VOLVO V90 CROSS COUNTRY
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?
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