Volvo V90 Cross Country: where luxury meets utility in a station wagon

Dale Johnson: Volvo V90 Cross Country: where luxury meets utility in a station wagonNew station wagons are hard to find these days. Their popularity and market share have been shrinking for decades because of the growing popularity of crossovers and SUVs.

But there are still a few station wagons on the market. Some people prefer the handling and feel of a sedan yet need more hauling capacity – but do not want a crossover or SUV. For them, a station wagon is the perfect choice.

I recently test-drove a Volvo station wagon, the V90 Cross Country, with a price starting at $73,840. It’s 4,959 mm (195.2 in) long and sits on a wheelbase of 2,941 mm (115.8 in). But unlike an SUV, it sits low and is just 1,537 mm (60.5 in) tall. It’s an all-wheel-drive mild hybrid with a turbocharged 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder engine that produces 295 horsepower. Natural Resources Canada rates fuel economy at 10.7 litres/100 km in the city and 8.1 on the highway.

The exterior styling is smooth and gracious and, unlike SUVs, not boxy and tall. It appears as though the horizontal centre of the rear end was pulled back, creating a sloping rear window and adding to the appearance of lowness. As Volvo puts it, “Inspired by our Scandinavian design heritage, Volvo wagon exteriors are quietly expressive. It’s a distinctive composition of elegance, luxury and practicality.”

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Driving and handling is much like a luxury sedan. Behind the back seat, there’s lots more room than a sedan to haul stuff.

The interior is elegant and simplistic, with tasteful use of wood, aluminum and leather trim. The Orrefors crystal gear shift knob on the console adds to the classy atmosphere. The Bowers and Wilkins stereo system is one of the best I’ve ever heard. My test vehicle had tan seats and door trim, with black accents on the console, doors and dash.

The best part of the interior is the feel of the seats. They’re ultra-comfortable, with lots of support, and extendable thigh supports.

The nav screen is the best I’ve seen; it’s extremely sharp and detailed, and the colours are outstanding.

However, things would be improved with two screens on the dash – a route taken by many automakers. One screen serves as a map, and another has controls for such things as audio, climate and seats. The Volvo system isn’t quite as smooth. I was on a road trip on my test drive, so I had the screen display the map of the area. But the map disappeared whenever I adjusted the seats or if I went looking for a different radio station. Then, I had to touch the screen again to get the map back.

I hadn’t driven very far when I realized that some of the controls in the V90 are not as intuitive – or as well labelled – as many competitors.

However, there is help, thanks to Google Assistant. Simply by making a request – like, “Hey Google, turn on the front defroster” – the V90 goes into action. The more I used it, the better I liked it. A one-sentence request was carried out immediately.

Usually.

I soon found out that I had to be very specific and articulate.

“Hey Google,” I asked politely, “Can you go to CBC Radio.”
The response? “I can’t find that place. Where to?”
OK, I thought. Let me rephrase that. “Hey Google, can you go to CBC Radio One?”
“Sure, here’s CBC Radio One on your car radio.” And there it was.

Soon, I was chatting with my Volvo.

“Hey Google, can you open the sunroof?”
“Sorry, I don’t understand.”
“Hey Google, can you open the moonroof?”
“Sorry, I can’t control that in this car.”

So, it turns out Google doesn’t know everything about the Volvo V90.

If you want a luxurious and comfortable sedan-like feel and ride (and won’t consider an SUV), extra hauling capacity, and something a bit different, check out the Volvo V90.

Dale Johnson is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who has worked in TV, radio, print and online. While the manufacturer provided Dale with a vehicle to test drive, the content of this review was not reviewed or accepted by the manufacturer.

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