2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country review: Volvo's ruggedized wagon takes luxury to the wilderness

  • Engine Turbo/Supercharged, 4 Cylinder Engine
  • Drivetrain All Wheel Drive
  • MPG 25 MPG
  • Passenger Capacity 5
  • Body Type Wagons

Roadshow Editors' Rating

8.3 Overall
  • Performance 8
  • Features 8.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Media 8

The Good The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country comes standard with advanced safety systems, such as lane keeping assist, and connected dashboard electronics with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. All-wheel drive, an economical engine and practical interior space round out this wagon.

The Bad The V90 Cross Country doesn't give any control over its all-wheel-drive system, such as locking the torque split, and its drivetrain exhibits acceleration lag at speed. The infotainment system interface is not very intuitive.

The Bottom Line Although it requires a small learning curve, the 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country delivers luxury with a lean toward the rugged in a thoroughly modern wagon, with few competitors in sight.

Hitting the gas from a stop, the 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country's authoritative acceleration surprises and impresses me, because I know only four cylinders propel this big, heavy wagon. But attempting a freeway pass while at speed, the drivetrain takes a moment to give the boost I need.

The large, portrait-format touchscreen in the center of the dash looks good, and makes navigation input easy with one-box search, but it takes me far too long to figure out how to change audio sources. Hint: Swipe left.

At over 16 feet, the V90 Cross Country measures a little too long for easy urban parking. However, its automated parallel parking nestles me right up to the curb, without a single bumper kiss front or back.

The Volvo V90 Cross Country, a ruggedized version of the V90 wagon, comes standard with all-wheel drive and extra ground clearance.

Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow

Volvo gets plenty of hipster love for its boxy 200-series station wagons of the past, but the 2017 V90 Cross Country wagon is anything but boxy, or old. This thoroughly modern wagon presents a tapered hatch accented by tall taillights. It also tops Volvo's wagon lineup, sitting comfortably among the XC90 SUV and S90 sedan as Volvo's larger cars.

The Cross Country moniker signals that this V90 boasts 8.3-inches of ground clearance, 2.3-inches more than the standard V90 wagon, and includes an Off Road drive mode.

Firm but comfortable seats wrapped in fine-looking leather and a Bowers and Wilkins stereo help the V90 Cross Country reach Volvo's premium aspirations, as does the minimalist approach to dashboard design. Pushing towards the leading edge of technology, this example came with a high-resolution head-up display, adaptive cruise control and self-steering within a lane, online destination search, and a digital instrument cluster. As an extra edge of convenience, the dashboard electronics support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The easy and engaging character of the V90 Cross Country makes it the kind of car I want to drive for any little errand or nation-spanning journey. As a Volvo quirk, I fire up the engine by twisting a dial on the console. The 2-liter four-cylinder engine, aided and abetted by a supercharger and turbocharger, a unique forced-induction combo from Volvo, makes 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to all four wheels through an eight speed automatic transmission.

Setting Eco mode, the digital instrument cluster replaces its tachometer with a power gauge and detunes the throttle, making for gentle launches. I don't usually care for Eco modes, as I know how to drive efficiently, but this one also detunes the climate control, increasing the fuel savings. With its impressively small but powerful engine and other fuel-saving technologies, the V90 Cross Country scores an EPA economy rating of 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, which lines up perfectly with my experience of averaging around 25 mpg.

As I pilot the V90 Cross Country down city streets, the wheel turns effortlessly and the idle-stop feature kills the engine when at stop lights to help save gas. When I switch the drive mode to Comfort, suspension and steering feel the same, but the throttle becomes a little more responsive. While this wagon takes off neatly from a stop, I find hesitation from the throttle when I'm already at speed and need extra oomph to pass another car, probably lag from the engine's forced induction.

Although among Volvo's largest cars, the V90 Cross Country makes do with a four-cylinder engine. However, a combination of turbocharger and supercharger pumps up the power.

Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow

I don't feel that hesitation when I put the V90 Cross Country in Dynamic mode. The car holds its engine speed higher, making for a very responsive throttle, the steering wheel gains heft, and the suspension tightens up. The wagon feels like a more engaged driver all around, and I generally prefer it in this mode, except it doesn't kill the engine at stop lights, instead needlessly burning fuel. In turns, the tighter tune on the suspension keeps the V90 Cross Country feeling very steady, but even in Comfort mode it handles well.

