Volvo cars are the dark horse in the country, and have been known for making excellent products cramming technology and safety in a fine package. These are for nice people who would rather cruise along calmly neglecting the ripsnorting horde of German counterparts. Such attention to detail, like crash testing cars in a facility previously used for testing earthquake resistant buildings, having its own ‘smell team’ to check odour inside the cabin, or even taking inputs from orthopaedics to design seats. Their newest member to join the Indian line up is the V90 Cross Country, which is a toughened and raised version of the V90 estate. This car is a varying mix of the svelte S90 sedan and the futuristic XC90 SUV. Yes you guessed it right, the hard capabilities and practicality of a big SUV merged with added dose of nippy driving dynamics and comfort of a premium sedan.
Volvo V90 Cross Country quiet simply put is a delightful design. Everybody gives it a second glance and an instant thumbs-up. The swashbuckling attitude of this estate is enhanced by plastic cladding, called ‘charcoal’, all around and raised ride height compared to a standard V90. This takes care of all the minor bumps and scraps from all the undergrowth and rough bits when you take it off-road, or even every day urban use. It is a long car but in no way is it ungainly. As an estate it looks very modern and will surely attract SUV loving crowd towards itself as it looks big and muscular while being classy at the same time. These 20-inch diamond cut alloy wheels are possibly the best in their segment.
Step inside and you get a sense of restfulness and peace. Top quality materials are exceptionally well put together and have the correct blend of leather and metal. You find Nappa upholstery on the comfortable and supportive seats, which also massage you and your co-passenger as you drive along. Another very helpful feature for our country, front seats have ventilation in them to keep you fresh. The 9-inch portrait touch screen in the centre of the dash essentially controls the entire car and brings the button count from 42 to 8. This system takes some time getting used to, but once you have fathomed where every feature lies it becomes a breeze. For the driver this does get bothersome on the move as you might aim at a button and end up pressing the one next to it, you realise sometimes what annoying road patches we have.The Bowers & Wilkins 19-speaker audio system is masterful with brilliant output; you absolutely sink in its sound. Rear seats are extremely supportive and you get ample space to be comfortable. That big panoramic sunroof stretches till the rear and large windows exude a sense of airiness to the passengers. The middle passenger will only be at ease for shorter rides as the transmission tunnel is quiet large and will interfere. Press a button for the electrically operated tailgate, or just wave you foot below the tail to open and you have 560litres of luggage space. If by chance you are moving a house or carrying something large, drop the 60:40 split rear seats flat via two buttons in the boot and you have a 1,526litre cavern.
Engine and performance
Sitting under the bonnet is a 2.0litre Power Pulse turbocharged diesel engine on this D5 model. It comfortably pushes 235bhp of maximum power backed up by a healthy 480Nm peak torque. Since it is a new turbocharged engine, Volvo’s engineers had to bring ingenuity. This Power Pulse engine essentially uses a pressurized air tank instead of using electrically powered booster systems like Audi or triple turbo chargers like BMW. This tank stores fresh air from the air-box under pressure and uses it to spin the turbine even before the exhaust gases kick in. I mean there is a lot more going on, but that’s too technical. Result is a drastic minimization of turbo lag and instant power delivery. Zero to 100kmph takes about 7.5seconds and top speed is electronically limited to 230kmph. All this power is managed by an 8-speed automatic gearbox and a front biased All-Wheel Drive system. The gearbox is quick enough to respond under multiple conditions. You may make the gearbox and engine even more responsive by using ‘Dynamic’ mode for a bit of spirited driving. But really the car and you would prefer to keep it in ‘comfort’ most of the time.
Ride and handling
As mentioned earlier a Volvo is supposed to relax you on your journey, hence the ride quality on offer is just sublime. It gobbles uneven patches easy and keeps you unworried most of the time. It is only the very sharp bumps and crevices that you feel inside, courtesy of those enormous alloy wheels, but still it does not get alarming. The rear sits on self-levelling air suspension adding more for you to agree. It has enough ground clearance for most rough patches, and occasional off-road exercises. But do not be taking it off road too much as you might end up slicing those 245mm Pirelli P Zero tyres. What you can do often however is chuck them around smooth corners and marvel the fact that your estate can handle well enough to satisfy your Formula 1 side. Torque is shuffled between the wheels that have more grip inspiring assurance. The V90 Cross Country also gets paddle shifters to offer more engagement to the driver, and I have to say work very well enabling quick shifts. It’s almost like this breaks all rules of being a Volvo and more a powerful sedan.
Since it’s a Volvo comes packed with every safety feature on the planet, problem isn’t how many, it is where to start! And it’s not just safety systems, it also has semi-autonomous tech on board. The radar constantly scans the road ahead for cars, humans and even large animals for Pete’s sake. If you’re ignorant, IntelliSafe will flash a big Uff Da in your face and literally bring the car to a stop. Put them in automatic and these all-LED headlamps will blot out oncoming and ongoing vehicles on the road while keeping the rest illuminated. And yes, semi-autonomous tech enables you to keep a safe distance from the car ahead of you while running on cruise control. It slows down, you slow down, it speeds up, and so do you. Lane assist on this one has warning as well as steering intervention. If you weave off your lane, it’ll warn you with steering vibration and slightly steer to bring you back in lane. It’s a bit eerie in the beginning but you soon get know every time it happens. What is a bother is how successfully you will be able to use all these safety and semi-pilot systems on our roads. But then it is safety over convenience, and more is better. We’ll do more testing on this report back.
It has been a short stint with the Volvo V90 Cross Country here in Mangalore but the car has left a lasting impression. It very well outperforms every parameter expected off a Volvo, and just leaps ahead in the safety department. V90CC is a fantastic car which is big on size, compact when it comes to driving, congenial in comfort and just plain beautiful to behold. All that is needed is an honest price, tag as is on all Volvo India cars, which will be out very soon later this month. No prizes for guessing it sits between the S90 and the XC90, more towards the XC90 because of the plethora of features, and more value for money than both.
Photography: Mohd Nasir