In­dia gets its first mod­ern diesel lux­ury es­tate. Is the new do-it-all Volvo V90 Cross Coun­try all the car you would ever need?

Car India - - CONTENTS - Story: Jim Gorde Pho­tog­ra­phy: Sau­rabh Botre

Es­tates have come and gone, but none of them have re­ally made a last­ing im­pres­sion in In­dia. Some were great cars but, sadly, so­cial per­cep­tion played a big role and sedans con­tin­ued to be pre­ferred as fam­ily cars. The es­tate car re­turned just a cou­ple of years ago, in a com­pletely un­ex­pected form, too: pack­ing 560 PS and four-wheel-drive and sport­ing a price tag of around Rs 1.4 crore. The sec­ond one ar­rived more re­cently, a cousin of the first, and sport­ing an equally po­tent 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and a 42 per cent higher price tag. Now, though, Volvo have brought in not their es­tate, but the fruit of their roots. This is not the new V90, but the V90 Cross Coun­try.

The V90 Cross Coun­try is S90 meets V90 meets XC90, cre­at­ing a cock­tail of the choic­est flavours from each model line. It blends the fine char­ac­ter­is­tics of sedan-like com­fort, han­dling, and ride qual­ity with es­tate-like boot-space and flex­i­ble cargo choices to­gether with SUV-ish ride height and ca­pa­bil­ity. It has ar­rived in In­dia in just one trim level with one driv­e­line op­tion for now. It packs every­thing from per­fo­rated leather seats with mas­sage func­tions and heat­ing/cool­ing and mul­ti­ple ad­just­ment pos­si­bil­i­ties to a 210-mm ground clear­ance (just eight mm less than the old XC90) with hill-de­scent con­trol, an Off-road mode, air-sus­pen­sion, and, of course, those bril­liant

ac­tive bend­ing LED head­lamps com­plete with crowd-stop­ping Thor’s Ham­mer sig­na­tures.

This also marks a big shift for Volvo’s new-age tra­di­tional safety fea­tures in In­dia. With the nec­es­sary ra­dio-fre­quency zone be­ing freed up, the V90 packs Adap­tive Cruise Con­trol, which works from pretty much a crawl to 200 km/h, to­gether with the whole host of In­tel­liSafe fea­tures: dis­tance alert, col­li­sion warn­ing, and auto brake, be­sides road sign recog­ni­tion, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, and a truly in­tru­sive steer­ing as­sist to make sure you stay within your lane — the lat­ter half of the para­graph ap­pli­ca­ble to civilised roads with lane mark­ings and road signs.

The V90 Cross Coun­try builds on the S90 sedan, shar­ing sev­eral parts, be­ing based on the same Scal­able Prod­uct Ar­chi­tec­ture (SPA). The Cross Coun­try lin­eage gets a fa­mil­iar 23-slat con­cave grille but with five chromed studs on each slat set­ting the model apart. The long bon­net and clean lines are now joined by an ex­tended roof-line, roof-rails, and side body cladding in con­trast grey, ac­cen­tu­at­ing its all-road ca­pa­bil­i­ties and its huge wheel-arches and clear­ance. The V90 Cross Coun­try runs ab­so­lutely stun­ning-look­ing 20-inch al­loy wheels wrapped in 245/45 R 20 Pirelli P-Zero rub­ber. Er, yes, that bit. It’s meant to be ca­pa­ble on the road and off it. The P-Zero rub­ber isn’t the hard­core sports-car variety but is specif­i­cally made for the car — ‘P-Zero VO L’ on the side­wall — with a more rounded pro­file and a softer com­pound.

We first drove the V90 Cross Coun­try in Swe­den, on ice and snowy roads, with the steer­ing wheel on the other side, and with win­ter-stud­ded tyres on 19-inch rims. This time round, we were in Man­ga­lore and would soon head to Madik­eri. That meant a mix of bad roads, snaking bends, dirt patches, of­froad hill-climbs, and tar­mac-laden high­way. The V90 packs an evo­lu­tion of the Ac­tive 4C (Con­tin­u­ously Con­trolled Chas­sis Con­cept) first seen in the S80 in In­dia. The ac­tive chas­sis uses the SPA mono­coque plac­ing wheels us­ing a double-wish­bone front with damped steel springs and a multi-link rear with air sus­pen­sion. Com­bined with the self-lev­el­ling sys­tem, the set-up en­sures op­ti­mum ride height in all con­di­tions.

