Review: Volvo V90 XC is a classic wagon with SUV capability

Volvo has finally introduced a revived XC wagon—and it is a stunning car.

A STUNNING REVIVAL: Volvo is slowly reintroducing the kind of cars for which it was famous. This V90 XC is smooth on highways and capable off the paved road.
A STUNNING REVIVAL: Volvo is slowly reintroducing the kind of cars for which it was famous. This V90 XC is smooth on highways and capable off the paved road. –George Kennedy

Boston.com Cars is your go-to resource for coverage of local car news, events, and reviews. In the market for a car or truck? Check out our new car specials and used car specials curated by our local dealer network.

Something has been missing from the historic streets of Beacon Hill, the driveways of Brookline, and the shopping malls of Chestnut Hill. That omission has been the glaring absence of a new Volvo Cross Country wagon. For years, this buggy was a regular fixture in the tonier parts of New England.

Volvo has finally introduced a revived XC wagon—the 2017 Volvo V90 XC—and it is a stunning car. The V90 XC, or Cross Country, is the latest vehicle in Volvo’s renaissance, and the fourth one built on the 90 platform. This includes the S90 sedan, XC90 SUV, V90 wagon, and finally, the V90 Cross Country. First, with the V70 XC, then with the XC70, Volvo has designed a long run of wagons with a raised ride height, extra body cladding, and capable all-wheel-drive. The V90 XC is the latest entry in that lineage.

Advertisement

The V90 XC starts with the V90 wagon, and Volvo raises it 2.3 inches for 8.3 inches of ground clearance. For reference, the XC90 SUV has 9.1 inches. From there, Volvo adds meatier tires, wheel arch extensions, and for some models, more rugged body panels.

Inside, this Cross County wagon gets the same expansive, well-crafted interior as the standard V90. However, the interior wood inlays are a bit different so as to underscore a more sporting nature. More importantly, the V90 CX boasts 19.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, and 69 cubic feet with the rear seats down. For reference, that is about the same as the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester.

LUXURY SEATING: The V90 XC has the same upscale interior as you’d find in the V90 wagon and S90 sedan. —George Kennedy
Boston.com Dealer Specials:

The large wagon layout also doubles as an upright greenhouse, with plenty of light, and great rearward visibility. The panoramic moonroof is simply massive; the power glass panels and visor retract with the push of a button.

At the center of the dash is a large Sensus touch screen infotainment system, with navigation. It features a tablet-like layout and employs gestures like swipes and pinch-to-zoom on the navigation function. The driver also gets a fully digital instrument cluster, and an available head-up display.

The seats are impossibly soft, with rear seats providing nearly as much legroom as front passengers. As for ergonomics, there is a broad center stack area for cupholders, cubbies, and a key/wallet tray. A retractable cover for each section cleans up the look, providing both form and function.

Advertisement

The V90 XC comes equipped with a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine. It is turbocharged and supercharged, and makes 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. That’s truly solid power from such a small engine, and that power is routed through an eight-speed automatic to standard all-wheel-drive. This drivetrain setup includes brake regeneration with auto stop/start to help improve fuel economy.

The result is fuel economy of 22 mpg city, and 30 mpg highway. Not too shabby for a wagon that weights 4,221 pounds and can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

If you plan to use your new car for towing, Volvo provides some solid gear and technology, the most notable being a retractable tow hitch. With the push of a button, a hitch with a seven-pin connector pops out from under the rear bumper. You can locate the trailer with the 360-degree camera. As you wind down your trailer, the air suspension responds to added weight.

The V90 Cross Country features a starter “dial” in the center console, which is similar to other 90-series Volvo products, but it’s a somewhat awkward motion, and also takes your attention away from Volvo’s drive mode selector. Drive Modes include Comfort, Eco, Dynamic, Off-Road, and Individual.

Acceleration is strong, even in Normal or Eco mode. The throttle response is quick, and the eight-speed automatic kicks down into the right gear for optimal acceleration. You wouldn’t know there were only four cylinders under the hood.

The first segment of our drive route took us on surface roads and highways. We found cornering to be solid. It’s not sports car-tight and there is some body lean, but once the car settles into that lean, it can navigate a corner well. Steering is light, but not Lexus-level-lightweight. It has a lot of assist, but a comfort-oriented luxury car should be like that. This will be a great vehicle for road trips and long highway journeys.

Advertisement

We next took the Cross Country into the back country—desert dirt trails that were legit off-road trails. There were no major rocks, and this would sooner be considered “soft-roading,” but these weren’t the kind of roads a 5 Series wagon could go.

The V90 XC handled these trails with relative ease. The ground clearance was greatly appreciated, and the all-wheel-drive system was supremely capable, though some adjustment was needed when the rain came, turning the red desert sand into viscous clay.

Once you get off the trail and back into civilization, features like CitySafety with pedestrian detection will offer peace of mind. The V90 XC also comes standard with the Pilot Assist—a semi-autonomous highway cruising system. It requires the driver’s hands to be on the wheel, and works up to 80 mph.

As of this writing, demos are already in dealerships, and the first cars are arriving. So what is it going to cost?

Base MSRP of the 2017 Volvo V90 XC is $55,300. The optional air suspension adds $12,000; the Luxury model tacks on $4,500, and the convenience package adds $1,950. You can get up to 21-inch wheels, which can add up to $3,715; they will likely stiffen the ride but make a visual statement.

The Cross Country wagon has long been a staple in the Boston suburbs. The V90 is certainly a move upmarket, but is an exceptionally capable vehicle that has all the luxury of the rest of its namesake lineup. With cars like the V90 XC hitting the streets, its possible we might see a comeback for the station wagon.

George Kennedy is a freelance automotive journalist. He can be reached at George.H.Kennedy.iii@gmail.com or on Twitter @GKenns101.

2017 Volvo V90 XC

THE BASICS

Price: $55,300. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 22/30. Drivetrain: 2.0L turbocharged/supercharged I4, 8-AT, all-wheel drive. Body: Four-door full-size wagon.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 316. Overall length: 194.4 in. Wheelbase 115.8 in. Height: 60.7 in. Width: 75.9 in. Curb weight: 4,221 lbs.

THE GOOD

Surprising acceleration and off-road capability, spacious, lavish interior.

THE BAD

Weight betrays handling at times, strange starter knob location.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A wagon more capable than most modern crossover SUVs.

ALSO CONSIDER

Audi A6 Allroad, Subaru Outback (fully loaded).