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Driven: Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. Image by Volvo.

Driven: Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race
The tang of salty sea air is in our nostrils as we cruise around North Norfolk’s coast in an Ocean Race Volvo.


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Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: looks incredibly cool and the V90 Cross Country is a superb car anyway

Not so good: lovely-looking big wheels sadly spoil the Volvo's ride

Key Facts

Model tested: Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race
Price: V90 Cross Country range from £42,520; D4 AWD Ocean Race from £51,270, car as tested £54,345
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door off-road estate
CO2 emissions: 138g/km (VED Band 131-150: £205 first 12 months, then £450 per annum years two to six of ownership, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 54.3mpg
Top speed: 130mph
0-62mph: 8.8 seconds
Power: 190hp at 4,250rpm
Torque: 400Nm from 1,750-2,500rpm
Boot space: 560-1,526 litres

Our view:

Only a Swedish car could pull off a mainly white-and-grey colour scheme, pierced by a few spots of bright, acidic orange, with the brio of this Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. It's a bold look, sure enough: the Crystal White paint and matte-effect, light grey trim is a combination that's daring as it is, but the orange strips in the bumpers - a colour which is carried inside, where the Ocean Race's seatbelts, seat stitching and piping are all finished in the hue - just sets it all off. Sitting on a set of unique-to-the-Ocean-Race 20-inch, five-spoke, diamond-cut alloys, we happen to adore the look of this particular Cross Country... although we appreciate others would prefer it in more sober colours.

Mind, we adore most modern Volvos. Ever since the SPA revolution of 2015, kicking off with the majestic XC90 SUV, it's just been one fabulous product after another - the regular V90 estate, the XC60 mid-sized SUV, the funky XC40 crossover and now the svelte V60 family wagon.

Winners, all of 'em. But, if we might just use the words of Del Boy, our favourite model is the V90 Cross Country. It just blends everything that's superb about all the Volvos listed above into an estate car package, always the best shape of car, and then layers on top sublime ride quality and chunky good looks.

In essence, the Ocean Race should build on that formula, but it falls foul of the problem we've found with other models in the new-era Volvo line-up. If you want sporty good looks and the big alloys that come with them, it seems to spoil the way the car rides - just enough to make us think you're better off going for comfort with the Swedish machines. R-Design versus Inscription is a tough choice, because the R-Design cars look magnificent and have simply stunning seats, but their elevated tyre noise and crunchier ride means that Inscription feels like the right way to go.

In the same vein, the 20-inch wheels that define the Ocean Race are its undoing. It's not that the ride quality is actively bad, but the orange-tinged Cross Country just fidgets a little more for secondary ride, just deals with big compressions in that slightly clunkier manner, that makes us wish we'd had a regular Cross Country instead - even without the super-cool exterior looks and the noble aims of the Ocean Race; to whit, Volvo is going to donate €100 for each of the 3,000 Ocean Race models it sells, the money going to help clean up the plastics in seas. If virtuous ecological practices are your thing, then the Ocean Race's Econyl carpets might just seal the deal, as they're made from 100 per cent recycled nylon, some of that material coming from fishing nets recovered from the seabed.

But if you're not interested in that sort of stuff, as admirable as it is, then the plain ol' landlubber Cross Country is the better car. Again, it's not that we found the Ocean Race disappointing - in fact, we spent more than 550 miles and almost 20 hours in its supremely comfortable and encompassing seats, traversing the fiddly but beautiful roads of the North Norfolk coast, and the big Volvo took it all in its stride. An overall average of 44.6mpg at a slow 28mph average indicates that the V90 CC OR was hardly in its open-roads element, and yet - firmer ride aside - it did a grand job of oozing around in an effortless manner, its D4 engine and eight-speed transmission proving you don't need any of the more powerful diesel and petrol options available (D5, T5 and T6, for reference).

In short, we loved the Ocean Race, very specifically its modish exterior and all the typical modern Volvo attributes, such as a glorious cabin and an overall sense of élan. Given that we're still waiting for an all-new Audi A6 allroad, then (strictly speaking) the V90 CC operates in a class of two, alongside the Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain, and it certainly matches the German car - but you don't need the Ocean Race spec to have the Volvo at its finest. And the best news about that is you can avoid the extra cost of the sea-cleaning superhero model, which is getting on for ten grand more than a base V90 CC. So, while we admire its ethos, and we really admire those bold, lifestyle looks, life in an Ocean Race isn't quite for us - we'll stick with a regular V90 CC D4, thanks.


Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain: the direct rival for the V90 CC is a lot of money in its single launch-spec, but you do get a V6 diesel engine and sumptuous quality for the Merc's money.

Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer: a large-bodied interloper from the segment below the V90, the Vauxhall is an amenable thing and great value in comparison, although it doesn't feel appreciably different to a regular Insignia Sports Tourer.

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack: like the Vauxhall, the Passat is a class below the V90 and so it is actually cheaper, while having a bigger boot. It's not massively exciting to drive, though, and aesthetically the Volvo has it totally covered - outside AND in.

Matt Robinson - 31 Aug 2018    - Volvo road tests
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2018 Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. Image by Volvo.

2018 Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo V90 Cross Country Ocean Race. Image by Volvo.


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