Having completed yet another outrage of ignorant barbarism against the European car industry, General Motors are unlikely to learn much from the story of Volvo, nor to see anything relevant to their own conduct in the new V90 AWD Cross Country.
Neil Lyndon lets the Volvo V90 D4 AWD Cross Country loose in the countryside.
After committing the unforgivable philistinism of destroying Saab (through comprehensively failing to understand the merits and the distinctions of the company they swallowed and then turned into waste matter). Those masters of the universe at GM Detroit now seem likely to consign two more historic European brands – Opel and Vauxhall – to the dustbin of history.
Meanwhile, Volvo are turning out the most superb and delightful cars in their entire 90-year history and the V90 Cross Country has a serious claim to be the best one yet.Having endured Ford’s benevolent but flaccid and misguided ownership for 10 years, Volvo was consigned into the hands of the Chinese group Geely Automobile in 2009. Volvo lovers (count me in) trembled. If Ford, one of the oldest automotive corporations in the world, had failed to breathe new life into Volvo’s heroic history of producing highly individual cars with uniquely Scandinavian qualities of design and safety. How likely was that achievement to be within the compass of upstarts from China who had only recently discovered the mechanisms of mass production?
Wrong on all counts. Geely seem to have done exactly what dedicated Volvo fans would have begged them to do. They appear to have said to Volvo “You people obviously have excellent ideas about how to make great cars. Now, here’s a ton of money: go away and make some better than ever.”
The XC90 that appeared in 2015 was not only the first large luxury SUV I have ever wished that I could own myself, it was also voted Car of the Year in countless polls and magazine lists – the first Volvo to occupy such a position for generations.
Last year, Volvo introduced the S90 saloon and V90 estate on the same Scaleable Product Architecture as the XC90 and proved that it was the opposite of a one-trick pony. With sublime dynamic qualities and designs and interiors to make you smile every day, those two cars again put the whole car-park of premium rivals in the shade. Now here comes the Cross Country version of the V90 which is the nearest thing that has ever been on earth to the complete all-rounder of a car.
We have been close to this point on earth in the past, of course. Ever since the craze for 4×4 off-roaders took hold in the 1990s, manufacturers have been trying to combine the road-going qualities of their most desirable cars with some modicum of mud-plugging capability. One of the first was Volvo’s own XC70 which, in its original 2002 form had all the conviction as a vehicle to cross the Lapland Tundra of a skateboard or, to speak more precisely, of a Renault RX4 (2000-2003).
These cars became more and more capable, more and more refined, better and better until the recent arrival of the latest Audi A6 allroad quattro, at which point we said: “That’s the end of the story. This can’t be topped.”
Wrong again. This new Volvo V90 AWD Cross Country knocks the Audi A6 allroad dead on every count.
Visually, it is distinguished from the standard V90 estate by charcoal coloured detailing on the body, black ribs on the radiator grille, larger wing mirrors, skid plates underneath and ride height raised by 60 mm.
The Scandinavian minimalism of the interior of the XC90 and V90 is carried on into the Cross Country, along with the nine-inch touch screen like a tablet and all the mesmerising cutting-edge technology Volvo has worked up for this series, including the semi-autonomous drive technology that takes care of steering, accelerator and brake on motorways up to 80 mph. All those extras add about £10,000 to the basic asking price for a V90 and took our test car over £45,500.
For once, I did not feel the need to throw up at the idea of a car costing as much as a primary school head teacher’s annual salary but actually concluded that, for a car so comprehensively desirable, this was quite cheap at the price.
Running through a reprogrammed eight-speed automatic gearbox, the high-output, high-efficiency 190 bhp two-litre diesel in the Cross Country is both smooth and punchy; and the 130 mph top speed and 8.5 second acceleration from 0-60 mph genuinely offer all the straight-ahead performance anybody could want in a family saloon. Meanwhile, that Scaleable Product Architecture has been tweaked with modified springs and dampers and electronic controls, together with special tyres to optimise handling on Tarmac and off-road.
The recent launch included a carefully prepared course through woods which could mostly have been negotiated by any two-wheel drive car. However, some authentic deep and muddy ruts and some awkward, miry corners did lie along the way and convincingly proved that the lady of the house could probably deliver the picnic for lunch safely to the guns on the Boxing Day shoot. The all-round cameras that would let her see where the wheels are tracking through the woods and round the corner ahead are a match for Range Rover’s.
You might conclude that this is a car that can’t be bettered. However, a T8 plug-in hybrid version is on the way and should be with us later this year. That will be the one for me.
It would never have come into existence, however, if GM had got their hands on Volvo. Perish the thought.
Car reviewed: Volvo V90 D4 AWD Cross Country – On the road £39785, price as tested £45,660 0-62mph 8.9 secs Top speed 130mph limited Fuel Economy combined 54.3mpg CO2 emissions 138g/km Engine 1969cc 4-cylinder diesel Max Power 190hp@4250rpm Torque 400Nm@1750-2500rpm Transmission 8-speed auto
Build Quality and finish
mesmerising, cutting-edge tech
Refined and Capable
None to think of
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