Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Base D4 engine provides enough oomph for most customers
  • Upgrade to PowerPulse-enabled D5 unit for more power
  • Eight-speed auto gearbox works best under smooth driving

The Cross Country’s engine choices mirror those available in the standard V90, meaning customers can choose between either a 190hp D4 or 235hp D5 2.0-litre diesel unit. Both engines come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive as standard.

Following Volvo's announcement of electronically restricted top speeds, all V90 Cross Countrys, regardless of engine type, will be capped at 112mph from 2020.

The base D4 engine is more than punchy enough to haul the 1.8-tonne V90 Cross Country up to speed with ease, cracking 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds. It feels faster than the acceleration figures suggest, with a generous 400Nm of torque pulling the car through the gears.

Things get a little raucous at the top end of the revs mind, yet the Volvo’s mountainous reserves of torque mean forays above 4,000 rpm should be few and far between. 

Opt for the D5 engine and, unsurprisingly, the character of the engine is much the same. That means silky smooth power delivery but with added oomph. The responses of the D5 are sharper and more eager, with bursts of power for overtakes right across the rev range. It’s not pin you to the back of your seat fast – 0-62mph takes 7.5 seconds – but there’s more than enough go for a family estate with off-road pretentions.

Much of the extra zippiness is down to what Volvo calls PowerPulse technology – a clever bit of kit only available on the D5 engine. It uses compressed air to get the turbocharger working at optimum speed almost as soon as you press the accelerator pedal, quickening up the engine’s responses and allowing maximum torque delivery sooner. 

Should you want sharper responses from a D4 engine but can’t quite stretch to the D5, Volvo offers the Polestar Performance Optimisation add-on. Put simply, it improves performance – especially at medium revs – by providing mild power and torque gains, while also recalibrating engine and gearbox settings. Note that the D5 engine is also available with the Polestar upgrade.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox works best when the car is driven smoothly, slickly switching between ratios. However, start to push on and gear changes can begin to lag behind a touch, especially when attempting to perform brisk overtaking manoeuvres.

  • Composed and stable at all speeds
  • Not as sharp to drive as equivalent BMW
  • Highly-impressive off-road ability

Smooth, stable on road manners

The V90 Cross Country has a pliant, malleable chassis which flows eloquently from corner to corner, encouraging slow and smooth inputs from the driver.

That’s not to say the chassis is soft and wallowy, though – there’s still plenty of tautness should you lean the car into a bend, the big Volvo remaining impressively stable. It’s prone to lean more than the regular V90, however, so bear this in mind through fast corners.  

The steering is well-judged, if – again – not quite as confidence-inspiring as the regular V90’s. It’s short on feel, but beautifully weighted and precise – especially around the straight ahead position – meaning the V90 Cross Country is equally suited to both open motorways and twisty country roads.

Pile into a corner too fast and predictable understeer is the order of the day, not as exciting as a rear-wheel drive BMW or Mercedes-Benz but safe and sensible nonetheless. That said, unsticking the V90 Cross Country still takes some determined driving.

Customers after that extra dynamic ability should look at specifying the optional Four Corner Adaptive Dampers and rear electronic air suspension. Not only is the ride smoother, but mid corner bumps are handled more confidently – the car taking less time to settle after a crest or dip in the road.

Excellent off-road capabilities

The V90 Cross Country is surprisingly capable over the rough stuff thanks to a 65mm increase in ride height – 5mm of which is down to the larger tyres – and two electronic off-road aids.

Added to the three existing drive modes is an additional off-road setting which alters the operation of the all-wheel-drive system and adjusts the responsiveness of the engine, gearbox and accelerator. It doesn’t sound like much but the effect is mightily impressive, the V90 Cross Country traversing muddy, rocky off-road inclines with ease.

When combined with the Hill Descent Control – which automatically controls the speed of the car when going down a steep slope – the V90 Cross Country should, within reason, be able to tackle almost any off-road obstacle the average driver will throw at it.