2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country review

The Volvo V90 Cross Country is a pumped-up model of a stylish estate that's unlikely to make it to Thai shores

There was once a time when traditional estates, also known as station wagons, were chosen for their reasonable levels of practicality. In other words, this genus of a vehicle was great for moving families to their favourite weekend resorts.

Today, SUVs have taken over with their more butch styling, more commanding driving position yet with highly practical packaging. That's why luxury car punters would opt for a BMW X5 rather than a 5-series Touring.

However, there are still some carmakers that go an extra mile in trying to offer customers a wider selection of lifestyle vehicles to choose from. Volvo, for one, has been selling the so-called Cross Country models of the V40 and V60 for quite some time in Europe.

And just recently, the Swedes have added another Cross Country based on the new V90 estate to their lineup to rival the Audi A6 Allroad, Mercedes-Benz E-class All-Terrain and, the not really premium, Subaru Outback.

The V90 Cross Country is largely based on the regular estate, just that it has a higher ride height of 65mm for a theoretical advantage in off-road capability. As well, the front and rear tracks are slightly wider.

Coming along with that is slightly more macho looks and standard all-wheel-drive to make sure that it can handle the grit more effectively than the estate it is based upon.

Other than that, the V90 Cross Country triumphs by getting the same two-box package. Which is no bad thing because the interior is quite outstanding by class standards: well-built, versatile and easy to use, thanks to clearly legible instrument dials and an intuitive tablet-style central screen.

Naturally, though, there are some differences in driving dynamics due to the higher ground clearance of the V90 Cross Country. Volvo says the suspension components aren't the same with those in the regular V90.

And this can clearly be felt when driving the V90 Cross Country at its global driving event in Sweden late last month. Due to its comparatively higher clearance that has allowed for more suspension travel, the ride is softer and more comfortable as a result.

Theoretically speaking, the V90 Cross Country ought to be more inferior in terms of handling sharpness. In reality, it is, although the margin of difference seems to be of less significance than the advantage it has in terms of ride comfort, after a back-to-back drive of both V90s.

And if you go off-road, the electrically assisted steering and all-wheel-drive system of the V90 Cross Country works quite well and probably better than in some rivals' systems.

For instance, you can select the drive selector into Sport to give the V90 Cross Country a rear-biased 4WD. This can help make the Volvo feel more balanced and dynamic in more demanding conditions like in corners (and on snow and ice in Sweden, at least).

Which is to say that the V90 Cross Country is quite nicely set up for real-world driving. And whatever turbocharged engine it comes with -- be it four-cylinder petrol (T5 and T6) or diesel (D3, D4 and D5) with power ranging from 150hp to 320hp -- performance is hardly lacking even under a harder-than-usual foot.

Unsurprisingly, the V90 Cross Country ends up where it should be: in between the normal V90 and XC90. Whatever the order is going to be, the XC90 should still remain the recreational vehicle choice of Volvo fans.

Volvo executives believe that the XC90 should attract urbanites with its trendy body, seven-seat capability and T8 plug-in hybrid option, which proves usable in daily driving.

The V90 Cross Country, it was added, is actually for those who need some off-roading ability when going upcountry option. However, some other company execs beg to differ because pricing is what matters more, particular in Thailand where the XC90and V90 Cross Country would simply cost around the same in the 4 million baht range.

Which is why Volvo Cars Thailand is highly unlikely to sell the V90 Cross Country. A sweetener, though, for fans is that Volvo is considering imports of the regular V90 ahead of possible sales at March's Bangkok motor show.

In either D4 or D5 diesel form, it will rival the BMW 5-series Touring, Mercedes-Benz E-class estate, Audi A6 Avant and Jaguar XF Sportbrake in the 4 million baht price bracket.

Like the Cross Country model, the V90 estate stands out with a stylish, grand-looking body. In fact, it looks much better than the XC90, although Volvo's flagship SUV will remain the more crucial model for Asean markets explaining why there is no assembly plan for either V90s to help bring the price down.

Cabin is a triumph: well-built, great to use and versatile.

Cross Country sits in between estate model and XC90 SUV in price.

Cross Country rides more softly yet handles nearly as neatly as estate model.

Two key things that differentiate the Cross Country from the regular estate are wheel arch moldings and 65mm more of ground clearance.

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