In ‘Off-Road’ mode, the hill-as­sist is ac­tive and the ride height is op­ti­mised, up un­til 45 or 50 km/h when it re­verts to a reg­u­lar drive mode. Speak­ing of which, there are five: Eco, Com­fort, Off-Road, Dy­namic (avail­able us­ing the crafter drive se­lec­tor in the cen­tre) as well as an In­di­vid­ual setup (achieved us­ing the car’s mas­sive nine-inch touch dis­play) that lets you con­fig­ure your choice of steer­ing, sus­pen­sion and per­for­mance modes. For in­stance, the steer­ing feels su­per-light in ‘Eco’ and ‘Com­fort’, but firms up con­sid­er­ably in ‘Dy­namic’ mode. The sus­pen­sion is softer

with great re­bound char­ac­ter­is­tics in ‘Com­fort’, with quicker up­shifts too. ‘Dy­namic’ tight­ens things up, firm­ing the sus­pen­sion for more pre­cise cor­ner­ing and hold­ing the revs even past 4,000 rpm, where peak power is achieved. You could even pull on the steer­ing-mounted pad­dle-shifters should you want to get more in­volved.

Han­dling, in ei­ther mode, is com­mend­able. I was up the twisties and S-bends with ease, be­fore re­al­is­ing I was in ‘Com­fort’ the whole time. There was hardly any un­der­steer. At­tack­ing the cor­ners is eas­ier in ‘Dy­namic’ and the steer­ing lets you feel more at ease with pro­por­tional in­put, re­sult­ing in more con­trolled lines. Let’s not for­get it was pour­ing with rain and the near two-tonne V90 Cross Coun­try stayed planted and sure-footed at all times and at all speeds. It was al­most dark as we snaked through the cold Madik­eri hills. The LED head­lamps (and LED fog-lamps) are adept at pierc­ing through fog and recre­at­ing day­light ahead. The beams dy­nam­i­cally ad­just to pre­vent daz­zling other road-users.

Giv­ing this es­tate its get-up-and-go is the new-gen D5 2.0-litre in-line four-cylin­der i-ART in­jected twin­turbo diesel en­gine with 235 PS and 480 Nm. This also means ‘Pow­erPulse’ has ar­rived (The XC90 didn’t have it ear­lier and the S90 only has the D4 in In­dia). An elec­tri­cally-driven third com­pres­sor feeds an en­gine-mounted cylin­dri­cal tank with com­pressed air that is used to build boost and spool the tur­bines and keep them on the ready to com­pen­sate for any turbo-lag. It works, too! Though the torque peaks from about 1,750 rpm, the V90 Cross Counry feels re­spon­sive even at 900 rpm. The surge isn’t re­ally there but the mo­men­tum is tan­gi­ble.

Fac­tor in the eight-speed ‘Geartronic’ au­to­matic and Haldex-four-wheeldrive cou­pling and it makes sense. This isn’t some­thing meant to em­u­late a sport SUV prov­ing its track cre­den­tials. It will shift sen­si­bly and fo­cus on econ­omy for most part. The drive-split, we’re told, is 100 per cent front with dy­namic dis­tri­bu­tion to all four wheels when needed. I re­mem­ber the older lay­out be­ing 90:10 with a 50:50 max. It’s still close, yet op­ti­mised even fur­ther. Be­fore we for­get, this is In­dia’s first diesel-pow­ered lux­ury es­tate, and, to be fair, its per­for­mance is above and beyond what any­one

( Right) Cabin is airy and com­fort­able with the choic­est ma­te­ri­als mak­ing the cut ( Far Right) Twin-turbo diesel prom­ises lagfree per­for­mance

( Above) Rear seats af­ford gen­er­ous room and of­fer good sup­port ( Above left) Pur­pose­ful de­sign el­e­ments also add to its ap­peal

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