Plenty of room at family outing

Volvo’s second large sports utility, the V90 Cross Country, seems set to stake a claim in territory already colonized by the XC90, but the distributor feels they can get along.

THE V90 Cross Country wagon that Volvo has just unveiled internationally might well be a one-in-five local market choice with brand fans looking for large scale adventure, the distributor has suggested.

Based on the V90 – the station wagon version of Volvo’s S90 luxury sedan – the Cross Country is an all-wheel-drive featuring a jacked-up ride height with revised lower body moulding to protect the underbody from off-road perils.

In so many ways it stands as an equal to the XC90 that, after just over a year of sale here, has settled into commanding around 45 percent of all Volvo sales. Yet despite platform, drivetrain and technical commonality a local market spokesman is confident they can co-exist comfortably.

Even so, there’s already no doubt in the mind of Volvo Cars New Zealand national manager Coby Duggan about which will be the major player.

“The V90 Cross Country is important to us, and we have had no hesitation taking it, but we would be surprised if it captures more than 10 percent of our volume. Whereas we can see the XC90 increasing its share next year, to 50 percent of all Volvo volume.”

So it’s going to be one-in-five niche. Nonetheless, a sense of sameness is going to be highlighted on the Cross Country’s arrival within the first quarter of 2017 simply because the Auckland distributor has determined to take derivatives running the D5 2.0-litre turbodiesel that already motivates three XC90 versions.

Going diesel makes sense to meet the perceived customer demand but it also means the V90 Cross Country, set to specify in two levels, might well place in the same $97,900 to $106, 900 price zone as those XC oilers, Duggan concedes.

“That’s going to be a challenge for us, getting the price sorted so there’s enough clear air between them,” he says.

“Conceivably, it’s in that $100k carpark, but it would be nice to have a Cross Country here for less than that, as we’ve done with the XC90 Momentum. So it’s (pricing) going to be interesting.”

Different body stylings aside, there’s one big point of difference between the two adventure wagons. Whereas the XC seats seven whereas the V90 has places for five.

Will it therefore simply come down to chair count consideration? Duggan doesn’t believe the showdown will play out that way, assuming there’s even a coin-flip moment. He thinks the XC and Cross Country buyer bases will have other considerations to weigh up.

However, he concurs that, within the office, no-one expects the hiked station wagon to upset the XC’s amazing sales pace, nor is expected to threaten the XC60, which current runs as the No.2 choice for Volvo buyers, even though it is also now right at the end of its production life.

“We don’t see the XC60 losing its position. Yes, it’s an older car now and it might suffer a little for that during the course of next year, but we will have the new generation replacement before the end of the year, so it should hold that place.”

The road-bound V90 station wagon is also on the order books, as an alternate to the S90 large sedan that will be along quite soon. However, you might be lucky to see a V90 – it’s designated as a special order model, rather than having the showroom issue status meted the Cross Country.

Volvo acknowledges the XC90 is not really designed to be a serious bog hopper and it’ll be interesting to see if the Cross Country is any more off-road capable.

There are some signs that it is tuned to put a foot in both tarmac and turf camps. One of the drive modes is called ‘Rough Road’ and it runs a specific tyre that has been designed to offer improved off-road grip and better on-road comfort.

Also, while Volvo has made mention of the increased ride height and all-wheel drive which sees the Cross Country sit 65mm higher than normal, it still has less than 200mm ground clearance. The overall diameter of the wheel and tyre packages is 42mm bigger than the V/S90 vehicles. Front and rear track are wider by 20mm and 40mm, respectively.

Volvo says the model has undergone rigorous cold weather testing “where temperatures regularly hit -40 degrees centigrade”, as well as hot weather testing in the “searing desert heat of Arizona” to ensure it has been “built to last”.

Two high-ups from the head office have also spoken of its robustness.

Volvo Cars senior vice president of design Thomas Ingenlath said although the version retains the same level of comfort and refinement as its road-orientated V90 and S90 relatives, it’s not just a styling study.

“Designing a Volvo Cross Country is not a styling exercise, a plastic job,” he said. “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 recipe: the blend of powerful off-road capability in a most elegant, sophisticated, tailored wagon suit.”

Adds Volvo Cars senior vice-president of research and development Peter Mertens: “Our cars are well known for their safety, strength and durability. With all-wheel drive, increased ride height and a chassis optimised for comfort and control in all weather and road conditions, the new V90 Cross Country takes our versatile V90 estate and adds the heart of an explorer.”

The V90 Cross Country retains the same interior as its V90 and S90 siblings, adorned with leather and soft-touch points throughout, as well as a large vertically-mounted centre touchscreen to control connectivity, satellite navigation, climate controls and vehicle options, and a Bowers and Wilkins sound system.