Automotive writers rarely get to schedule cars for test drives. They are at the mercy of manufacturers who are busy shipping the same car around the country to be driven by different writers in different cities. That's why the car looks the same in the photos in virtually every review you can find online — it is the same car.
And that's also why I occasionally get convertibles when it rains and rear wheel drive sports cars with low profile tires when it snows. Or why I got the 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country station wagon with all-wheel-drive in late June when the temperature broke 100 degrees.
Why couldn't I have had this car anytime last winter, when Portland was paralyzed by three back-to-back snow and ice storms? The V90 Cross County was made for that kind of weather. It sits 2.6 inches higher than the standard V90, and comes equipped with both AWD and hill-descent control. The leather lined exterior is also extremely comfortable, and the front bucket seats are heated.
Getting the V90 Cross Country in such hot and dry conditions gave me a chance to check out some of its other features, however. The only available engine is a 2.0-liter inline four that is both supercharged and turbocharged for peak power throughout the entire range. The oddly named T6 pumps out an impressive 316 horsepower and 294 foot pounds of torque, enough to make the two ton-plus vehicle take off from a stop like a much lighter sports car — especially with the Sport setting in the adjustable drive mode.
The quick shifting eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission contributes to the sense of speed, as does the AWD system, which Volvo says comes with Instant Traction and feels like it.
And did I say it also has an incredible air conditioner? Don't laugh. Once upon a time, only big American and the most expensive foreign cars had super strength air conditioners. Some vehicles still lag behind, especially those with small four cylinder engines. This isn't usually a big deal in Portland, which has a very moderate climate compared to the Southwest and much of the rest of the world. But it was during my test drive, and the Volvo passed with flying colors.
Not so sweet was the infotainment system, which is controlled by a large 9-inch touchscreen that looks like an iPad and is swiped to change between functions. Because I didn't grow up with swipe screens and still don't have one at work, there's a bit of a learning curve that shouldn't challenged while driving. I've been told that with enough practice, it becomes intuitive. I was still working on it when the test was over.
On the other hand, the 330-watt, 10-speaker audio system was a blast. The quality was amazing, even on songs I don't like. News readers and DJs sounded like they were speaking from well designed lecture halls. Now I know why classic rock stations play so much Pink Floyd.
Volvo made its reputation on safety, and the new models don't disappoint. Every advanced technology is available. Mine stopped itself when a car I was following through a downtown intersection suddenly braked for no apparent reason. Although I hit the pedal a split second later, I can't swear I could have avoided a collision.
The styling of the Volvo V9 is very contemporary, both outside and in. This is not your grandfather's Volvo wagon, where function dominated form. The sleek lines may reduce cargo space compared to the earlier box on box designs, but there's still enough room for five adults and luggage for a weeklong trip.
The 2017 V90 Volvo Cross Country T6 AWD is essentially a sport wagon with additional clearance, making it the ideal vehicle for those in the Pacific Northwest who want to enjoy their daily commutes and still be able to challenge moderate off-road trails and winter weather.
2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Base price: $56,295
Price as tested: $64,640
Type: Midsize station wagon
Engine: Supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4 (316 hp, 294 lb-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed manual with adjustable driving and manual shift modes
EPA estimated mileage: 22/30
Overall length: 194.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,250 pounds
Final assembly: Gothenburg, Sweden