by: Mike Ginsca
The station wagon was the go to family hauler before the time of the SUV. However with the introduction of SUVs in the 1980s, station wagons are as rare as Bengal tigers. But there are a few auto manufacturers that still produce wagons. Volvo is one of those companies that has continued to produce the station wagon since, what feels like, the dawn of time. Their V90 Cross Country flagship wagon replaced the XC70 and was introduced as a new model in 2017.
Engine – Every Volvo in their current lineup is powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. Some are only turbocharged designated by the T5 badge on the back, while others are turbocharged and supercharged designated by the T6 badge. This demo model has the T6 engine with 316hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. On paper those figures seem plentiful for a car like this. But in reality the V90 Cross Country tips the scales at almost 2 tonnes. While the power is adequate for most people, it doesn’t give you as strong of a “pin you to the back of the seat” feeling as you’d expect. For being a 316hp engine, fuel economy is not too bad with an average combined fuel efficiency of 11.0 L/100km during my week of driving the V90 CC.
Transmission – An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission available on the Volvo V90 CC. As transmissions go, this one is smooth and quick to shift both up and down through the gears. The transmissions sends the power to all four wheels via a Haldex AWD system.
Brakes – Stopping the big wagon is easy and effortless. The actual size of the brake discs is not that big, relatively speaking, but the calipers provide a lot of clamping force on the discs. The brakes do have a strong and sensitive initial bite but after a few minutes, it gets easier to adjust to them and easily modulate the braking force. Not to mention all Volvo vehicles come with emergency automatic braking and arguably it is one of the best systems of any manufacturer.
Handling – The Volvo V90 CC is not bad at going around corners but it’s not great either. The steering is direct and quick but it doesn’t feel like you’re in a sports wagon. You can also feel the lane departure system tugging at it if you get too close to the edge of your lane. The V90 CC feels planted for the most part when going around corners but because of the extra 2” in height over the standard V90, the Cross Country exhibits a bit more body roll and lean. Push it to its limits, and the tires begin to squeal in pain as the car understeers. If you want a more sporty station wagon, the standard V90 or V60 are better options.
Ride Comfort – Volvo vehicles tend to have a more compliant and smooth ride than their German counterparts. The V90 CC is more of the same as it rides smoothly over road surfaces both paved and unpaved. I have driven another V90 CC with the optional 20” wheels and if you want the most comfort, then I’d recommend you avoid those wheels and stick to the 19” wheels.The front seats also add to the comfort of this car due to the way they are designed. With the help of an orthopedic surgeon, the front seats were designed to provide the most support and comfort for your back on both short and long drives. In the back, there is a lot of leg and head room for taller occupants and the truck comes very close to offering the same capacity as an equally sized SUV.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – For a luxury vehicle, the cabin of the V90 CC lets a lot more noise intrude than expected. Above 2,500 to 3,000 rpms, the engine gets very buzzy and noisy. During quick accelerations from city lights, this noise becomes very evident. On highways a bit of the tire noise does make its way into the cabin but it’s not super intrusive.
Interior Design – Volvo’s new design language is minimalist and modern which shows throughout the interior of the 2018 Volvo V90 CC. A single touchscreen controls pretty much all aspects of the car. There are a few physical buttons underneath it for stereo volume & playback as well as for front and rear defrosters. Steering wheel controls are well laid out with cruise control on the left and infotainment on the right. Depending on what options you choose, the dashboard can be covered in leather rather than plastic and the seats & lower trim pieces can be a different colour. Also, all Volvo vehicles have the Swedish flag sewn into the passenger seat just in case you forget what nationality the brand is.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – Certain features like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, heated front seats, backup camera, leather upholstery are standard on the V90 Cross Country. If you want just one or two specific features, you’re out of luck because Volvo packages different features together. On the V90 CC there are 5 different packages to add on to it. They add features such as a 360 vision camera, blind spot sensors (which surprisingly are not standard), heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, automatic parking feature, and so on. There are some stand-alone options you can choose from but for the most part they are just accessories. Apart from the Heads-up display, Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound system, and rear air suspension. Those are worth considering.
This particular Volvo comes equipped with just about every option including the Pilot Assist Semi Autonomous driving system. It’s called a semi-autonomous system because you can’t fully take your hands off the steering wheel and you still have to pay attention to the road ahead. It works best when on a highway but also within a city. Just make sure that there is a vehicle ahead of you when pulling up to a stoplight or stop sign because the system will assume it’s ok to keep driving on.
Exterior Design – For a car in general, not just a station wagon, the Volvo V90 CC looks really good. Yes, with the extra 2” of ride height it may look a bit odd to some, but it allows the car to go places where other station wagons can’t go. It has a design that will probably not go out of style or dated in 5 years time.
Station wagons have a lot of the same capabilities and features as SUVs. But I think because of the higher driving position and the illusion of being surrounded by more steel/aluminum, SUVs are more appealing to consumers than station wagons. I personally like stations wagons and they offer the same space, same safety, same features and usually better driving dynamics. But it’s hard to change people’s perceptions. This Volvo V90 Cross Country is trying hard to change that with it’s spacious interior, comfortable ride, and off-road capability. But it’s hard for me to recommend this particular station wagon due to its hefty price tag of almost $72,000 CAD as this demo is. The 2019 V60 is a better bang for your buck with a starting price of just under $45,000 CAD compared to the V90’s $59,500 CAD.
Thank you to Volvo Canada for providing the vehicle. www.VolvoCanada.com
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.