Station wagons never really did well in India. They arrived rather early in the 2000s and that too in the mass market segment with models such as the Maruti Suzuki Baleno Altura, Opel Corsa Swing and later the Skoda Octavia Combi. Tata Motors was in tune too with its Indigo Marina and earlier Tata Estate in the 90s. There was nothing wrong with these cars. It was just a matter of perception, Indians like a car to boost their status symbol. And sadly, the station wagon never fit the bill.
Moving on to the current state of affairs, as you would be aware SUVs are all the rage at the moment. But isn’t it all getting a bit much now? I mean, everywhere you look be it luxury cars or mainstream models, it's these SUVs and pseudo SUVs that are all over our roads.
Enter the Volvo V90 Cross Country (CC), a car that has all of the necessary capabilities of most of these SUVs but does not pretend to be one. And while Volvo’s new age styling makes the V90 CC look striking, the bigger question is, can it appeal to the Indian buyer?
Well, after driving the car I can tell you this that it should. Volvo wasn’t kidding when it stuck the Cross Country badge on the V90. With 210mm of ground clearance, more travel in the suspension, big 20 inch wheels and all-wheel drive capability this Volvo is all you need for those adventurous getaways.
My personal favorite aspect about the car is its ride quality, which in one word happens to be sublime. It just soaks up absolutely broken tarmac with sharp bumps so well even at moderate speeds, while keeping the cabin isolated from noise. Only when you come across a pothole at high speeds do you hear a thud from the suspension.
To add to the car’s character, Volvo has fit the V90 CC with the more powerful D5 version of the company’s 2.0 litre, four-cylinder diesel engine. The unit develops 232bhp of max power and 480Nm of peak torque. But the real party trick here is that it comes with something called ‘Power Pulse’. In essence, the system stores high-pressure air and releases it into the turbocharger before it spools, to do away with turbo lag.
And I am happy to report that the system works very well indeed. Right from the get-go, the V90 CC’s engine offers strong acceleration and the car feels willing at initial speeds. Volvo has given the car four driving modes – Eco, Comfort, Off-Road, and Dynamic. And while we will need to test the car thoroughly in a Road Test to gauge the difference in performance in various driving modes, you can tell that throttle response is quicker in Dynamic mode. Having said that, initial impressions are that manually shifting gears dominates the nature of Eco mode as the car does not hesitate to pick up speeds quickly.
What’s also worth mentioning at this point is that despite this being the same engine doing duty in the S90 (albeit in a lesser D4 state of tune), the unit in the V90 feels far more refined and engine noise is seriously down inside the cabin.
Adding to the car’s refinement is the eight-speed automatic gearbox in the V90 CC, it is a smooth unit and goes about its business seamlessly. As mentioned above, you can also change gears manually via the gear lever or with the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. While this does give you good control over gear changes you have to remember that Volvo’s nature of driving dynamics are more suited for a comfortable journey rather than outright performance. So, lighting sharp gear changes and throttle response in dynamic mode isn’t the norm here. But when you drive the car in an everyday manner, the powertrain is absolutely seamless. Power delivery is nice and linear and seamless gear changes ensure you have a comfortable journey no matter what the terrain or road conditions.
This I feel is really rather suited to our country urban traffic mandates you have a car that is easy to drive and has linear power delivery at initial speeds. Of course, our roads tend to get challenging at times and the V90 CC’s comfortable suspension compliments these conditions just as well.
Out on the highway, the V90 CC revealed the other side of its Cross Country nature in a commendable manner as the car handles very well despite its raised ground clearance and a taller stance. The car has excellent body control and you are always confident while carrying high speeds around bends. The only issue is that while a light steering is helpful at slow speeds, as the car picks up the pace the unit does weigh up but it does not offer enough feedback to the driver. It’s an accurate unit no doubt, but it just does not have enough feel to it.
This seems to be the only limitation of the car as the V90 CC otherwise offers the same high-quality package as any other modern Volvo. The interiors are delightful with quality leather and switchgear all around. The front seats are very comfortable and offer heating, cooling and massage options. Even the steering wheel can be heated up before you enter the car. Needless to say, the V90 gets the central touchscreen infotainment system which houses almost all of the cabin’s feature controls. The rear seat while comfortable could have offered more under-thigh support. However, the real benefit of buying a station wagon is practicality and with a huge 560-litre boot you will have more than enough space for all your road trips, shopping trips and more.
And when you can have all of this practicality and comfort in a car that absolutely stands out of the crowd with its unique stance and contemporary design, the V90 CC makes a case for itself. As a car that makes a statement. In India, this car is for the evolving customer, one who understands and appreciates the true capability of a product.
As for me personally, this looks like a great car for a long adventurous road trip!