2021 Volvo V90 Cross Country review: Who needs an SUV?
The 2021 Volvo V90 Cross Country is an achingly pretty wagon, with a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, plenty of ground clearance and cargo space for days. It also offers decent fuel economy and one of the best interiors in the luxury space. Why buy another SUV when you could have this instead?
The V90 Cross Country is powered by the T6 version of Volvo's ubiquitous four-cylinder engine, bolted to an eight-speed automatic transmission. In this case, the 2.0-liter I4 has both a supercharger and a turbocharger, and produces a healthy 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It's not the sweetest-sounding or smoothest engine around, but it works well and returns an EPA-estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg combined -- numbers that I found easy to achieve, even with the additional aerodynamic drag of a roof box.
Acceleration in the Cross Country is brisk, thanks to the low-end torque afforded by the twin-charged engine, though it tends to run out of steam at higher revs. As with most Volvos, the engine lacks drama for better or worse, designed to just get you where you need to go. The eight-speed automatic transmission never huts for gears and shifts at appropriate places, so it also largely fades into the background.
The V90 Cross Country is a luxury car at its core and the way it drives reflects that. The optional ($1,200) Four-C adaptive air suspension is excellent, isolating passengers from all but the gnarliest road imperfections, but not so much that the V90 feels disconnected from the road. The steering is direct but not terribly communicative, and the brakes are excellent, exhibiting no discernible fade even on long, fast descents down mountain roads. Overall, the V90 Cross Country isn't what I'd call exciting to drive, but it doesn't need to be. It's damn comfortable and super easy to live with -- just like any good luxury car should be.
The V90 is a little old, but it still offers first-rate safety tech. Volvo's City Safety suite of systems is standard on every V90 Cross Country, which includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera and more. These, combined with Volvo's strong chassis design, are enough to net the brand nine IIHS safety awards.
Volvo definitely knows how to make a nice interior, and the V90 Cross Country's cabin is stellar. Volvo's seats have historically been some of the best in the business, offering excellent comfort even after hours on the road, and that's absolutely true with the V90. These chairs are extremely supportive and adjustable, and clad in soft perforated leather. The seats in my tester are heated and cooled and offer massage functionality, as well. In short, they're ace.
The rest of the interior is thoughtfully laid out, with all controls within easy reach and simple to use. Volvo also deserves bonus points here for the unique finish on the various knobs and wheels, which is not only attractive to look at, but feels nice under your fingers. The rest of the interior continues along that line, with great attention to detail and little bits of flair, making it feel like something truly special compared to the often staid cabins of German luxury automakers.
Volvo's Sensus infotainment tech is acceptable, and attractive, but this system that seemed so forward-thinking just a few years ago now feels somewhat dated. The 9-inch touchscreen offers quicker response times than before and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but I can't wait for Volvo to integrate its new Android Automotive tech into its full lineup. This is the system you'll find in the new Polestar 2, and it's great.
One of the V90's highlights is the Bowers & Wilkins premium stereo system. Normally, I'm fairly indifferent to B&W systems, but here, you get the option to digitally change the listening environment. It might seem like a gimmick, but the Gothenburg Concert Hall setting is genuinely fantastic and adds a lot to the listening experience. For audiophiles like me, this is a huge win.
Being a luxury car, the V90 Cross Country isn't cheap. But compared to a lot of similarly equipped luxury SUVs -- including Volvo's own XC90 -- it's a little less expensive. The V90 Cross Country starts at $56,690 including $1,095 for destination, and my well-equipped test vehicle has a sticker price of $67,740. Given the way the Cross Country looks, feels and drives, that price is reasonable.
This Volvo's closest competitors are the Audi A6 Allroad and Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain, and while the V90 holds its own, the Germans out-perform it in a few key ways. The V90 has a maximum cargo capacity of 53.9 cubic feet, while the Audi A6 Allroad and Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain offer about 64. The Volvo is also down on power compared to the two Germans, which use mild-hybrid setups; the Audi offers 335 hp and 369 lb-ft, while the Mercedes brings 362 hp and 369 lb-ft. Audi and Mercedes offer much better cabin tech, too.
Even so, the Volvo is just as nice to drive, every bit as comfortable and arguably better to look at. These competitors might be newer, but I'd still have the V90 over both. This wagon offers everything you'd ask from a two-row SUV, save for an elevated driving position and maybe some towing capability (the Cross Country can still pull 3,500 pounds, however). It's comfortable, spacious, handsome and easy to live with. SUV drivers don't know what they're missing.