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Photo: Patrick George
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Hey, you know what isn’t terrible right now? Volvo. While every other automaker seems content to drown us in crossovers without even making most of them fun or interesting, the last Swedes standing at least remain also committed to wagons for those of us who still want them—even if they’re sometimes special order-only. What’s more, said wagons—the new V90 and V60—happen to be quite good.

But if you’re eyeing a V90 Cross Country, the slightly lifted version of the V90, you would do well to get this special edition: the Ocean Race. It is a good and nice car, and I love it.

It has orange seat belts and a very fancy optional roof cargo box. What more do you jaded bastards want?

(Full Disclosure: Volvo loaned me a V90 Cross Country Ocean Race with a full tank of gas for a few days.)

For a premium of about $8,000 over the base $52,500 T5 AWD V90 Cross Country, you too can be the proud owner of this majestic special edition lifted wagon meant to salute the Volvo Ocean Race—a yacht race held around the world every four years. The most recent one wrapped up in 2018.

“Yacht race” might sound like the kind of sport you’d compete in with a sun hat on and a cocktail in one hand, but this event actually looks pretty grueling.

Here in the Jalopnik family I’ll leave the sailing competitions to my colleague Erin Marquis, but I can appreciate this fancy and well-equipped wagon. It only comes in Crystal Metallic White paint, has a number of special interior and exterior touches and can be had with an optional color-matching 12.3 cubic-foot roof cargo carrier. That’s a $3,300 option, but man is it cool.

As you can see that came on our tester, and as someone who loves roof racks, I do have to say I’m a huge fan. It adds a unique element of practicality to an already spacious wagon. And since it’s actually designed specifically to sit on this car, it looks much better than a standard aftermarket cargo box. Maybe not more than $2,000 better, but, whatever.

The side trim to complete that “lifted” look is also a subtle silver color, which looks infinitely prettier than the black plastic cladding you see on most cross country wagons and crossovers.

Here it is in front of its natural habitat, the Ikea in New York’s Red Hook neighborhood. Think of how many Mörbylångas and Malms you could haul in this bad boy.

You also get these nice orange trim accents on the front and rear diffuser, making the whole package look very classy and sharp. It’s unique, too–plenty of cars have red accents, some people go with yellow accents, some people leave protective packaging strips on their bumpers and pretend they have yellow accents, but who’s doing orange??

Inside, the real coup de grâce: orange seat belts. A small touch that goes a long way to making this feel like a special and fun experience. Combine that with the airy, clean and modern cabin of the V90 and you have a pretty lovely place to spend time.

On the road, the V90 is pretty sublime to drive. It’s not a hardcore sport wagon, but it is quick enough and athletic enough that it never feels boring. The sole engine option on the Cross Country Ocean Race is the T6—which is not a six-cylinder, but rather a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor putting out 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.

This is an interesting engine for sure, given its size and abundant use of forced induction and power output. It’s not a screamer, but it’s got plenty of low-end torque and more than enough passing power on the freeway. It has a nice, subtle growl to it under hard acceleration too.

You can read the more in-depth review we did of the V90 Cross Country last year here, but beyond the pretty pictures here were a few highlights (and low-lights) for me:

  • The technology is pretty superb, especially that huge portrait touch screen and the surround camera array. I also like the metal twisty-switch used to turn the car on and off, and the roller switch to select drive modes. Everything on the new Volvos feels a bit different from other cars, but done in a classy way; the uniqueness is appreciated.
  • Why can I buy four Volvo wagons at the moment—if you include the Cross Country variants as individual models—but none from BMW? What happened there? I’m glad someone still bothers.
  • Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving system finds lanes and follows traffic better than, say, BMW’s competing system. But it’s still better used on the highway during long trips than as an in-town supplement to a human driver. It’s a question of: do you trust it? I can’t say I always did in low-speed traffic and in the city, but it was totally fine as a kind of “cruise control plus.”
  • In spending several days in the V90 Cross Country, I got the sense it’s one of the better new cars you can buy right now. From the power to the tech to the design to the sheer wagon-ness of it all, it’s a really first-rate machine that doesn’t lack for much. One of the better I’ve sampled in a while, and something I’d be happy to own myself.

And I was a little wowed by the price tag. After stepping inside I figured I was in a $90,000 car. But no! The V90 Cross Country, as equipped here, comes out to a far more reasonable $67,695.

It’s not exactly cheap, sure. But it feels about on par with the Mercedes-Benz E400 wagon we tested last year in a number of ways, and is more than $20,000 cheaper. For all the luxury, comfort and power you get here, it seems like a pretty good value.

The downsides? While that twincharged motor gets the job done just fine, this isn’t a true sporty people-hauler the way a 3 Series wagon would be (if BMW bothered to bring that here, which it doesn’t.) It’s not a bad handler at all, but is clearly more dialed in more for comfort than canyon-carving. And it has sportier settings, but I never found much use for them. No, in driving this you embrace what it’s best at: Smoothness, tech, a very clean design inside and out, and practicality. It can’t take the place of a sports car in your garage, but it’s good enough that you may not care.

The choice is clear, at least for me: If you want a V90, or a V90 Cross Country, go Ocean Race or go home. It’s worth it for the seat belts alone.

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About the author

Patrick George

Editor-in-Chief at Jalopnik. 2002 Toyota 4Runner.