Suitably impressed by the Volvo XC90 we tested in 2015, which subsequently went on to win the coveted SA Car of the Year title in 2016, we were more than keen to sample the S90 sedan and its sibling, the V90 CC (Cross Country).
The V90 CC was launched locally in 2016. Granted, the XC90 will offer that too, but the svelte lines and proportions of a station wagon will win me over an SUV any day.
So the V90 CC completes the 90 range in SA, while other markets also get the regular V90, which is essentially the S90 station wagon. The Cross Country is the spiritual successor to the XC70, which was a firm favourite of mine and an underrated vehicle in my opinion. Blame the advent of SUVs for that.
That said, the V90 CC continues the adventurous theme that made the XC70 the almost go-anywhere vehicle that it was. This includes the front and rear skid plates, plastic clad wheel arches and self-levelling air suspension (R17 500 option) on the rear axle that adds to the plush ride quality.
Our Inscription D5 model came with optional gloss silver and black tinged 20-inch wheels (19-inch standard), while the interior is a minimalist yet premium melting pot of leather, aluminium inserts and soft-touch materials. The 9.3-inch infotainment screen takes centre stage and controls most functions. such as climate control, audio settings and external device connectivity.
Overall cabin space is generous, both front and rear, while the boot measures 560-litres (1 526-litres) with the rear seats folded forward). The optional power tailgate, which forms part of the R65 000 Premium Pack, is highly recommended due to the high opening boot lid and should be a separate option, instead of being lumped with what is a comprehensive pack.
Our test unit is powered by a 2.0-litre bi-turbo, four-cylinder engine that is augmented by Power Pulse, essentially a tank holding compressed air that aids to spool up the larger of the two turbos in an effort to quell turbo lag. It works surprisingly well and, coupled to the all-wheel drive system, traction off the line is immediate. It still exhibits a slight diesel clatter at idle, but things do smoothen out once up to speed as you ride that 480Nm torque wave that comes on song at about 2 000rpm.
Together with the eight-speed automatic gearbox, the V90 CC D5 is the ideal long-haul family car that sips around 6.8l/100km on the open road.
We put it through its paces on a weekend getaway to Bushwa Lodge, just outside of Modimolle in Limpopo, which is about 265km from Gauteng. We nosed the long wagon towards the N1 on a late Friday afternoon, which had high volumes of traffic, but this opened up the opportunity to put the Pilot Assist system to the test, which is standard fare in the 90 range.
It allows you to set your cruising speed, up to 130km/h, and all you do is steer the car. The system takes over following distance and braking, giving you semi-autonomous driving and works a treat.
We then veered off the N1 through Modimolle, where ambient lighting was poor, but this helped us to put the automatic high beam assist to the test. It flooded the road and the verge alike with white light for some metres and accordingly adjusted this so as to not dazzle oncoming traffic. We arrived at our destination, truly impressed by the vehicle, which also took the gravel sections in its stride.
The S90, in contrast, makes for a great alternative to the mainstream, premium triumvirate of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It has all the trappings and sumptuous cabin of its German rivals, but wraps it in a package that is all executive in its demeanour, yet has a left field, but stylish disposition.
However, it is the V90 CC that manages to tug at my heart strings, thanks to its silhouette, and practicality to boot.
Criticisms? Well, a slightly softer setting in the suspension to rival that of the XC70 would be great. That aside, both the S90 and V90 CC are worthy premium alternatives to the German establishment. – Lerato Matebese
Fast Facts: Volvo V90 D5 AWD Inscription
Engine: 1963cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 173kW at 4000rpm
Torque: 480Nm at 1750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 7-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 240km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 9.6l/100km (claimed combined)
Price: From R830 198