There’s a lot happening for Volvo this year. First quarter world sales were up seven per cent. It is celebrating its 90th birthday. It has a new XC60, the SUV which has lead its class for the past three years with total sales of one million since 2008, and taking three in ten Volvo sales.
Its safety system can steer you away from the risk of a head-on collision if your V60 has wandered out of its lane. Another option is semi-autonomous driving, up to 75mph and subject to the right conditions.
Volvo is owned and run by the Chinese but the XC60 is build in Sweden, Volvo Land. It costs from £37,205 with 4x4 drive and an eight speed gearbox. An XC40 will increase Volvo’s place in the booming cross-over sector. We’ll see it this year but it’s not expected in Britain until next year.
Volvo’s other big news is its first electric car, which will be made at one of its three factories in China for delivery in 2019.
In the meantime, its my pleasant duty to pass judgment on the V90 Cross Country. The CC – to abbreviate – is the latest in the 90 series, after the XC90 SUV, the S90 saloon, and the V90 estate. The Cross Country is a butch re-take on the V90, with prices starting at £40,350 for the 2-litre D4. Like all new Volvos its engines are four-cylinder, with turbo chargers tuned to give different power ratings.
The Cross Country model brings 4x4 traction as standard (also offered on some V90 models), a little more ground clearance, plastic body protection along the sills and wheel arches, front and rear “skid” plates, larger door mirrors, fatter and more comfortable tyres on 18-inch wheels, and an off-road setting to moderate steering, gear change and throttle settings to make low-speed progress smoother. This brings in downhill braking, which allows the car to descend at a low speed without the brakes, reducing the skid risk.
In the near future Volvo’s problem may be a reliance on diesel engines. Legislation is getting tough on diesel and today’s brand new, clean diesel vehicle may be deemed dirty three or four years down the road. Engine maintenance is vital to avoid those choking black tailpipe fumes. Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Range Rover and many other majority diesel sellers face the same issue. Most SUVs, 4x4s and mid-size to large cars use diesel fuel.
Putting all that to the “ignore” department in my mind I have nothing but praise for the Cross Country. It rides well, softer than 90 models using shallower tyres. There will be more roll if you hurl it into bends but why would you do that? The acceleration is efficient, with a 0-62mph time of 8.8 seconds and good in-gear response from the D4. With 187bhp and 295lb ft of torque this is the core engine for the model. It is quiet and smooth.
Laboratory tests show 54.3mpg combined and 138g for an annual tax of £130. On the road, the lowest figure I saw was 28mpg on a short drive. A 42-mile rural drive, not too hilly, recorded 35mpg. My regular “commuter” route, recorded 41.5mpg. All these figures are shy of the official numbers and didn’t even match the urban rating of 45.6mpg and were nowhere near the extra-urban figure of 60mpg. I’m a bit sniffy about the disparity, because I drove at modest speeds and only raced the engine a few times for evaluation. The average for the 276-mile period was 38.5mpg.
A recent test in the V90 D4 saloon averaged 45mpg, while the “regular” V90 estate with the more powerful D5 engine recorded 40mpg. This, it seems, is the economy tariff for life with a 90-series Volvo. Still, they are big cars, look great and with the Cross Country you can tackle snow and rougher terrain. With the off-road setting selected I took it up an unsurfaced and rutted back lane. It managed easily, without any underbody contact.
The V90 models share the same design. There’s the imperious, broad, slightly concave grinning grill, the acutely raked back window which sacrifices load volume for racier lines and better aerodynamics. Powered tailgate opening and push-button folding of the rear seats make life easier and there’s a flip-up floor section for segregating hard and soft or muddy luggage.
Verdict: It’s not German. Lovely inside and out.