VAIL, COLORADO – As of late, Volvo has been experiencing a significant renaissance of sorts with their “90 cluster” series of vehicles – the XC90 (reviewed here) was universally acclaimed and was the most awarded vehicle in 2016 amongst the automotive media. It was a great example of smart, modern design, refined powertrains, and an interior that was absolutely to die for. The S90 sedan and V90 wagon are also two new flagships that are creating plenty of buzz, as lower-slung and more urban-going versions of the XC90. New versions of other Volvo products are also on the way, with redesigns of the S60, V60, and XC60 in the works for 2017 and beyond.
Recently, Volvo Canada invited us to Vail, Colorado to join them in a lifestyle drive of the current Cross Country lineup and unveiling of the all-new 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country. The event licked off with a drive of the current generation cars, namely the S60 Cross Country Sedan (reviewed here), V60 Cross Country wagon, and XC60 medium sized crossover SUV. While the platform dates back several years and to a time when Volvo was still under Ford ownership, the 60 cluster of Volvos now receive new engine and transmission combinations: The T5 trim has been replaced by a “Drive-E” 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder making 240 horsepower, and T6 trim gets the same twin-charged (both supercharged and turbocharged) mill as the 90 cluster, making 302 horsepower in 60 cluster form.
Right off the bat, the new powertrains can be regarded as very worthy replacements to the turbocharged inline five and inline six cylinder versions that came before them. While the audio note of the angry (in a good way) T5 and smooth song of the T6 are no longer present, the noise, vibration, and harshness of the Drive-E 2.0-litre four is very well controlled. Highway cruising is whisper quiet, and turbo lag is kept to a minimum. The high altitude in Colorado did dampen the expected power output somewhat, but the use of forced induction will still be an advantage compared to any naturally aspirated car at high elevation. Through the mountain passes in and around Vail, the T5 and T6 configurations didn’t miss a beat, and the extra oomph and low end torque of the T6 models was especially apparent.
With the S60 Cross Country, Volvo is smartly using their parts bin to create a raised sedan that mimics a small crossover SUV. Reviewed by DoubleClutch.ca last year with the old T5 five-cylinder, the new Drive-E makes the S60 CC even better. Volvo has admitted that they likely won’t sell very many of these, but the car was an easy decision from a manufacturing perspective, and financially, it still remains profitable. The V60 Cross Country is a very similar car, but in wagon form, and the XC60 is slightly larger still for the full crossover SUV effect. All three have surprisingly capable handling characteristics on the road, and while they may not have the most ultimate grip compared to regular, non-Cross Country offerings, the roadholding still inspires confidence and surefootedness at all speeds.
As part of the time spent in Colorado, Canadian automotive media had a chance to sit down with Alexander Lvovich, Managing Director at Volvo Canada. Having been in the role for only six months so far, Lvovich is extremely optimistic about Volvo’s prospects in the near future. With the XC90 comprising over half of Volvo Canada’s sales so far in 2016 (with some months outselling archrival Audi Q7), similar successes are anticipated for the remainder of the 90 cluster releases, as well as the upcoming 60 cluster – there’s also an anticipated return of the 40 cluster of smaller Volvos over the next couple years. The target is to double Canadian sales by 2020, and while it’s an ambitious goal, the momentum generated by the newest 2016 and 2017 model year products should put Volvo Canada in a great position to achieve this number.
Part of the three-day activities included a choice of three lifestyle activities that a typical Cross Country owner might partake in: fly fishing, horseback riding, or white water rafting. Of the three, the finesse and relaxation of fly fishing was selected, and journalists were given a crash course on how to cast flies in the Colorado River. Many casts were made into the river in search of the biggest and best trout, but aside from a few nibbles, no fish were caught. In any case, the Cross Country Volvos supplied for the activity demonstrated how the extra ground clearance and cargo versatility comes in handle when one leads an active lifestyle.
At the end of three days in Colorado, the marquee event was the unveiling of the new 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country. Based on the recently released and reviewed Volvo V90 wagon, the V90 Cross Country receives many of the same features that make the other 90 cluster cars so wonderful – double-wishbone front suspension, rear air suspension, Bowers & Wilkins audio, and incredible design inside and out. Canadian pricing is slated to start at $61,900, and the twincharged T6 Drive-E with all-wheel drive will be the only engine option. Expect deliveries and availability to start in the first quarter of 2017.
As expected, the Cross Country adds extra ground clearance over a conventional V90 – 6.4 centimetres (2.5 inches), to be exact – for a total of 21 centimetres (8.3 inches). As always, safety will be at the forefront of the V90 CC, with well-engineered structural components, a full gamut of airbags, and a large animal detection system. All combined, these advancements will help keep occupants safe in the event of a crash, or it can prevent them altogether. Additionally, Pilot Assist will make another appearance, which is a great preview to the autonomous driving of the future. While the DoubleClutch.ca Mazgazine editorial team has yet to drive the V90 CC, expect it to perform very similarly to the S90 sedan (reviewed here). Right up to highway speeds, Pilot Assist is able to provide steering input on gentle curves and apply acceleration and braking as required.
All in all, the recent success of Volvo is something that just about any car person can get behind. While their products may not be everyone’s cup of tea, just about anybody can respect Volvo for their well-designed, quality built cars that fill their niches extremely well. Part of the success can be attributed to the flexibility afforded by their split from Ford (no pun intended!). They now operate like a much smaller company and are much more responsive to customer needs and changing market conditions. With the renewal of the 90 cluster just about complete, the upcoming 60 and 40 clusters are going to be of utmost importance for Volvo. Based on their current momentum and reception in the industry, good vibes and big numbers lie ahead.