India has seen a wide variety of body shapes, going from sub 4-metre sedans like the Maruti DZire to even micro SUVs like the Mahindra KUV100. All these body styles have been well received till today. But there are a couple of body styles and preferences that take a long time convincing us Indians. One of them is the Station Wagon body style. Apart from the initial Tata Estate, all other cars with this body style haven’t done well in India, be it the Fiat Sienna Adventure, Skoda Octavia Combi or even Maruti’s own Baleno Altura. That culture hasn’t really caught up in India yet, but luxury car manufacturers are trying to slowly introduce cars of this category in India. In 2015, Audi launched the RS6 Avant, and Volvo is all set to launch the V90 Cross Country soon in India that belongs to the same segment. We got an opportunity to drive it on some twisties, heading from Mangalore to Coorg. Here’s what we feel about this new offering from Volvo.
The Volvo V90 Cross Country is based on the same platform as the S90 sedan and the XC90 SUV. So it borrows a whole lot of design cues from its siblings. For starters, the front looks identical to the other two offerings from Volvo, with the only differentiating point being the redetailed front grille. The V90 Cross Country still gets the adaptive full LED headlamps with the now iconic Thor’s Hammer LED DRLs. View the car from the side and it looks really long, thanks to the station wagon body style. The version we drove came with 20-inch alloy wheels, but there will be 19-inch wheels with higher profile tyres also on offer. The wheels look really hot and the rear design on its own doesn’t look too bad either. In fact, we will go ahead and say it indeed has a sexy back. The highly detailed vertically mounted taillights, dual tail pipes and low squat design makes it look really nice. This cross country variant gets 60mm of added ground clearance at 210mm over the regular V90. It also gets black cladding over the wheel arches. These details give the V90 Cross Country a semi off-roader look.
On the insides, the dashboard layout is very similar to that of the XC90. There are vertically laid out AC vents, dual theme dashboard, metal mesh trim and the fully digital instrument cluster. The multifunction heated steering wheel, old school engine start/stop switch, huge panoramic sunroof and the large vertically laid out infotainment screen, add to the premium and upmarket feel of this cabin. The 9-inch touchscreen feels convenient to use as all the car’s functions that are laid out in its menus, from the climate control system to the exterior lighting.The driver also gets the benefit of a Heads-up Display that displays the speed, navigation and speed limit alerts amongst other info. The front seats are extremely comfortable and come with massaging functions as well. Apart from this, they can be adjusted in a ton of ways to get you into your maximum comfort zone. The rear seat feels plush too, but lacks on thigh support. There is a 4-zone climate control system, with the rear AC vents placed on the B-pillar and the central console. You also get a huge boot area which can be extended even more by folding down the rear seats. Overall, this cabin feels luxurious with an excess of everything at your fingertips. A special mention goes out for the 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Surround Sound system that sounds exceptional.
The Volvo V90 is powered by the ubiquitous 2.0-litre Drive-E diesel engine, but is the first one in the company’s India line up to come with the Power Pulse technology. This tech helps minimize turbo-lag by force-feeding air into the turbos from an air chamber instantly, as you press the accelerator. This twin turbo diesel develops 235 HP and 480 Nm. The engine feels extremely silent at idle and when you do rev it, it makes petrol-like noises. The cabin insulation is that good. There is minimal turbo lag, but the cream lies in the mid range where the massive torque comes into play. This engine makes the V90 Cross Country a quick car, but does not make you feel so while going fast. The Volvo V90 Cross Country gets an 8-speed Geartronic gearbox that feels jerky. It’s surprising because this same gearbox also does duty on the S90, and impresses there. May be the AWD system is to blame here for that slight jerkiness. The car gets 5 driving modes to choose from and there are paddle shifters behind the wheel.
The steering feels well weighed at high speed and gives you confidence to push this near 5-metre long car around corners. The car felt well-balanced and predictable around the twisties that led to Coorg, with strong brake feel. There is loads of grip when needed, thanks to the AWD system. Overall, the V90 Cross Country doesn’t mind being hooned around, but make sure you have all the safety systems switched on while doing so. Ride quality on the other hand is a mixed bag. The Volvo V90 Cross Country comes with an air suspension setup at the rear and a regular setup upfront. Being a European spec car, the front dampers have been stiffly setup. The rear though, feels cushy at all speeds. We wish Volvo had offered air suspension all around which could make things much better. Nevertheless, the current suspension setup isn’t something that you cannot live with and also helps to give the car better dynamics.
The Volvo V90 Cross Country comes loaded with safety and security features like adaptive cruise control, Pilot Assist, collision mitigation system, lane keeping aid, park assist camera, Park Assist Pilot, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, tyre pressure monitoring system and ISOFIX seats. Our favourite feature though, was the Lane Keeping Aid that detects your lane and gives gentle steering inputs automatically if it detects you are running wide. This obviously does not work on all roads in India due to bad lane markings, but is a lovely feature to have.
The Volvo V90 Cross Country is a fantastic product on its own. It has great interiors and provides you with the luxury (and more) that you associate with this segment. The car is luxurious, fun to drive, comfortable, practical and safe. The question to be asked is, how well Indians will receive the station wagon body shape? For those who are fans of this body style, the Volvo V90 Cross Country is easily the best choice out there. But we don’t think people who prefer sedans will jump to a station wagon. Another way to put it is by considering the V90 Cross Country as a halo product… and then it starts to make a bit of sense. There is also news that Mercedes Benz and Audi will be bringing their station wagons to India later this year. So in the end, the Volvo V90 Cross Country has each and every aspect going for it, except its body style. Cheers to Volvo for creating this new segment in India though!
Pics by Dr. Anand Narvekar