It appears the only way to keep American shoppers mildly interested in station wagons is to disguise them as crossovers, which has led this endangered body style to adopt high-riding suspensions and plastic overfenders in order to create a more rugged, SUV-inspired aesthetic. Volvo is the latest victim of this trend after it discontinued the regular (and previously special order only) V90 wagon in the U.S., leaving only the lifted, plastic-cladded 2022 Volvo V90 Cross Country to maintain the longroof tradition of the brand's top 90-series models.
Inside, the V90 Cross Country remains as beautiful as ever, with Volvo's distinctive Scandinavian style evident everywhere. The digital gauge cluster has been reimagined, among other small updates for the 2022 model year, but the display's content and configurability are limited in comparison with other systems. We applaud Volvo's decision to ditch the drive-mode selector on the center console along with most of the setup's individual settings—think of matting the accelerator as this updated car's sport mode, just like the old days—although Volvo's stubby electric shift toggle can still be annoying because it takes two consecutive taps to engage drive or reverse. Otherwise, the front seats are supremely comfortable, and full-size adults have adequate space in the back. Of course, a wagon wouldn't be a wagon without a sizable cargo hold, and we fit 10 carry-on suitcases behind the back seat.
Volvo's new Android-based user interface is a mixed bag. While it still runs through a relatively small 9.0-inch vertically oriented touchscreen, it does respond much quicker to inputs than the Sensus system it replaces. The additions of easy-to-use Google Maps and a clever voice assistant are notable improvements. However, physically interacting with the touchscreen's many small icons can be distracting, as is adjusting the climate controls at the very bottom of the frame. The complexity of this setup doesn't align with the values of a company dedicated to safety. Also, iPhone users can't access Apple CarPlay until Volvo issues an over-the-air software update, and the company hasn't said when that will be.
Volvo has added an electric assist system to most of its 2022 powertrains, including in the V90 Cross Country. The newly named B6 powertrain retains the supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four from the outgoing T6 configuration and enhances it with a 48-volt starter-generator. This drops horsepower from 316 to 295 yet boosts torque from 295 to 310 pound-feet. All-wheel drive remains standard. Volvo says the electrification makes the B6 powertrain more responsive at low speeds while also smoothing out gearchanges from the eight-speed automatic transmission and reducing noise and vibration levels. The B6 setup also brings slightly better fuel-economy ratings than the T6, with the Cross Country's combined EPA estimate increasing from 24 to 25 mpg and its city rating jumping from 20 to 22 mpg. But its highway figure falls from 30 to 29 mpg, and on our 75-mph real-world fuel-economy route, the Cross Country B6 earned 28 mpg—1 mpg less than an 88-pound-lighter 2017 T6 model.
Our seat-of-the-pants impressions suggest that the latest V90 Cross Country doesn't drive much differently from the aforementioned 2017 version, and our sound meter detected the same reasonably quiet 68 decibels inside the cabin at 70 mph. But it is slower—both its 6.4-second run to 60 mph and 14.8-second quarter-mile trail the 2017 model's times by 0.7 and 0.5 second, respectively. Shod with optional $800 20-inch wheels and Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-season tires, plus a $1200 air suspension upgrade, this car has a ride that might be too firm for some, but it pairs nicely with the wagon's taut body control and satisfying on-center steering feel. Turn the wheel off-center, however, and feedback dissipates, quickly curbing your enthusiasm to probe the modest 0.85 g of cornering grip. The V90's brake-by-wire system is bolstered by a fade-free pedal and offers a respectable 70-mph-to-zero stopping distance of 168 feet.
Unlike Mercedes's E450 All-Terrain, with its new moniker and cladding, Volvo's Cross Country model wasn't invented yesterday. It's been a brand staple for more than two decades and the most popular V90 since the current generation arrived in 2017. The aptly named, albeit more discreetly tailored, Audi A6 Allroad has similar origins. Both the Allroad and the All-Terrain are the Cross Country's main rivals, and they provide a notable uptick in performance. They also employ 48-volt systems, yet pair them with turbocharged six-cylinders to produce 335 and 362 horsepower, respectively. This makes both Germans considerably quicker; the E450 hits 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds and the A6 Allroad does in 5.2. Both ride better and feel more refined overall too. The catch is that their added quickness and luxuriousness come at a price. The V90 Cross Country starts at a comparatively reasonable $57,295; as tested, our well-equipped example totaled $69,440. The Audi and Benz, on the other hand, command at least $10,000 more to start, with options pushing their asks significantly higher.
With Audi, Mercedes, and Volvo among the last purveyors of premium longroof models, they're fighting an uphill battle against one another and an SUV-obsessed market. The 2022 V90 Cross Country's price makes it the most accessible of the three. It's not the fanciest or the sportiest of its kind, and we wish Volvo would at least offer the option to color match the cladding to the rest of the body. But in the waning days of the wagon body style, we'll gladly take one wearing plastic over no wagon at all.