What is it?
The Volvo V90 Cross Country would appeal to someone who enjoys 'active weekends'. You know the sort, they're the ones who go off with their families to do BMX adventure biking or whitewater kayaking on Saturday and Sunday, and then tell you all about it on Monday morning. These are so-called 'lifestyle' buyers - people who don't want or need a proper SUV, but who still want something that can traverse hill and dale while carrying the family, their luggage and Fido in comfort.
This market might be niche - just 25% of UK V90 buyers are expected to go for Cross Country specification - but Volvo has history here. The original V70 XC established a formula for jacked-up estates in 1998 which has been stuck to ever since: raise the ride height by 60mm, fit a wider track and finish it off with softer, more pliable tyres and all-wheel drive. To enhance its muscular image, the V90 Cross Country also gets extended wheel arches and tough body cladding running around its lower edges.
And that's it, really. Inside, you wouldn't notice any difference between this V90 and the regular car, which is no bad thing at all. The only extra is a new Off-road driving mode accessed through a rotary dial on the centre console, which adjusts the throttle mapping, steering and gearbox to make off-road driving easier.
We were impressed when we drove the V90 Cross Country in Sweden last month, but the UK's pothole-ridden Tarmac and undulating B-roads present a different challenge to frozen lakes and snow. So, with the car now in the UK, how does it square up to rivals such as the Audi A6 Allroad and Mercedes-Benz E-Class All Terrain?
What's it like?
Raising the V90's ride height has made an already good driving position into an excellent one, giving drivers a commanding view over the road ahead. The seats are supportive and comfortable, and there's simply masses of space inside for both people and luggage. Even with a six-footer in the driving seat, taller adults in the rear will find they have plenty of head and leg room, and although middle seat passengers get a worse deal, it's still comfortable enough for short journeys. Certainly, it matches the A6 Allroad for outright comfort, although the E-Class All Terrain has plusher fixtures.
We've said before that the standard V90 walks a fine line between dynamic handling and continent-crossing comfort, but the Cross Country is definitely about the latter. There's more body lean under hard cornering than you'll find in the standard car, but its soft throttle, quiet engine and new dampers provide a cosseting experience, whether on the motorway or smaller B-roads.
The D4 diesel motor in our car is the entry-level option in the Cross Country, and is the only way you can have four-wheel drive with this lower powered engine (the D5 models all have four-wheel drive as standard). While the D4 has enough power for most situations, the 8.8sec taken to go from 0-62mph feels slow. The more powerful D5's PowerPulse technology - which fires compressed air at the turbocharger for near instant acceleration - better suits the V90 Cross Country's butch attitude, and it's the engine we'd go for. There's no petrol option for now, but Volvo says it's evaluating whether to bring petrol options to the UK if the demand is strong enough.
When you do go off-road, the V90 remains composed, and its Off-road mode (which holds first and second gears for longer) will help to give even timid drivers confidence. Hill Descent Control kicks in automatically when you reach the crest of a hill, and even though the Cross Country is designed for muddy tracks and fields rather than the full-blown wilderness, it's likely to easily handle anything an owner would reasonably throw at it.
Should I buy one?
If you're confident that a conventional crossover or SUV wouldn't suit you better, then cars like the V90 Cross Country are certainly worth looking at. Plus, if you're bored of the usual German offerings, then Volvo's high-riding and comfort-oriented estate will likely suit you well. We'd go for the more powerful D5 diesel engine over the D4 tested here, but whichever version you choose you'll be getting a supple and spacious estate that can tackle weekend trekking with ease.
Volvo V90 Cross Country D4
Location Birmingham; On Sale Now; Price £39,785; Engine 4cyl, 1969cc, turbo, diesel; Power 187bhp at 4250rpm; Torque 295lb ft 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1826kg; 0-62mph 8.8sec; Top speed 130mph; Economy 54.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 138g/km, 27%; Rivals Audi A6 Allroad, Mercedes E-Class All Terrain