No one wants an estate car anymore. The ever-faithful family favourite is being almost completely shunned in favour of the less practical, more expensive, Johnny-come-lately crossover.
So, when Middle England wants a big Volvo estate it sets up a direct debit for a PCP on an XC90. Which is a good call, because the XC90 is a very good car.
But it’s not an estate, which means you might be missing a trick.
You see, an estate served us very well for decades, marking its driver out as a man or woman of substance, someone above the petty vagaries of fashion.
The genre started with the shooting brake, favoured transport of the landed gentry when they needed to shift half-a-dozen shotguns and a couple of Labradors around their country estate, a role that moved the concept gently into the mainstream motoring lexicon as the estate car.
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A V90 on stilts
The V90 Cross Country is a standard V90 on stilts, so you can take the interior, engine and trim levels pretty much as per the regular car (bar some tweaking of equipment levels, I’m sure…). I want to focus on what turns an already very good car into *spoiler alert* the best family estate car you can buy today.
The ride is 60mm higher than the two-wheel-drive car, all the better to dodge the molehills in the gymkhana parking field. It gains more rugged mirrors, additional side, front and rear body trim, and unique tyres that were developed especially for the model.
The raised ‘Cross Country’ lettering is present and correct on the rear bumper as a nod to the car’s illustrious ancestors too.
So, all very predictable and, if I’m being honest, a wee bit boring.
Yet Volvo’s engineers are some of the most assiduous in the industry, so that extra ride height doesn’t translate into the roly-poly handling you might expect. True, the ride is slightly softer than the standard V90’s, thanks to the off-road-biased suspension and tyres with a taller sidewall than their strictly on-road siblings, but that just makes it a tad more comfortable.
All-in-all, I bet you’d be hard-pressed to tell the Cross Country from the cooking V90 if you were to drive them back-to-back blindfold. (If such a thing were possible.)
Which is good.
Compromise is rarely satisfactory, and no matter how adventurous you are, I bet you spend considerably more time on tarmac than mud or sand, so any off-road vehicle has got to handle well during everyday use.
Five reasons you don't need a four-wheel-drive car
Copes brilliantly off road
But you buy a car like this for what it can do when you’re doing something more interesting than the commute, school, or supermarket run and to test this, Volvo laid on a ‘soft road’ course for us to explore. Teamed with a professional, off-road instructor to make sure we behaved ourselves and didn’t do anything silly.
Small mud holes, mild fords, and gravel-strewn uphill tracks did little to test the V90’s prowess, which was probably the idea. So I dropped my co-driver off at the bottom of an axle-twisting downhill straight (gravity flatters even the most pedestrian of off-roaders…) so he could take some photographs and then reversed back up the hill, much to my chaperon’s consternation.
The four-wheel-drive V90 Cross Country coped admirably, much to his relief. In fact, it coped brilliantly. If you take your new £50,000 Swedish estate car off-road I am almost certain that you will run out of bravery before it runs out of competence.
The V90 Cross Country is a diesel-only offering for the tim
Power and frugality
The petrol hybrid T8 will arrive later this year, bringing its enormously addictive combination of power and frugality to the estate marketplace. Predictions are that around 10 percent of buyers will stump up the premium to own one, but that estimate might be miles off because Volvo predicted the same for the XC90 and ended up getting caught out as a quarter of UK buyers currently buy one.
Petrol vs diesel
Of course, you could just save a few quid and buy a regular front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive Volvo V90. It’s a very good car in its own right (I gave it a solid nine out of ten when I tested it recently) and yet, the Cross Country adds another dimension to what is already a very attractive package.
So, my advice is to forget style, and go for substance instead because the Volvo V90 Cross Country might just be all the car you’ll ever need. The only question is whether you’re brave enough to ignore your neighbours’ scorn and buy one instead of an SUV: Volvo thinks that just 25 percent of the V90’s sales will come from the Cross Country, which shows that crowd-sourced knowledge isn’t always to be relied upon…
Power – 235bhp (all figures are for the D5)
Torque – 354 lb ft
0-62mph – 7.5 seconds
Top speed – 140mph
Kerb weight – 1,848kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 53.3mpg
CO2 emissions – 139g/km
VED class – Band E
Towing capacity (braked) – 2,500kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 750kgs
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Price – £43,585
Price as tested - £56,485
The Volvo V90 Cross Country might have the urgent pace of the Audi A6 allroad, but it’s a better all-round proposition.
The best of the rest
The Audi A6 allroad is getting a bit long-in-the-tooth, but it’s very, very fast and wonderfully sure-footed - but commensurately expensive.
The Skoda Octavia Scout is a brilliant expression of the genre, and cheap too against either of these two rivals.
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