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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
Volvo V90 D5 PowerPulse AWD Cross Country

Click to view picture gallery“Ask anybody to name a large
  comfortable estate car and its odds-
  on that the first brand out of their
  mouth will be ‘Volvo’. But the Swedish
  carmaker doesn’t just do brilliant
  estate cars — it also does even better
  Cross Country versions...”


SO WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? For a start the V90 Cross Country is everything the handsome V90 is but on top of that it's got an extra 65mm of ground clearance along with silver front and rear 'skid' plates, neat charcoal-coloured wheelarch extensions and matching lower sill and door mouldings. And although it's higher-riding, it somehow manages to look even sleeker.

And, as you might have guessed from the name, Cross Country V90 models also come with all-wheel drive. But before you start thinking that this is just another trendy 'jack-up' from an opportunistic marketing department, take note: the Cross Country is a seriously well-fettled step-up model that not only endows the V90 with excellent all-weather traction but enables it to take you places usually off-limits to any normal estate car, such as rough-and-tumble off-road tracks and challenging field conditions; all of which are firmly on the Cross Country's agenda.

“With excellent all-wheel
drive traction, the
Cross Country will take
you places usually
off-limits to any normal
estate car —
such as rough-and-
tumble off-road tracks
and challenging field
conditions...”
Cross Country models offer a choice of three powerplants, each harnessed to a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox: a T6 315bhp petrol engine along with a pair of 2.0-litre turbodiesels; a 187bhp D4 or a 231bhp D5 that uniquely benefits from Volvo's newest power-boosting technology — PowerPulse.

PowerPulse has been developed to minimise turbo-lag during acceleration and works by forcing compressed air into the exhaust manifold to spin-up the turbo extra quickly, therefore minimising lag whenever you accelerate hard, either pulling away or at low speeds.

The result — and hence the name — is a near-instant hit, or pulse, of power. Naturally the air in the reservoir is automatically topped-up to ensure that the PowerPulse is always ready to deliver extra clout whenever it's called for.

The really good news is that this system doesn't turn the refined-running D5 into some hard-drinking Santa Pod escapee — the extra PowerPulse-generated oomph is smoothly linear and more than enough to noticeably up the turbodiesel's game, keeping it willing whenever you need to press on or overtake with maximum safety.

Not that the D5 is short in the torque department — with 354lb ft from 1,750rpm there's more than enough and, working alongside the PowerPulse engine, it makes for a very responsive, very smooth turbodiesel. One that will take you to a top speed that's exactly double the UK's legal motorway limit; for more everyday driving, it can see off the benchmark zero to 62mph in a very sharp 7.5 seconds.

And while PowerPulse increases the Cross Country's 'waftability', it's not at the expense of economy. Officially the D5 Cross Country's Combined Cycle economy figure is 53.3mpg. A week in the hands of MotorBar's merciless test team saw an impressive 44.7mpg recorded — commendable for a substantial all-wheel drive automatic estate car.

While you may not sit quite as high as in one of Volvo's XC90 SUVs, in a Cross Country you still sit high enough to enjoy that 'in command and in control' feeling; and the excellent visibility that's an integral part of it.

The cabin is defined by its minimalist Swedish style; elegant, luxurious and welcoming. Liberal personal space, shapely seats, plush leather upholstery, classy detailing, understated black walnut trim and subtle brushed alloy finishing — all combine to create what is without doubt one of the most inviting interiors of any car.

“The really good news
is that PowerPulse
doesn’t turn the refined-
running 231bhp D5 into
some hard-drinking
Santa Pod escapee —
the extra oomph is
smoothly linear and more
than enough to
noticeably up the
turbodiesel’s game...”
We make no apologies for regularly praising the über-comfy seats found in Volvos because they really are so damned good. And the Cross Country's are more of the same — which is why whenever you have a long-distance journey pencilled in your diary you'll be positively looking forward to it.

Particularly if you're taking a D5 model; because this is a mile-munching machine that feels as though it's been crafted specifically with cross-continent expeditions in mind. Plus, with on-demand all-wheel drive, it's ready for all climate extremes.

Both front seats have power height adjustment along with three-stage heating and multi-directional lumbar support. A three-stage heated steering wheel is optional and comes as part of the add-on Winter pack — a box always worth ticking in chilly GB. The multifunction wheel is a modish three-spoker, and its matt black leather rim feels 'the biz' in your hands.