The LCD advises that Off Road mode is for a "rough road," so maybe not truly off-road. Moderate ground clearance helps the V90 Cross Country get over ruts or handle snowy conditions, aided by its standard all-wheel drive. That all-wheel-drive system biases torque to the front wheels by default, but can split it 50:50 between front and rear wheels. The wagon doesn't include a means of locking the torque split, but the Off Road drive mode should keep power going to the rear wheels.

I spend the majority of my wheel time sailing down freeways in Comfort mode, taking advantage of the wagon's adaptive cruise control, which automatically brakes to match slower traffic ahead. This system works well enough to bring the V90 Cross Country to a full stop when traffic stops, but I felt it left too much of a gap in front for effective stop-and-go driving. To be fair, the only adaptive cruise control systems I've found that handle stop-and-go well are in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Tesla Model S.

Volvo's head-up display, with its crisp, useful graphics, makes for a worthwhile option.

Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow

Activating Volvo's Pilot Assist turns adaptive cruise control up to 11 by bringing in auto-steer, helping the wagon maintain its lane position. This feature aggressively commands the steering, but I get nervous when it runs close to left-side concrete barriers on the highway. The automated parking feature, which also takes control of the steering, works smoothly once I find a street parking spot in San Francisco long enough for the V90 Cross Country.

Contributing to my comfort, the head-up display looks crisp, and shows detailed route guidance along with vehicle speed.

I hadn't spent much time previously with Volvo's new infotainment system, which debuted in the XC90 SUV and S90 sedan, and it takes me a while to figure out the interface. The home screen shows four tiles with navigation, stereo, phone and Apple CarPlay, since I have my phone plugged in. Touching a tile expands it. Good enough, but the expanded stereo tile doesn't show the audio source I want. After some head scratching, I try swiping left and voila!, the ensuing Applications screen not only gives me audio sources, but also sound settings, Google search and the weather forecast. I try swiping right from the home screen, and find the Vehicle Functions screen, letting me control active safety systems.

Navigation works well, with maps shown on the main LCD and the digital instrument cluster. Along with online Google destination search, the nav system includes one-box destination input, which lets me enter addresses or places to query the onboard database.

This system neatly integrates Apple CarPlay, showing it on a home screen tile, and even lets me look at Apple Maps and the wagon's native navigation at once. Cleverly, I can push the voice command button quickly to control the onboard electronics, or give a long push to talk to Apple's Siri.

Listening to music over the V90 Cross Country's Bowers and Wilkins audio system is a delight, especially as the system recreates the acoustics of Sweden's Gothenburg Concert Hall. For podcasts, I dial the sound down to the more appropriate Studio preset. If I really want to fine tune things, I can play with a nine-band graphic equalizer on the LCD.

The V90 Cross Country probably wouldn't fare well deep in Moab or the Mojave, but its all-wheel-drive and ground clearance will help during ski and glamping trips.

Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow

As a ruggedized station wagon, the 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country fits a unique niche, but it doesn't stand alone. The Audi Allroad runs nearby, with the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack stalking from behind. Even the Subaru Forester, when equipped with the new lux Touring trim, plays in this field. But the V90 Cross Country takes the crown for luxurious ride and feel among these capable carryalls.

Volvo adorns the V90 Cross Country with an excellent array of technologies both inside and out that, while just short of the cutting edge, still enjoy a close shave.

The V90 Cross Country is based on the V90 wagon, but sits apart as its own distinct model. At a base price of $55,300, it runs about five grand more than its city cousin. And while the standard V90 comes with a choice of two engines, the V90 Cross Country sticks with the turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine and all-wheel-drive.

Impressively, most of the driver assist features and the infotainment system come standard, so at $55,000 you are already looking at a well-equipped vehicle. However, I would option in the head-up display, at $900, and the Bowers and Wilkins audio system, at $3,200. That's pricey audio, but it sounds so good, and costs a fraction of an audiophile level home stereo. I would also consider the optional air suspension for $1,200, which can make a huge difference for ride quality. 

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