25.9.2017Volvo V90 Cross Country D4 review
Volvo's V90 is a very accomplished estate; stylish, spacious, and comfortable to drive, with the added bonus of being available as a plug-in hybrid model. The Swedish firm's Cross Country treatment should suit the V90 well then, with raised ride height and more rugged exterior offering much of the practicality of a full SUV, but with far better efficiency statistics. NGC tests the Volvo V90 Cross Country D4 to see how it performs.
Review by Chris Lilly
We've tested the D4 diesel unit in the V90 body before, and found it provides a good balance of performance and efficiency. For those wanting added power, the D5 unit is available in the V90 Cross Country (V90 XC) range, and although it's a very good engine, it is a bit of a luxury item considering the D4's ability. Here, in the V90 XC, the analysis still rings true. With 190hp and 400 Nm of torque, there is plenty of oomph available to shift what is a large car. The 0-62mph time on offer is 8.8 seconds, which places the V90 XC as nippy in technical terms; not pacy but far from sluggish. It's 0.3 seconds slower than a non-Cross Country V90, so drivers switching between the two won't notice a thing in terms of performance. There's plenty of torque on tap to pull the Volvo briskly at most speeds, and steep hills aren't a problem either, even with the boot fully loaded and a full complement of adults in the back. Power goes via an eight-speed automatic gearbox to all four wheels - the only configuration available on XC models - which gives high levels of grip even in wet and slippery conditions. Off-road, the Volvo isn't going to bother a Land Rover, but it holds its own across a muddy field, and will deal with much tougher conditions than the standard V90 can. That gearbox isn't the fastest to change, but it is very smooth and is rarely caught in the wrong gear.
With the V90 set up as a relaxing car to drive, few would expect one set-up on taller springs to be a sportier drive - and it isn't. Keeping to the V90's strengths actually makes the V90 XC a better car, with that bit of extra suspension travel making for a more comfortable drive still. The steering is precise but withholds much of the feedback in the interests of refinement, but it's easy enough to put the V90 XC precisely where you want it; handy for town, rural, and off-road locations. There is more body roll in the corners, but again that's to be expected. It's kept nicely under control too, and the V90 XC corners flatter than many SUVs of a similar size. As long as you don't expect the V90 XC to be a 'B-road blaster' - and you would be a fool to - the XC part of the V90 badge makes the estate a better car, further encouraging a relaxing driving style.
Volvo's designers haven't put a pencil out of place for a few years now, and the V90 XC doesn't stop that trend. The V90 is a handsome estate and, for those wanting a more rugged version, the V90 XC offers just what might be required. Added body trim will protect those elements most likely to get caught out by a spot of off-roading, and the V90 XC won't look out of place whether it's in the middle of a field, or the middle of a supermarket car park. As you might expect from a Volvo estate, load space is huge - though not the class leader it once was. With increased pursuit of style comes a little reduction in outright boot capacity over previous models. There are some rivals that beat the Volvo in terms of load-lugging capability. If you really need extra space regularly though, you're better off with a van than an estate, as the V90 XC has more than enough capacity for most. Occupant space is equally generous. The central transmission tunnel restricts leg space for those in the centre of the rear bench, but other than that, head, leg, and shoulder space is excellent round.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Those seats are also some of the most comfortable on the market. There are few cars I would rather take on a cross country drive than the V90 XC when you combine those pews with the supple suspension and increased ride height. You can drive for hours without feeling fatigued. The rest of the interior lives up to the same promise as the chairs, with Volvo's cabin design in the same purple patch as its exterior styling. The dashboard is clean and tidy, with the excellent Sensus infotainment system taking centre stage. You can use it much like a tablet, swiping, scrolling, pinching, and splitting the displays in a number of different functions. It works quickly and has good quality graphics behind an intuitive interface. The driver gets a digital display that can be configured differently depending on drive mode etc, and the rest of the controls are set discreetly into the central transmission tunnel. There are also small design touches throughout the cabin that emphasise the amount of thought that has gone into the Volvo's cabin, such as little Swedish flags on the seats or set into the trim.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
For now, there is no T8 TwinEngine plug-in hybrid option for the V90 XC, so the most frugal variant is the model driven - the D4. Officially the Volvo estate will return 54.3 MPG, and emits 138 g/km CO2. Over the course of my 400+ miles with it, the V90 XC averaged 46 MPG, a figure that is the result of a number of different driving styles and routes - from frugal to sporty, town driving to motorway. It should be a good benchmark for most owners, and is a good real-world figure for something halfway between a conventional estate and an SUV. Tax costs will be Â£200 for the first year VED rate - included in the cars's OTR. Thereafter, it will either be Â£140 a year, or more likely Â£450 Premium Rate for the next five years, since the V90 XC starts at just under the Â£40,000 premium threshold.
As mentioned, the greenest version of the V90 XC would be the T8 PHEV, but it's not currently available. Volvo has set it up to be plug-in capable though as, like all of the 90-Series models, the engine, gearbox, and architecture are have all been designed to take electrified powertrain components without compromising practicality. The SPA platform on which the V90 XC is built is lighter and stronger than previous offerings, and is flexible enough to be used on all 90- and 60-Series cars. The D4 engine uses technology such as low-friction components and materials to improve efficiency, and sequential two-stage turbocharging to keep power and economy figures high. The top two ratios of the eight-speed automatic transmission are high too, effectively offering an overdrive function for the V90 XC, allowing for low revs at motorway cruising speeds. There's also an Eco mode that you can select, to lessen the throttle response and make the gearbox change up earlier to improve economy. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 47.
Like the V90, the V90 XC is very well equipped even at the entry level trim. Fitted as standard are features such as LED headlights with Active High Beam, 18-inch alloys, the 65mm raised suspension, body trim, drive mode select, keyless start, rear park assist, climate control, leather seats, heated front seats, 9-inch portrait touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, DAB, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity, and 8-inch digital driver's display. As you would expect from a Volvo, the V90 XC is one of the safest cars in its class, with features including Pilot Assist II, which incorporates adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist - amongst many other systems - to provide semi-autonomous driving capability.
The V90 is a very good car, but for those that need an SUV or similar in their life, the V90 XC could make a very good alternative. It provides much of the ability of an off-roader but with better efficiency than most models. Living in a rural area, I found the added traction and bodywork protection useful, especially down some tight country lanes covered in mud. For those living in more built up areas, the standard V90 will be a better bet, but for country-dwellers, the Cross Country version makes for a practical and comfortable workhorse.
Model tested: Volvo V90 Cross Country D4 AWD
Body-style: Crossover estate
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre turbo diesel / 138 g/km
Trim grades: Cross Country, Cross Country Pro
On-road price: From £39,785. Price as tested: £51,660 (inc options)
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars