Since we last drove the V90, Volvo has updated the range, with a new infotainment system and a choice of mild-hybrid engines. 

The Cross Country model tested here bridges the gap between a large estate tow car and an SUV, with a ride height raised by 65mm compared with the regular V90, and four-wheel drive.

V90 Cross Country buyers have the choice of two petrols (250hp or 300hp) and a 197hp diesel. Here, we’re testing the less powerful of the two petrol versions, the Volvo V90 Cross Country B5 (P) AWD Plus. In ‘Plus’ specification, the car costs £56,465.

Can the Cross Country keep estate car enthusiasts and 4×4 fans happy? Is it worth the extra cost over a standard V90, and how well does it tow a caravan?

  • Take a look at our caravan towing tips guide for our advice on how to stay safe and comfortable on the road.

Towing ability in the Volvo V90 Cross Country B5 (P) AWD Plus – 3.5/5

One of several benefits of opting for the four-wheel-drive Cross Country rather than the regular V90 is the additional weight. The Cross Country is around 100kg heavier than the front-wheel-drive model, so the matching ratios are more favourable.

With a kerbweight of 1930kg, the V90 Cross Country B5 has an 85% match figure of 1641kg. That’s well within the maximum towing weight of 2400kg and means a wide range of tourers make sensible matches. 

For our test, we paired the Volvo with a Swift Fairway Grande 580, with a MiRO of 1381kg, borrowed from Broad Lane Leisure.

Car and caravan were soon up to speed. With 250hp and 258lb ft of torque, choosing the entry-level engine doesn’t mean putting up with weak and listless performance. 

Unless you put your foot all the way to the floor, the engine doesn’t sound strained, although this four-cylinder engine isn’t as smooth at high revs as the best six-cylinder engines found in some rivals.

Volvo automatic gearboxes are sometimes criticised for being slow to change down to a lower gear, but the eight-speed ’box in the Cross Country is prompt and responsive, making the most of the petrol engine’s pulling power. It’s no secret that we generally prefer diesels for towing, but this petrol vehicle more than copes. 

Rear of Volvo
At just shy of 5m, this is a very long car to thread through busy city streets, and you don’t have the clear view that SUV drivers enjoy

On country roads, the V90 is comfortable and accomplished. It’s easy to hold speed on steep gradients, and the car remains secure and stable over bumpy surfaces.

Hill starts are straightforward – and you would expect nothing less from a powerful four-wheel drive with automatic gearbox. The electronic parking brake holds car and caravan still, and releases smoothly without allowing the outfit to roll back. Even on damp Tarmac, we could tow away smartly without wheelspin.

Head away from rural roads and out onto the motorway and the Volvo continues to impress, although it’s not quite as stable in windy weather as the very best big SUVs. 

Perhaps it’s the Cross Country’s softened suspension, or the long rear overhang giving the caravan a little more leverage, but we could feel the van tugging at the back of
the car more than we’d have liked. 

The movement never got out of hand and was only noticeable in gusty conditions, but tighter control over the caravan would make the Cross Country an even better tow car.

Once you reach your destination, the Volvo manoeuvres easily at low speeds. The steering is light and the auto ’box lets you creep along smoothly and slowly.

The towball is retractable, so you can stow it out of sight while you’re on holiday, then lower it into place using a button just inside the tailgate. The electrical socket is integrated into the side of the towbar, well clear of the bumper, so plugging in the caravan’s electrics is straightforward.

Retractable towball
Towball is retractable, so you can stow it out of sight, then lower it using a button just inside
the tailgate

Solo driving – 3.5/5

Volvo says the V90 has a 0-62mph time of 7.4 seconds, which is pretty rapid. Just don’t let that lead you to expect a sporty drive. The Cross Country is a comfortable express, rather than an enthusiast’s car.

For longer journeys, the relatively soft suspension handles most lumps and bumps in the road, although the car can fidget a little, especially at low speeds. 

The Volvo is more at home on A-roads and motorways, and not just because these suit the suspension. At just shy of 5m, this is a long car to thread through busy city streets, and you don’t have the clear view that SUV drivers enjoy. The driver will certainly need to concentrate carefully in multistorey car parks, for example.

When the road clears, the V90 can shift along, just as Volvo claims. But although there’s a manual override for the gearbox, there are no paddles behind the wheel. 

Find the right touchscreen menu and you can add a little weight to the steering, but it still feels rather remote and numb. It’s not an involving car to drive, but equally, the Volvo doesn’t tie itself in knots the moment the road starts to twist and turn. Expect competence rather than excitement. There’s some road noise at speed, but otherwise, the cabin is refreshingly quiet once you’re cruising along. 

Cab of the Volvo
Recent changes to the Volvo include a new Android-based infotainment system

If you do use all the engine’s performance, it can sound a bit strained, but with a strong mid-range for a petrol, there’s rarely much need to push the engine revs high.

