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First Drive: Volvo V90 D4 Ocean Race

Behind yacht-inspired styling cues, the top-spec V90 is a great work tool, reckons Alex Grant.

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SECTOR Executive PRICE £51,270 FUEL 54.3mpg CO2 138g/km

The flagship of the V90 line-up, the Ocean Race edition might be a nod to a gruelling nine-month, 45,000-mile round-the-world yacht race, but ownership couldn’t be more of a polar opposite. This isn’t just a styling pack, it’s a route to an easy working life, no matter where your week takes you.

Ocean Race versions are developed by Volvo Cars’ Special Vehicles department – the same heads behind the V90 police cars, and the no-holds-barred XC90 Excellence. It’s based on the top Cross Country Pro spec, and offered with the same line-up of engines; 188bhp D4 and 232bhp D5 diesels, and 247hp T5 and 306bhp T6 petrols. All feature four-wheel drive, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and 65mm more ground clearance with a unique driving mode for loose surfaces.

The spec is almost fixed, including Crystal White paint, 20-inch colour-coded wheels and accents of satin grey and orange to mark it out from the regular Cross Country. Inside, water-resistant part-leather seats are offered in light or dark finishes, but both come with orange piping and seatbelts, carbon fibre inlays matching the exposed weave of the Volvo Ocean Race boat hulls, and floor mats made from reclaimed seabed plastic waste. It’s sublime.

But the focus here is on straying away from the beaten track, enough to get those tactile fabrics dirty, and it seems every detail has been covered. The boot floor is a tough teak-like material and features magnetic spots to attach a protective cover over the rear bumper to avoid scratches, and there’s a pair of reversible seat covers to protect the leather from dirty clothes. Or you can put said overalls into the waterproof bag bundled into the load area.

Dirt aside, there’s an extra pair of USB sockets on the side of the load area for charging smaller items like cameras or drones, spotlights to help you see what you’re doing when you’re in the wilderness, and a near-indestructible police-spec aluminium torch tucked into its own recess. Dip into the accessories, and you can add a colour co-ordinated roof box and portable Karcher boot cleaner which wedges into a compartment under the boot floor. None of this is offered elsewhere in the Cross Country range.

Which makes this a tool fit for almost any work or life requirements. We tested the entry-level D4 diesel, which isn’t the quietest in this class but is well isolated in terms of noise and vibrations while driving. Ride quality on what are very large wheels, even for an executive car, is very good, and the extra height hasn’t downgraded the yacht-like V90 into a wallowy barge. Look elsewhere for driver thrills, but as a way to cover hundreds of miles in effortless comfort this takes some beating.

Of course, there are compromises for road-biased use. The D4 isn’t as efficient as equivalent diesel units in rivals, and with four-wheel drive it returns less than 40mpg on the motorway in the much-smaller XC40. Our test route wasn’t long enough to make a fair assessment of this, but the Cross Country makes little sense as a pure style statement. Even with the ability to freewheel under low loads, efficiency is not its strongest point.

Nor is it particularly cheap. List pricing comes in at more than £5,000 more than the D4 Cross Country Pro – a sizeable premium, even with the neatness of the conversion and a €100 donation towards cleaner seas taken into account. And that’s without adding some of its most appealing accessories, or several of the V90’s most useful options, too. Life on board might not be a hardship compared to nine months on a carbon fibre racing yacht, but it’s a similarly exclusive experience.

What We Think:

The Ocean Race is stop-in-tracks stylish and as accomplished on road as the standard V90. But cleverly integrated options and accents of orange don’t come cheap.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.