If you've driven one of Volvo's new 90-series cars, the V90 Cross Country should feel immediately familiar. Really, the Cross Country is a mix between the regular V90 Wagon and the XC90 SUV, with some of its own personality and hardware. It's also possibly the best car Volvo has on sale currently.
It's not just that the V90 Cross Country combines various elements of the V90 and XC90–it combines them in such an appealing way, creating a great all-rounder. You get the practicality of the V90, with even more off-road capability than the XC90, and the same fantastic interior found in both.
The only thing you might miss from the XC90 is third-row seating–sadly, Volvo doesn't offer rear-facing jump seats.
In the US, the V90 Cross Country is offered with one powertrain–a 316-hp version of Volvo's now-familiar turbo- and supercharged four-cylinder. The only transmission choice is an Aisin eight-speed automatic, and all Cross Countries get all-wheel drive as standard, unlike all the other models in Volvo's 90 series.
As in the XC90 T6 and S90 T6, this four-cylinder offers ample torque and minimal lag, courtesy of a supercharger that's designed to provide low-end grunt. This motor is remarkably quiet and refined for a four-cylinder, and pairs well with the Aisin-sourced gearbox. You might think this sort of car demands a six-cylinder, but this remarkable little four-cylinder is more than adequate.
Save for some dark walnut wood trim, the V90 Cross Country's interior is identical to the regular S90/V90. That's a good thing, because Volvo's 90-Series interiors are currently among the best in the business. The seats are comfortable and supportive in all the right ways and the build quality is excellent. You can opt for a $4500 Luxury Package that brings massage seats among other interior niceties, but even with no options, the Cross Country's interior is h.
Volvo's big touchscreen infotainment system takes a bit of getting used to at first, but becomes nearly as intuitive as an iPad after a little bit of time. Our tester also came with the optional Bowers & Wilkins audio system, which frankly, I can't say enough good things about. Few cars offer such great sound quality.
Where the V90 Cross Country starts to differ from its other 90-Series siblings is in ride and handling. Mainly, it rides a lot nicer than both the XC90 and S90. Some of that is down to our test car's 19-inch wheels–as opposed to the 20- and 21-inch wheels Volvo loves to put on its press cars–but a lot of it was engineered. Volvo wanted this car to offer more suspension travel than the regular V90, making it better off road, and sweeter on. A Volvo product planner told me the V90 Cross Country is designed to "flow" better than its stablemates, and you notice a difference on the road. It's a subtle change, but a welcome one.
This h-but-not-pillowy ride suits the rest of the V90 Cross Country's character really well. I always thought the XC90 and S90 were harsher than they needed to be, given that they're not sporty, and the Cross Country addresses this.
The V90 Cross Country handled itself well on windy dirt roads not too far from Phoenix as well. These roads weren't anything that a Subaru Outback couldn't handle, but the soft suspension was very much welcome when the surface got rocky. Come to think of it, the Outback is an interesting comparison for the V90 Cross Country–really, the Volvo is just a much more luxurious version of the Subaru.
Where the V90 Cross Country really shined was out on the highway. A h ride, mixed with a fantastically comfortable and torquey four-cylinder help make the Cross Country a fabulous way to clock off miles. It's so good, you almost wish Volvo would apply these same qualities to a coupe and make a real grand tourer.
If you're considering one of Volvo's 90-Series cars, I really think the V90 Cross Country is the way to go. It's not the obvious choice, like the XC90 and the S90, but it splits the difference between the two perfectly. It offers a ton of versatility in an attractive package.