CHATHAM, Mass. – Volvo spent decades building a reputation in the U.S. for solid, safe, boring cars, especially station wagons, filled with “smart,” upscale suburbanites, but with vehicles like the 2021 Volvo V90 T6 AWD Cross Country boring no longer fits the Swedish brand.

Gone is the box-like profile of traditional Volvo station wagons, replaced with flowing curves that, along with the powerful supercharged and turbocharged engine and snug, supportive leather seats, add up to a car [Volvo labels it a crossover] – which looks like – and is – fun to drive.

This is a relatively new element in the Volvo DNA and comes without sacrificing any of the brand’s other qualities, especially safety.

The Volvo of advanced driver-assist systems

Safety starts with a solid structure and a commitment to occupant protection (Volvo pioneered seatbelts). The body of the Volvo V90 Cross Country is designed for maximum strength around the passenger compartment and maximum energy dissipation in the front and rear crumple zones. The strong passenger cell is designed to protect the occupants inside during all types of collisions and accidents – side impacts and rollovers included.

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Safety influenced the design of the seats, dashboard and interior surfaces to minimize damage during any collision.

The V90 Cross Country T6 AWD comes with a comprehensive collection of advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) including:

  • BLIS™  (blind spot information system) with Steer Assist. In addition to alerting the driver if a vehicle approaches rapidly from behind, BLIS™ can gently steer you back into your lane. Cross-traffic alert is part of this package, as well.
  • Collision Avoidance by City Safety includes low- and high-speed collision mitigation (AEB) and detects vehicle/pedestrian/cyclists/large animals in your path.
  • Run-off Road Protection and Run-off Road Mitigation
  • Lane departure warning/Lane keeping aid.
  • Pilot Assist is an aid that assists with steering, acceleration and braking. It is a hands-on-the-wheel driving assistance system where the driver is responsible for monitoring the road conditions and reacting if necessary. The system is best used to reduce the stress drivers often report in stop-and-go commuter traffic.
  • Oncoming Lane Mitigation helps the driver avoid a collision with an oncoming vehicle by automatically steering. If the car drifts over a lane marking, heading into the path of an oncoming vehicle and the driver takes no action, this system automatically steers the car back. The system is active at speeds between 37 and 87 mph. The driver gets an audible warning signal at the same time as the car starts to steer back. A message is shown in the Driver display after the steering intervention has been completed. The driver can override the automatic steering at any time.

Additional safety features include 360° camera view; front, side and curtain airbags; whiplash protection system; power child lock for the rear doors and LED headlights with auto high beam control.

The power of performance regardless of road conditions

If Volvo has historically been synonymous with safety, the term performance was not found in its thesaurus listing.  This might just be an oversight based on my time in the V90 Cross Country T6 AWD. The super- and turbo-charged four-cylinder motor pumps out 316 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque through the eight-speed automatic transmission and active all-wheel drive (AWD) system.

Power is smooth, strong and always there (and quiet). The car feels surefooted regardless of road surfaces, curves and changing elevations. I discovered some new, twisty roads in the town of Sandwich, and they were a pleasure to circumnavigate in the Cross Country.

This is even more impressive as Volvo designates the Cross Country as a crossover, a title equating to vehicles generally a bit more truck-like, often interchangeable with sport utility. There is nothing truck-like about the V90 Cross Country.

You can choose amongst five different driving modes to tailor the Cross Country for all types of driving conditions. The Comfort Mode is the default, joined by Off-Road Mode, Dynamic Mode, Eco Mode and Individual Mode (which allows the driver to build his/her own driving profile).

Fuel economy is always a factor of a vehicle’s performance capability and the Cross Country turns in good numbers. I saw 23.3 miles per gallon in heavy-footed driving, just shy of the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s 24 mpg combined (city/highway) rating. The EPA says it will get 20 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway, a number I believe is very realistic (based on some highway miles and a glance at instant fuel-economy figures).

Quiet comfort for all inside the Cross Country

Volvo’s Scandinavian roots paid dividends during my time in the Cross Country. GREAT seat heaters (both front and outside rear), heated steering wheel, heated windshield wipers and strong/responsive automatic four-zone climate-control system performed flawlessly as temperatures plunged, including single-digit wind chill days.

2021 V90 T6 AWD Cross Country

Some of those systems were part of the Lounge Package which also comes with ventilated Nappa leather upholstery (front seats were also ventilated); power-adjustable front-seat side bolsters; passenger-seat memory; power front-seat cushion extensions, and rear-door sun curtains.

The Advanced Package brought the 360° camera, high-level interior illumination and graphical, color heads-up display (HUD). The HUD was impressive, providing information on speed, road signs, navigation, ADAS, cruise-control, phone as well as warning symbols indicating further information is being shown in the driver instrument display behind the steering wheel. Comprehensive and informative – it can really help a driver keep his/her eyes on the road.

The optional Bowers and Wilkins designed premium-sound system carries a $4,000 price tag and pumps out tremendous sounds from the audio system featuring AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio/streaming audio/Apple Car Play/Android Auto sources operating through a well-conceived nine-inch touch screen.

This infotainment system with touchscreen, steering-wheel and (limited) dash controls is both extensive and comprehensive, just take a few minutes to learn its tricks, and using it will become quick and easy.

Cross Country a cross over worthy of a closer look

Shopping for a cross over today encompasses a vast field from station-wagon like vehicles to full-blown SUVs. The Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD brings a lot of comfort, performance, luxury and safety in a sleek, wagon-like package. It carries a MSRP of $54,900 and our example, with the options mentioned above (including the Climate Package, Lounge Package, Advanced Package, Bowers and Wilkins Premium Audio, adaptive suspension) totaled, including destination charges, $67,740.

I first learned to drive on a 1971 Plymouth Satellite station wagon and have spent a lot of time and miles behind their wheels. This Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD might look like a station wagon but just one drive will tell you it is a lot more than a car with a big trunk. This is a competent, all-around example of modern automotive engineering.

Next week TBR Drives the 2021 INFINITI QX50.