2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD

Volvo was once the official vehicle, it seems, of the college professor, especially those with elbow-patched tweed jackets and fragrant pipe.

Volvo was once the official vehicle, it seems, of the college professor, especially those with elbow-patched tweed jackets and fragrant pipe.

Official no more, because Volvo has undergone such a transformation that the vehicles are no longer the orthopedic shoe of automobility (there’s nothing wrong with a good, supportive, sensible shoe, of course, but there is something to be said of style) and are now as impressive in appearance as almost anything on the car lot. Even the V90 Cross Country which is, truth be told, a station wagon.

Volvo V90 Cross Country

Long the favorite of families in the 1960s (and plenty of automotive journalists right now, people who are also inclined to manual transmissions, diesel engines and the driving of other people’s automobiles), the station wagon has given way to the sport utility vehicle. And Volvo has those on offer, too. In fact, the underpinnings of the V90 are the new Volvo Scalable Architecture, which is used for the Volvo XC90 crossover (and the S90 sedan, by the way).

Volvo V90 Cross Country

Before joining Audi as its Board of Management member for Technical Development in November 2016, Dr. Peter Mertens, was Senior Vice President Research & Development at Volvo Cars. And of this particular vehicle, which he was involved in the development of, Dr. Mertens said, “With all-wheel drive, increased ride height, and a chassis optimized for comfort and control in all weather and road conditions, the new V90 Cross Country takes our versatile V90 estate [or “wagon”] and adds the heart of an explorer.”

Which essentially means that while the V90 Cross Country is a station wagon, it is engineered to be more than just a four-door with additional cargo space in the back (33.9-cu. ft.).

Studio detail

As Thomas Ingenlath, Senior Vice President Design at Volvo Cars (he still there), put it, “Designing a Volvo Cross Country is not a styling exercise, a plastic job. It is based on honest capability. The Volvo V90 Cross Country brings a surprising and intriguing combination of a strong, powerful exterior and a luxurious, Scandinavian interior. It will continue the genuine tradition of the Volvo Cross Country with a new recipe: The blend of powerful off-road capability in a most elegant, sophisticated, tailored wagon suit.”

Or said another way: it is a capable vehicle—yes, it has Swedish-winter-tested AWD capability (according to Henrik Green, Senior Vice President, Research & Development at Volvo Cars, the successor to Dr. Mertens, “Volvo cars are well known for what we call ‘framkomlighet’ in Swedish—the ability to get you wherever you want to go regardless of the weather conditions”—that is also one that’s rather comfortable on the inside. It features superlative ergonomics throughout the interior, and the seating is more like supportive Scandinavian furniture than what is otherwise known as “car seats.” (The front seats are heated, of course, and they are 10-way adjustable, including four-way lumbar support. There is a 9-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash for infotainment purposes. I did find the “virtual owner’s manual” to be a bit more difficult to access through the screen than a simple paperbound paged object.

Interior

Still, there is that “tech” cred box that must be checked, and that touchscreen marks it, as does the 12.3-inch gauge cluster that is driver configurable. And as all premium brands have to have premium audio, the V90 Cross Country offers a fine Bowers & Wilkins unit.

And as this is a Volvo, regardless of the fact that the styling has been ratcheted up, way up, from the days of the aforementioned tweedy professors, there is safety tech galore, including not only the fundamental high-strength steel safety cage that contains the occupants, but such things as a low-speed collision avoidance system (it gets on the brakes if you don’t), pedestrian and “large animal” detection (remember, this was developed in Sweden, so we’re talking things like members of the Cervidae mammal family—reindeer, moose, etc.), run-off road protection and mitigation, and more. It even offers Pilot Assist, which allows the car to accelerate, decelerate, come to a complete stop, and steer given the appropriate conditions. (Note: this is assist, it isn’t meant to be some sort of autonomous Uber experience.)

Yes, this is a wagon. But in an age of ever-increasing crossovers (mind you, Volvo has those on offer, too), it is nice to have an alternative.