac boat/trailer combo. An optional rear air suspension ensures the V90 Cross Country remains level and balanced up to recommended towing loads.

 

(Image: V90 CC Towing Demo – Photo by Brian Armstead)

 

On smooth roads, the 2017 V90 Cross Country is equally impressive. Clearly, extensive engineering and planning has gone into the execution of the noise, vibration, and harshness characteristics of the new wagon. Even with the 21-inch wheels with performance low profile tires, interior noise levels are very low and the ride quality is supple.

Now, one should not equate supple ride quality with a lack of performance. Let’s start with the V90 Cross Country powertrain, which features a 316 horsepower, 3.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged engine. When you accelerate, the supercharger provides a boost to spool up power to get the 4221 pound V90 Cross Country going. Once your engine exceeds 2500 rpm, a turbocharger kicks in to provide another boost. Using the dual ‘chargers’ may seem excessive, but the system works flawlessly under all conditions and provides plenty of scoot for the V90 Cross Country.

Smooth road handling is also impressive, with Volvo’s Four-C Active Chassis Control using a variety of sensors to control engine, steering, transmission, brakes, and suspension to ensure optimal ride comfort. Choose from Eco, Comfort, Off-Road, and Dynamic (performance oriented driving).

 

(Image: Select your Drive Mode and Go! Photo by Volvo)

 

The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country is a very solid buy for active lifestyle families and couples, and for those who just want one of the coolest sports wagons on the planet. Prices begin at $55,300 and can rocket towards $80,000, if you select all factory and dealer installed options.

 

 

 


Automotive expert Brian Armstead has been involved in print, radio, and television for over 41 years.  He is President Emeritus of the Washington Automotive Press Association.  Got a new car question?  Reach out to Brian at autosense@comcast.net, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter @roadgearsun