Also a big hit with owners is Volvo's Internet-friendly Sensus connectivity and entertainment interface. The centrepiece of the sweeping fascia, the portrait-orientated 9-inch tablet-style touchscreen uses clear-cut menus and with pinch and zoom and swipe functionality it's a breeze to use — if you can work a smartphone or tablet then you're already an expert.

Many of the car's main functions are operated via the touchscreen but those drivers who prefer hands-on control of the heating and ventilation can, alternatively, use their voice to operate the climate (as well as other key functions) — the sophisticated voice-control system understands more than 300 naturally spoken instructions and popular phrases.

As we've mentioned the climate control we should point out that the 2Zone system comes with Volvo's Cleanzone air-quality control that cleans the cabin air of contaminants such as particles, hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides and ground-level ozone. Great news if you have to drive in London's polluted atmosphere.

The driver and front passenger enjoy extremely supportive chairs (they're far too indulgent to be called seats; a seat is what you get flying Ryanair). Four XXXL-size adults can travel harmoniously in the light-rich cabin — thanks to a panoramic sunroof the interior is bathed in light (unless you choose to close the opaque powered sunblind with a one-shot tap of your fingertip).

The driver and front
passenger enjoy
extremely supportive
chairs (they’re far too
indulgent to be called
seats; a seat is what you
get flying Ryanair).
Four XXXL-size adults
can travel harmoniously
in the Cross Country’s
light-rich cabin...”
The driving position is first-rate and the five-metre-long Cross Country is easy to place and manoeuvre, even when you're doing the parking yourself instead of leaving it to the Park Assist Pilot.

Other useful driver 'assists' include a head-up display that projects your actual road speed alongside the legal posted limit (both also shown in the speedometer) alongside graphic navigational prompts, and an electric parking brake that engages automatically when you switch off the engine.

Also much appreciated is the digitised instrument display which offers plenty of customisation choices; for instance, the driver can choose to show the navigation map as an active background with smaller dials either side.

In-cabin storage has also been thoughtfully considered and there's a place for everything courtesy of big, long door bins as well as a multi-use tray ahead of the armrest between the front seats (beneath which you'll find a DVD slot and a cubby with USB and Aux ports), a good-sized compartment in the right-hand fascia, a large netted pouch on the central tunnel close to the front passenger's knee, and a large chillable, two-tier glovebox.

As you'd hope when shelling out £45K, the Cross Country's list of standard-fit kit is as lengthy as it is comprehensive. But that's not to say there aren't a lot of tempting options — our test car came with £11K's worth of 'I'll-take-that-too' items including the Xenium Pack (£2,000) which adds Park Assist Pilot for automatic parking, a parking camera with a bird's-eye 360-degree surround view, and a powered tilt-and-slide panoramic glass sunroof; Winter Pack (£525) with heated front windscreen, heated steering wheel, heated washer nozzles, plus headlight cleaning system; and Intellisafe Surround Pack (£600) that adds blind spot monitoring with Steer Assist, Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Collision Mitigation as well as auto-dimming door mirrors.

Other very popular additions include the Sensus Connect with Premium Sound (£3,000) which includes a pretty awesome Bowers and Wilkins sound system with 18 speakers, subwoofer and 1,400W output, and the £400 upgrade from the standard 8-inch Active TFT Crystal Driver's Information Display to 12.3 inches.

It's a Volvo, so there's a host of kit to keep you and yours safe, the most important of which is probably City Safety — this senses and warns of potential collisions with other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and even large animals; ignore the warnings and the system will instigate emergency braking on your behalf.

There’s a host of kit to
keep you and yours safe,
the most important of
which is City Safety —
this senses and warns
of potential collisions
with other vehicles,
cyclists, pedestrians and
even large animals;
ignore the warnings and
the system will instigate
emergency braking on
your behalf...”
If you're already a cruisin' fan you'll like the standard-fit Pilot Assist — using radar and a camera and combining Active Cruise Control with Lane Keeping Assist, Volvo's high-tech system provides active assistance on motorways enabling it to 'ghost-drive' for you at speeds of up to 80mph.

It's not a full-blown autopilot so you still need to keep your hands on the steering wheel but even so it takes a load off the driver in heavy traffic. Also standard are Road Sign Information, Run-off Road Protection (automatically preps for the worst should the car unintentionally leave the road), Road Edge Detection, Driver Alert Control, a full array of airbags including one for the driver's knee, and Stability and Traction Control.