Space and practicality – 4/5

The Cross Country is a very roomy, practical car. Up front, the driver and passenger have plenty of head- and legroom, a factor that can be an important consideration when you’re picking the best tow car. We found there was lots of rearward travel left, even with the seat positioned for a 6’ 3” driver. The seat is adjusted electrically on ‘Plus’ spec cars, and there’s a memory function to store your seating position.

Storage is generous, with a big glovebox and door bins. There’s more space under the armrest, along with a couple of USB-C charging points.

Recent changes to the V90 include a new Android-based infotainment system. This is compatible with Apple CarPlay, but not Android Auto. Volvo argues there’s no need when the infotainment works on an Android operating system anyway, but it’s annoying to have to download apps to the car if they are already on your phone. There’s no denying it’s a slick-looking system, though.

In the back, a 6ft passenger could stretch out behind an equally tall driver. There are air vents between the front seats and in the door pillars, with separate air-con controls so rear passengers can choose a different temperature.

The back of the V90 is not quite so comfortable if there are three people seated, as the large transmission tunnel gets in the way. But two rear-seat passengers will be fine.

Boot space is all-important with an estate car, and the V90 has a 551-litre capacity. That’s a little behind the Audi A6 Avant (565 litres) and well beaten by the Mercedes E-Class Estate (640 litres). However, it’s easy to make good use of the space provided, thanks to the wide tailgate opening and low floor. There are lashing points, a 12V socket and a fold-up divider.

551 litres of boot space
It’s easy to make good use of the 551 litres of boot space provided, thanks to the wide tailgate opening and the low floor

Oddly, there are no levers by the tailgate opening to lower the back seats – you have to release catches on them instead – but with the back seats folded, capacity increases to 1517 litres.

Buying and owning a Volvo V90 Cross Country B5 (P) AWD Plus – 3/5

You’ll pay a premium for the Cross Country model. Our test car has a list price of £56,465 before options, compared with £53,255 for the front-wheel-drive equivalent. In fairness, similar rivals cost as much or more.

‘Plus’ spec cars come well equipped, with Pilot Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control (which steer, accelerate and brake the car under certain conditions and the driver’s supervision),
a 13-speaker stereo, four-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, heated seats front and rear, and 19-inch alloys. 

Safety kit is comprehensive, and the car has a five-star rating from Euro NCAP.

Running costs will be high. It may have mild-hybrid assistance, but this is a heavy and powerful car, with an official combined figure of 33.2-36.2mpg. Towing the Swift, we only just bettered 20mpg. Relatively weak resale values contribute to the high cost of financing the Volvo.

Verdict on the Volvo V90 Cross Country B5 (P) AWD Plus

If you’re looking for four-wheel drive, but hate the thought of driving a big SUV, the V90 Cross Country has a great deal going for it.

The V90’s cabin is both practical and superbly made. Yes, some rivals have even more space for your holiday bags, but we can’t see many owners complaining. 

A lot of thought has gone into making the Volvo’s boot practical, rather than just large, with useful features to help you make the most of every litre of space.

You’ll travel in comfort and luxury, whether sitting in the front or the back. Even with the panoramic sunroof fitted to our test car, there’s plenty of headroom in both rows, and limousine-like legroom. In the back, only a third passenger will have any reason to complain.

The interior is attractive and uncluttered, although a few more physical buttons would improve ease of use. The infotainment system looks great, but has its foibles.

To drive, the V90 Cross Country puts comfort ahead of sportiness, and that’s no bad thing in our book. 

If you want to drive the length of the land and end the journey still feeling fresh, the Volvo is ideal. But if you prefer more spirited travel, the BMW 5 Series Touring might be more to your liking.

As a tow car, the V90 is surefooted on damp B-roads, with the four-wheel drive putting its power to the road cleanly. It’s a very stable tow car in still air, although crosswinds affected it more than we expected. Even so, we’d be happy to live with such a good all-rounder.

See what we made of another plug-in hybrid from the same manufacturer, the Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD Plus – it’s a quick and practical towing option to consider.

  • Interested in a pre-owned towing option instead? Our best used tow car guide is a great place to start.

Technical spec

  • Price: £56,465
  • Retained value after three years: 42%
  • Kerbweight: 1930kg (listed as ‘running order’ by Volvo)
  • 85% of kerbweight: 1641kg
  • Gross vehicle weight: 2450kg
  • Max towing limit: 2400kg
  • Gross train weight: 4850kg
  • Towball limit: 100kg 
  • Towball and electrics: £1250
  • Boot size min/max: 551/1517 litres 
  • Payload: 520kg
  • Test conditions: Damp
  • Engine size: 1969cc
  • Official combined economy: 33.2-36.2mpg
  • Towing economy: 20.2mpg
  • Power (hp)/rpm: 250/5400-5700
  • Torque (lb ft)/rpm: 258/1800-4800
  • CO2 emissions: 177g/km 
  • First year car tax: £945
  • Second year car tax: £510
  • Insurance group: 37E
  • Euro NCAP overall protection rating: 5/5 

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