This new Volvo goes old school

Kapiti Observer - - CLASSIFIED -

Lat­est CC re­calls Volvo’s past. But there’s noth­ing old-fash­ioned about it, says David Lin­klater .

In this era where ev­ery­body seems to want to rise up as high as pos­si­ble in SUV-type ve­hi­cles, is there any point to a lower, sleeker and slightly less spa­cious ver­sion of same?

We say yes. Be­cause that’s pretty much what the awe­some V90 Cross Coun­try (CC) is: a re­verse-en­gi­neered ver­sion of the XC90 that aims to be more cross­over than SUV.

That might be over­sim­pli­fy­ing, be­cause of course the CC is a higher-rid­ing ver­sion of the con­ven­tional V90 wagon – a model not avail­able in New Zealand. But the V90 and XC90 are both new-gen­er­a­tion Volvos based on the same Scal­able Prod­uct Ar­chi­tec­ture (SPA), very close in their over­all foot­prints and con­fig­ured around the same de­sign cues and tech­nol­ogy.

Vir­tu­ally the same price, too: our V90 CC In­scrip­tion D5-fordiesel is $103,900, com­pared with $104,900 for a same-spec­i­fi­ca­tion XC90.

So what’s the point? We reckon the V90 CC ap­peals on the grounds of her­itage, de­sign and dy­nam­ics. Her­itage be­cause long be­fore ev­ery­body be­came ob­sessed with large SUV body shapes, Volvo helped pioneer the cross­over con­cept with a raised- ride-height ver­sion of the V70 wagon called XC. Yes, that’s con­fus­ing be­cause Volvo SUVs now get the ‘‘XC’’ badge, while the crossovers have the ‘‘CC’’ des­ig­na­tion.

Styling is sub­jec­tive thing, but we reckon the V90 CC looks im­pos­si­bly cool; some­thing about the com­bi­na­tion of that ex­tra ground clear­ance with the long, low es­tate-car body shape.

And while big Volvos are unashamedly built for com­fort over speed, a 235mm re­duc­tion in height sub­stan­tially low­ers the cen­tre of grav­ity and im­proves cor­ner­ing ca­pa­bil­ity.

The V90 CC comes only in D5 diesel form for NZ. If you want the T6 turbo-petrol in a sim­i­lar model you’ll have to opt for the S90 sedan. But that’s a story for an­other time.

It’s a grunty pow­er­train, de­liv­er­ing in low-speed urge what it lacks in re­fine­ment. The eight­speed Geartronic trans­mis­sion is slicker with the D5 than it is in other T6-pow­ered Volvo mod­els, where higher revs re­sult in the odd clunk be­tween ra­tios. With the diesel, it’s nice and easy all the way.

Our test car came with the Polestar Op­ti­mi­sa­tion kit for $1600 – es­sen­tially a soft­ware up­grade from the Swedish maker’s high-per­for­mance divi­sion that gives the D5 a tad more power and torque (the lat­ter also reaches peak at 1500rpm in­stead of 1750rpm), but more im­por­tantly im­proved re­spon­sive­ness in the mid-range and more en­thu­si­as­tic throt­tle/ gear­box cal­i­bra­tion.

It’s not nec­es­sar­ily a musthave be­cause the V90 CC is no road-rocket, but it does give the car a bit more mus­cle in the midrange place where you drive it most. There’s also more op­por­tu­nity to en­joy the car’s se­lectable Sport mode (there’s an Off-Road set­ting too). Per­haps more im­por­tantly, you get a spe­cial bright-blue Polestar badge on the back that will sur­prise and de­light Volvo-nerds.

It’s a glo­ri­ous way to travel in any mode: all the Volvo givens like great seats, er­gonomic good sense and a com­pelling suite of ac­tive safety gear that’s too com­pre­hen­sive to list, but in­cludes the likes of au­tonomous brak­ing that can recog­nise other cars, pedes­tri­ans, cy­clists and even large an­i­mals. Volvo’s Pi­lot As­sist au­to­mated tech­nol­ogy is worth a men­tion, be­cause it’s right up there with MercedesBenz in terms of adap­tive-cruise ca­pa­bil­ity and sec­ond only to Tesla in terms of the amount of steer­ing cor­rec­tion it will un­der­take with­out driver in­ter­ven­tion.

The cabin is more staid than the XC90, though. Gor­geous, but more con­ser­va­tive in line with the S90/V90’s more tra­di­tional de­mo­graphic: more em­pha­sis on ver­ti­cal lines than the hor­i­zon­tal shapes of its SUV-si­b­ling. You still get the tablet-like Sen­sus touch screen in the cen­tre con­sole, al­though oddly it looks smaller in this in­te­rior en­vi­ron­ment than in the XC. It’s not.

The just-launched model-year 2018 ver­sion is a good time to go V90 CC: the lat­est spec­i­fi­ca­tion has added ac­tive chas­sis with rear air sus­pen­sion, ‘‘tai­lored’ fin­ish for the dash­board and door pan­els, heated steer­ing wheel, Bow­ers & Wilkins sound sys­tem, sun­roof, pri­vacy glass and rear­win­dow sun­blinds. All were pre­vi­ously part of op­tion pack­ages.

You will never ra­tio­nally jus­tify the V90 CC, be­cause for an­other $1000 you can have the XC90 with more height, bet­ter vis­i­bil­ity for all aboard and a lot more cargo-car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity. More choice too, be­cause the XC is also avail­able in less-ex­pen­sive Mo­men­tum ($97,900) and up­scale R-De­sign ($106,900, in­clud­ing Polestar Op­ti­mi­sa­tion) ver­sions. Oh, and with diesel, petrol and plug-in hy­brid pow­er­trains.

How­ever, if you favour old­school style with your high­er­rid­ing Volvo, you don’t have to jus­tify a thing. For some, the V90 CC ap­peals in way that a school­run SUV never will.

Volvo V90 CC has all the de­sign cues and tech of the XC90 SUV, but it’s 235mm lower. And way cooler?

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