This new Volvo goes old school
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?