Volvo hunts for

rugged estate fans

Volvo V90 Cross Country, front action
Volvo V90 Cross Country, upright action
Volvo V90 Cross Country, front action 2
Volvo V90 Cross Country, full front
Volvo V90 Cross Country, side action
Volvo V90 Cross Country, rear action 2
Volvo V90 Cross Country, rear seats
Volvo V90 Cross Country, boot 2
Volvo V90 Cross Country, front seats
Volvo V90 Cross Country, dashboard
Volvo V90 Cross Country, rear action
Volvo V90 Cross Country, boot

THERE are at least two ways the Swedish owner of a new Volvo V90 Cross Country could feed himself; either take the car and go hunting in the forest for food - or order some groceries to be delivered to the car.

The shoot-your-dinner scenario, says Volvo, is precisely the role this newcomer was designed to fulfill in its native country, helping to penetrate deep into the forest by the car's raised ride height over its non-Cross Country siblings.

Also on board to up the car's off-roading cred is a setting that makes the four-wheel drive system adapt to the conditions under the tyres and a hill descent setting that keeps you slow and safe on steep slopes by applying the brakes for you.

About a quarter of buyers of Volvo's biggest V90 estate line are expected to take the Cross Country version, helped to stand out by its charcoal coloured plastic wheel arch extensions and side sill and door mouldings.

Also on the visual upgrade list are new gloss black radiator grille and (decorative only) silver skid plates front and rear and bits of that charcoal look on the bumpers. Oh, and there's 'Cross Country' embossed in the rear bumper to let you know why the car ahead is tackling the muddiest of lanes more comfortably than you.

On a more practical front, the 18ins alloy wheels are shod with softer compound tyres to ease the ride over the sort of boulder-strewn going this V90 might have to tackle. And the door mirrors are bigger, although more for the added butch-ness than a better rear view, apparently.

That extra 65mm of ground clearance was barely challenged on a soft-road trek through a Staffordshire wood on the V90 Cross Country's debut but the hill descent control certainly was, and worked precisely as it should, to leave driver and occupants free to enjoy the scenery at a safe snail's pace.

Once you've shot your elk, or whatever, you might want some vegetables to go with the meaty stew. Swedish V90 owners are in luck if they specify the company's On Call system, that does all sort of clever things - including letting you order groceries for delivery to the car. Yes, really; those swedes and carrots are but a few phone clicks away.

Here in the UK you might find On Call handy for flashing the car's headlights in the vast underground car park ('ah, there it is!') or starting the engine on a frosty morning so the windscreen defrosts itself while you finish your bacon and eggs.

Business users will enjoy the way this same system can remember 100 drives so you can more easily pop their details on your expenses at the end of the month.

Launched here at the same time as sporty looking R-Design versions of Volvo's big S90 saloon and V90 estate, the Cross Country comes only with the latter body style, meaning there is genuine leg stretching room in the back seat and a vast load area too, with 560 litres of space with rear seats in place or 1562 litres with them folded.

There are two engine choices for the Cross Country, both based on the same 2.0 litre diesel engine and producing 190 horsepower in the D4 version and a lusty 235hp as a D5. The more powerful version (£43,585) has PowerPulse, Volvo's clever way of eliminating the lag suffered by most turbocharged engines.

With PowerPulse a small electric motor keeps a high pressure air tank primed, to release puffs of compressed air to kick the turbo into life in a fraction of a second when brisk acceleration is summoned.

It works well enough to mourn its absence in the cheaper (£39,785) D4 Cross Country, which feels notably less spritely away from the line. The cars are near identical in CO2 emissions (D4 138g/km, D5 139k/km) and close on fuel consumption too (54.3mpg versus 53.3mpg) but there's a bigger distance between them on performance.

The D4 Cross Country hits 62mph in 8.8 seconds but it's beefier sibling cuts that sprint to 7.5 seconds, and you can quickly tell the difference. Both come with an automatic gearbox and both feel as though they would swallow a continent between breakfast and dinner.

Both also share a standard specification that leaves little for the options' list. Fitted to every Cross Country are a splendid sat nav system displayed on a huge screen presented in portrait format (i.e. upright) which makes more of the display than usual, two zone climate control, LED headlights with auto dipping, leather seats (heated in the front) and a powered tailgate.

Volvo is proud that the three safest cars ever tested by the European authority that rates these things are all Volvos and the Cross Country comes laden with gear to make life safer.

Included are fully automatic emergency braking in town and the ability to recognise a large animal in the road (those elks again) and pilot assist that steers for you on roads with clear side markings. You need to keep your hands lightly on the wheel but it does the rest - even if the first few miles feel odd in the extreme.

Me? I would happily steer myself in one of the most complete car's you can buy.

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