Volvo V90 Cross Country long-term review: report 1

Our senior photographer wants to mix off-road ability with comfort and space. Will Volvo's jacked-up estate fit the bill? He's got four months to find out...

LT Volvo V90 Cross Country wading through ford

The car Volvo V90 Cross Country D5 PowerPulse AWD Plus Run by Will Williams, senior photographer

Why it’s here Does the need for space and off-road ability automatically mean you need an SUV, or can a jacked-up estate do the job better? We're finding out

Needs to Be able to pack in my camera gear and still have room for passengers, be comfortable on long regular long journeys, be fuel efficient and function as a mobile office

List price £50,610 Target Price £45,577 Price as tested £59,980  Options Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound (£3000), Xenium Pack (£2000), folding tow bar (£1075), self-levelling rear air suspension (£950), Polestar Performance Software Optimisation (£745), Pine Grey metallic paint (£700), Intellisafe Surround Pack (£500) and dark-tinted rear windows (£400) Miles 1982 Official economy 49.6mpg Test economy 35.1mpg

16 September – The V90 Cross Country joins our fleet

It’s happened. After 44 years, I now have to be a responsible adult – a situation brought about by the arrival of my first child.

As a photographer I didn't exactly travel light before, but as any parent will tell you, having a newborn brings a whole gamut of extra stuff to cart around, so switching to an estate car seemed the obvious choice.

Specifically, I’ve gone for a Volvo V90 Cross Country, because this combines the space and safety that Volvo wagons are famous for with four-wheel drive; it’s handy for us snappers to be able to venture off road in pursuit of that perfect picture location.

Volvo V90 Cross Country with door open

Choosing the D5 diesel engine over the entry-level D4 also felt like a no-brainer, given that you get an extra 45bhp and the difference in average fuel economy is less than 1mpg.

However, gone are the days when you bought a Volvo just for logical reasons. When I was a kid, a mate’s Mum had a Volvo 240 estate which, while undoubtedly practical, was about as desirable as changing one of my son's more challenging nappies. By contrast, the latest cars from the brand are all achingly stylish to my eyes.

Then you look inside and things get even better. My car feels finely crafted from luxury materials and has the sort of minimalist design that makes it a superbly relaxing place to be.

My decision to go for the ‘blond’ interior colour scheme also helps in this regard, feeling quite the antidote to the dark palettes that Volvo’s German rivals tend to favour – although only time will tell if it’s suited to the rigours of family life.

LT Volvo V90 Cross Country - behind the wheel

What I can say right now is that the seats are probably the most supportive I've ever sat in. Everything from the length of the bases to the height of the lumbar adjustment can be finely tuned, so you can achieve that perfect position.

True, the V90 isn’t the smoothest riding luxury estate around, but the Cross Country version comes with so-called ‘Touring’ suspension, which is the softest of the standard setups. Plus, I specified a £950 upgrade which keeps the back of the car level even when it’s heavily loaded and improves comfort further.

Proving that I’ve still got some way to go before I’m completely grown-up, I also went for the Polestar Performance software optimisation, because this sounds like something that would have featured on Jan Lammers and Rickard Rydell’s Volvo 850 T5R touring car racers from the mid-1990s.

In addition to bringing an engine ‘overboost’ function, which increases power and torque for up to 20sec at a time to aid overtaking, this ‘optimisation’ lets you save your preferred settings for the steering weight, rear suspension firmness, and accelerator and brake responsiveness

Volvo V90 Cross Country side

If you’re going to add just one option, though, the one I’d recommend is the Bowers and Wilkins Premium stereo. It’s definitely not cheap at £3000, but the sound quality is absolutely incredible. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, like the V90’s seats, it’s probably the best of its kind.

As with most of the in-car tech, the stereo is primarily controlled through a large touchscreen, and I’ve got to admit I’m not usually a fan of these, finding them far more distracting than traditional buttons and dials. Fortunately, the V90’s screen is backed up by an effective voice control system; you can even adjust the climate control just by asking for your desired temperature.

While it’s early days, then, the V90 Cross Country is so far proving every bit as impressive as I’d hoped it would be. My son Callum clearly found it relaxing on his way home from hospital, falling asleep in less than a mile. And as for me, I’m struggling to think of another car that I’d rather entrust with precious cargo, be it camera kit or a newborn.

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