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All-new V90 Cross Country continues Volvo tradition

Volvo, in presenting its all-new 2017 V90 Cross Country, demonstrates again that it has a way with wagons.

Going back generations, the Swedish auto manufacturer has persisted in developing rugged, safe and dependable station wagons, even when they fell out of favor. Now Volvo has added another element: refined luxury and off-road capability that should please its stalwart band of disciples as well as win it some converts.

The Cross Country slots between the V90 station wagon and XC90 three-row crossover. It’s not a new concept; Volvo has been delivering Cross Country models for several decades.

The new one is distinguished from the regular V90 by a taller ride height, bigger wheels and 8.3 inches of ground clearance — about the same as a standard Jeep Wrangler, which gives the Cross Country some solid off-road chops. However, its long wheelbase (116 inches) erodes that capability somewhat.

Though it can’t go everywhere, the Cross Country can certainly handle terrain that would frustrate most luxury cars. Plus its automatic all-wheel-drive system makes for confident motoring in foul weather conditions.

Unlike vintage Volvo wagons, the new V90 Cross Country is no truck. It is a luxury car, quiet and controlled on the highway with minimal intrusion of mechanical, wind or road noise. The steering has a luxury-car heft and feel. Should you happen to encounter dirt and gravel, the Cross Country grips the terrain and easily absorbs bumps, though the ride deteriorates because of tires that were chosen for looks as well as capability.

Volvo has forsaken V-6 and V-8 engines in favor of four-cylinder power. But its 2.0-liter power plant is no ordinary four-banger. It uses both a supercharger and a turbocharger with direct fuel injection. The engine delivers 316 horsepower with 295 pound-feet of torque. The power gets to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. EPA city/highway/combined fuel economy is 20/30/25 mpg.

As an unabashed luxury/performance vehicle, the Cross Country starts at $56,295 with a full suite of safety, convenience and comfort features. Among them: Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system with adaptive cruise control, run-off road protection, blind-spot warning, panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, navigation system, satellite radio and walnut wood inlays.

The tested Cross Country also arrived with the $1,200 optional rear air suspension system, premium Bowers & Wilkins audio, park assist, a surround-view camera and metallic paint. All of the items brought the tested price to $63,545.

The V90 Cross Country has curious shortcomings. Steering wheel tilt and telescope adjustments are manual, not power; the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to fully block sun from the sides; and the sunroof’s shade is a perforated cloth that admits too much sunlight. Nevertheless, for a small number of luxury wagon aficionados, there are few — if any — other choices.