Volvo execs talk self-driving aspirations over the V90 Cross Country reveal

  • Volvo North America President and CEO Lex Kerssemakers in front of the new V90 Cross Country.
    Megan Geuss
  • A side view of the V90 Cross Country.
  • You can see the slightly cloudy sky in the reflection of the V90 Cross Country's hood.
    Megan Geuss
  • Another view of the V90 Cross Country.
    Megan Geuss
  • The wagon has plenty of space in the back.
    Megan Geuss
  • The V90 Cross Country has an expansive sunroof that takes up most of the top of the car, similar to the XC90 SUV.
    Megan Geuss
  • Volvo's Sensus infotainment system uses a tile-based UI.
    Megan Geuss
  • Piney Lake outside of Vail, Colorado, was a beautiful setting for the V90 Cross Country reveal. In mid-September and at 9,000 ft, this morning was pretty chilly.
    Megan Geuss
  • The beautiful Piney Lake.
  • A sign at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center—one of many stops on our guided drive through the Rocky Mountains.
    Megan Geuss
  • We were loaned XC60s and S90s to get a feel for how the V90 Cross Country will drive. (Yes, that dog got a bite of that muffin.)
    Megan Geuss
  • There's a strong Volvo family resemblance to the XC90 SUV.
  • Everybody out of the car, we're going to switch drivers and get some air.
    Megan Geuss
  • Lots of room in the trunk for two journalists' gear.
    Megan Geuss
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VAIL, Colo.—It’s 8 am in mid-September, and the air in the Rocky Mountains is cold and crisp and still. A small group of journalists and car reviewers drives Volvo S90s and XC60s down 10 miles of dirt road to get to a lodge by the side of the picturesque Piney Lake, where the Swedish automaker will announce the company’s V90 Cross Country—the latest in Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) line of cars.

Mechanically, this new model is more-or-less an S90 tweaked to make it ideal (or so Volvo claims) for off-roading. (We should note the Volvo XC90 also handles off-roading, but that vehicle was curiously absent from the day's events.) The Colorado-based event, like its sister event in Sweden, was tailored to show the invitees that Volvos aren't just luxury vehicles—they're built for “Swedish ruggedness” and suffer “battle scars” easily. (I assumed “battle scars” to mean scratches and dings, although maybe even an arrow to the wheel—I didn’t ask.)

Sim chassis

That was all marketing talk. None of the reporters were able to drive the V90 Cross Country, which just began production at Volvo's Torslanda plant in Sweden. But the S90s and XC60s we were loaned to drive into the mountains were supposed to be close approximations. On the drive out and back from Piney Lake, my S90 was more than up to the task. It took sharp turns on the narrow dirt road easily and had no trouble clearing the rocks and divots in its path.

Volvo's Vi-Grade chassis simulator helped the company do early-stage development on the V90 Cross Country chassis.
Enlarge / Volvo's Vi-Grade chassis simulator helped the company do early-stage development on the V90 Cross Country chassis.

But Volvo says the V90 Cross Country will have an even better chassis. In order to create something more “flexible” for the off-roader, the company says it used a simulator for both early-stage development and to perform extensive tests on the new chassis. The simulator was built by Vi-Grade, a company that builds high-quality aviation, railway, and motorcycle simulators in addition to auto sims. Using a simulator also helped Volvo test out Drive Modes, of which the V90 Cross Country has five. These include an “Eco” mode for efficiency and an “Off-Road” mode similar to that in the XC crossover/SUV models.

The V90 Cross Country also has a bit more clearance—it’s 60mm higher than the non-Cross Country V90 and uses a tire with “a softer, more rounded profile that offers a better grip,” according to President and CEO of Volvo America Lex Kerssemakers.

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