Setting off in the Cross Country, it's satisfying to find that Volvo haven't harmed the underlying ride and handling characteristics of the 'ordinary' V90, which comes with four drive settings: Comfort, Dynamic, Eco and Individual. The Cross Country adds another: Off Road. Selection is via a very tactile scroll bar in the centre tunnel just behind the equally tactile twist-action engine Start/Stop knob; both are sited immediately aft of the selector lever.

Dynamic mode markedly spices up the driving experience by keeping the D5 powerplant in its sweet spot. However, while it's nice to have the choice, we suspect that most drivers will be more than satisfied leaving the Comfort setting more or less permanently engaged.

On the move the Cross Country is agreeably composed, with a level-riding attitude, and corners with precision — helped by the on-demand AWD system redistributing grip to the wheels that need it most to maintain maximum stability. The brakes, too, are no-nonsense strong. Despite its off-road ability and sitting higher above the blacktop, the Cross Country seems to ride better than the standard version and from the helm it's a rewarding blend of the standard V90 and Volvo's widely-praised, take-no-prisoners SUV, the XC90.

Selecting the Off Road mode modifies the all-wheel-drive behaviour (including more fit-for-purpose off-road autobox and throttle mapping) for tackling all kinds of tarmac-free terrain; Hill Descent Control is also activated and automatically maintains a fixed, safe descent speed for you down tricky slopes. Combined with a practical 210mm of ground clearance, the Cross Country is reassuring off-road — and well-suited for drivers pursuing an 'active lifestyle'.

On road, the AWD system is set up to deliver the most torque to its front wheels but it's constantly on the watch for any changes underfoot and can instantly shunt 50% of the engine's torque back to the rear wheels whenever necessary. Interestingly, full four-wheel drive is always the default at standstill to ensure maximum traction when pulling away.

Weekend warriors will
be pleased to hear that,
unlike extra-tall SUVs,
the Cross Country
s roof
is reachable without
a soapbox so carrying
mountain bikes on the
roof or a 500-litre luggage
box for extra capacity
is easily managed...”
Two grown-ups can travel in genuine limo-like luxury in the V90's rear cabin; even a third in the middle will feel very much at home. For a start, 90-degree opening doors make for easy entry and exit, and once seated there's loads of room for feet and knees, and space for passengers to fully stretch out their legs.

The seats themselves are notably supportive and particularly well padded, and there's a fist of headroom. Making it the place to be on our test car were three-stage heated outer seats (£300) along with a dedicated rear cabin climate control set-up (£550). Adding to the comfort is a wide drop-down central armrest with that absolutely indispensable 21st century provision — twin cupholders.

Not only is the V90 extremely roomy in the cabin, but its boot is pretty accommodating too — at 560 litres, it should be more than enough for most people; those prepared to load it to the roof can fit in 723 litres. Need more? The 60:40-split rear seatbacks powerfold down flat to create a seamless, totally flat-floored loadbay that will take 1,526 litres of cargo.

Loading and unloading couldn't be much easier; with the power-operated tailgate raised, access is though a large frame with a low loading lip. Refreshing, too, to find that the boot can be opened and closed any of three ways: using the key fob, the fascia switch or the buttons on the tailgate itself.

Speeding things up is a load cover that retracts automatically as the tailgate rises. Inside there are sturdy bag hooks and lashing eyelets along with a stretchy luggage net. Another nice touch is the gas strut-assisted floor — should you ever need to remove the spare wheel you won't need to find another set of hands to help getting it out.

Very large things that even the Cross Country's accommodating cargo-bay will be unable to swallow — such as a horsebox, boat or caravan — can be towed; no problem for the D5 which can haul a braked 2,500kg.

Weekend warriors will be pleased to hear that, unlike extra-tall SUVs, the Cross Country's roof is reachable without a soapbox so carrying mountain bikes on the roof or a 500-litre luggage box for extra capacity is easily managed.

While the V90 is unquestionably a premium class estate, this classy-looking, more potent and more versatile Cross Country version with a liking for a bit of the rough, trumps it — in fact, we'd say it's the cream of the V90 crop. And Yes, as desirable as top-gun wagons from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz ~ MotorBar
.
Volvo V90 D5 PowerPulse AWD Cross Country | £44,405
Maximum speed: 140mph | 0-62mph: 7.5 seconds | Test Average: 44.7mpg
Power: 231bhp | Torque: 354lb ft | CO2:139g/km

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