Suffering from SUV-fatigue? Look no further than the V90 CC, featured here in Inscription trim…
With a range of new models penned by ex-design chief, Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo Cars has shrugged off its “boxy and staid” persona and undergone something of a renaissance. These vehicles are strikingly unique in their appearance and the subject of this test – the Volvo V90 Cross Country – is no different, being the latest in a long line of rugged station wagons from the Swedish firm. It has few rivals, too, with the only other off-road-capable estates in our market being the Subaru Outback and Volvo’s own V60 CC; other manufacturers have long since abandoned the segment in favour of SUVs.
Based on the V90 and sharing the same SPA-platform underpinnings as other 90 series models, the V90 CC offers all-wheel drive across its four-model range in South Africa. A raised ride height (by 60 mm), larger wheels, model-specific black wheelarch extensions, bumpers and side sills, as well as a bespoke grille, underline the V90 CC’s rough-road capabilities and set it apart from its lower-slung siblings. Interestingly, for an additional outlay, Volvo will colour code the black exterior trim items, giving your CC a more elegant appearance.
Inside, you’ll find the same sophisticated treatment we’ve experienced in recent Volvo models. Tastefully minimalist is the best way to describe an interior that features plenty of polished metal trim, as well as high-quality materials on all surfaces, from the stitched facia (optional) to the soft leather seats. Pride of place on the facia is taken by the firm’s excellent Sensus infotainment interface. Resembling a tablet, the system is intuitive to operate and all V90 Cross Country derivatives feature satellite navigation as standard with pinch-and-zoom functionality, real-time traffic updates and free map upgrades for life.
As the exterior dimensions suggest, there is an abundance of interior space for both front- and rear-seat passengers. Thankfully, the sloping roofline does not impinge on rear headroom and five adults can comfortably fit in the V90 CC and enjoy the supportive seats on long journeys. Boot space is not as commodious as you might expect, however; despite the vehicle carrying a space-saver spare tyre, the V90 falls below some SUV rivals in the luggage-carrying department.
Conveniently, the boot is accessed by a powered tailgate with an automatically retracting luggage cover and even folding the rear seats is done by clicking one button; handy when you have an excited Labrador on a leash. These features aren’t all standard, though; you’ll have to fork out R75 000 for the Adventure pack, or select them individually. With family and/or dogs aboard, the V90 CC sets about its business in a confident and unflustered manner. Thanks to the optional air suspension (R17 500) on the rear axle and its plump 235/50 R19 tyre sidewalls, the plush ride is immediately evident; it’s one that seems a touch more relaxed in approach than our long-term XC90. The slow-ish steering-response rate –three turns lock to lock – feels perfectly in tune with the persona of the vehicle.
This test unit is the top-of-the-range T6 Inscription variant, meaning it has the most powerful engine and the highest trim level. The inline, four-cylinder motor, a powertrain layout common to all current Volvos, features two forms of forced induction for a total of 235 kW coupled with 400 N.m of torque. It may not be the most characterful powertrain out there – none of Volvo’s Drive-E engines are – but it does do its job without fuss.
Motive force is fed to a BorgWarner all-wheel-drive system via a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. From standstill, the engine’s torque is split equally between the two axles for maximum traction. As a result, our benchmark acceleration time was quite close to Volvo’s claim. Under normal driving conditions, the V90 CC runs front-wheel drive, with a maximum of 50% torque sent rearwards when needed. Incidentally, one of the modes offered by the variable drive selector is an off-road option. In this setting, all-wheel drive is activated, as is hill-descent control and steering effort is reduced, but it operates only at speeds of up to 40 km/h.