Stations wagons were all the rage 75 years ago. The 1941 Chrysler Town and Country bubble-back design had a cavernous interior and featured top-line woodgrain paneling. It was the most expensive vehicle in carmaker’s lineup and cost $1,495.
Much has happened since. Somewhere in recent years, manufacturers began to believe the word station was a disservice as a prefix to the word wagon. Mercedes-Benz has estate wagons. Audi has the all-road. Volkswagen has its SportWagen.
It’s all new lingo far-removed from the name station wagon, the name given to the spacious but trunkless vehicles used to carry multiple occupants and their luggage to train stations.
The 2017 V90 Cross Country is the new station wagon from Volvo. But like every other manufacturer, there’s no mention of station in the title or in literature from the Swedish manufacturer. The carmaker lists the body style of its versatile, all-wheel-drive offering as a wagon. But it prefers other descriptions like calling the interior a “luxurious Scandinavian sanctuary.”
Regardless, the V90 Cross Country, new for 2017, is the modern version of the 1941 Chrysler Town & Country station wagon. It’s luxurious, rugged and versatile revised alternative to the V90 wagon. It’s the close sibling of the S90 midsize sedan that debuted in 2016.
The Volvo Cross Country is available only in the T6 trim, and it’s well-equipped and powerful. The 2.0-liter, 316-horsepower engine is turbocharged and supercharged and has an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 0-60 miles per hour acceleration is 5.9 seconds.
Through the years, Volvo has built its strong niche following based on the manufacturer’s ability to build solid, if unexciting, vehicles at their best in inclement weather. But the new Cross Country further redefines the brand.
All-wheel drive, 10-way power front seats and top-line NAPPA leather upholstery were included in my test vehicle, the latter a complement to the overall high-quality cabin. It gave credence to Volvo’s clever but pretentious marketing verbiage.
The exterior is sleek, a wagon disguised as a sports car. The front grille design is similar to the look of the front design of a Shelby Cobra. The equally sleek t-shaped headlights perfectly fit the unofficial moniker of “Thor’s hammer.”
My recent test drive was an 850-mile route trip trek from Sacramento to Los Angeles. The drive was primarily on Interstate 5, with brief trips into the maze of the Southern California freeway system as well as limited time in city traffic.
The flow of traffic on Interstate 5 often exceeds the posted speed limit by at least five miles per hour. I drove for long stretches with the easy-to-use and easy-to-adjust cruise control set at 78 miles per hour. The Cross Country offered a smooth, confident ride. The all-wheel-drive system further assisted Volvo’s solid-as-they-come reputation.
The overall comfort was enhanced by Volvo’s stealth interior and features. It has just enough safety equipment to assist the driver while not causing technology anxiety. The lane departure warning system appears on an indicator curved around the exterior edge of the side-view mirror. It flashes enough to its job done. There’s no overt blast nor an extreme bolt of light to perhaps startle the driver into making a mistake.
Luxury options are expensive but worthy. The Bowers and Wilkins sound system ($3,200) has superior sound; the Convenience Package ($1,950) features seven items including a 360-degree surround camera and a park assist pilot. The head-up display ($900) includes well-defined graphics.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the 2017 V90 Cross Country is $55,300. With options and the destination fee, the price as tested was $64,460, pushing the vehicle’s cost well into the luxury price range. Gas mileage averages are 22 miles per gallon in city driving, 30 miles per gallon on the freeway. I averaged 28.9 miles per gallon.
Volvo and its competitors in the business of making wagons can call their vehicles what the wish. The V90 Cross Country is an unknowing homage to station wagons of yesteryear — solid, luxurious, well-crafted.
Maybe the Swedish carmaker will one day be forward-thinking with respect to the past. It will call its next wagon a station wagon.
Article Last Updated: December 22, 2017.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.