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Volvo V90 CC vs. Marataba


Volvo South Africa recently introduced its V90 Cross Country into the local market. It shares much of its design and platform with the XC90 and S90.

However, what I wanted to know is whether this high-riding estate could be used as a game viewing vehicle? In order to answer my own question, I headed to the five-star Marataba Safari Lodge in the majestic Marakele National Park near Thabazimbi in Limpopo to find out.

If you have ever been on a game drive before, you will know that the preferred vehicle is an old green Toyota Land Cruiser or Land Rover Defender with its roof chopped off. They are incredibly uncomfortable, take forever to turn around and tend to make a massive racket. 

Every time the game ranger sees an animal, he has to switch the engine off then start it up again. So what about the V90 Cross Country? I gave the driver’s seat to one of Marataba’s game rangers, Adam, and we set off in search of animals. 

Off-road ability

While it’s by no means a full-on 4x4, the V90 Cross Country does at least have 210mm of ground clearance plus all-wheel drive. This came in handy as the reserve experienced heavy downpours the previous evening.

The roads were muddy but the Volvo did not seem to be bothered and we even crossed a small river. The model I had was the 235kW/400Nm T6, which is powered by a 2.0 litre twin-charged petrol motor. It’s 0-100km/h time is around 6.5 seconds, which is good in case something decided to chase you. It also features an Off-Road mode which sets the gearbox and AWD system up to handle the rough a bit better.

We also found that even with AWD, the Volvo is quite easy to turn around. Adam was also very impressed with the car’s overall comfort on the rugged tracks. However, he wasn’t completely convinced.

Comfort levels

Unlike the open top Land Cruisers used by the lodge, the V90 Cross County has a massive panoramic roof.. Adam also seemed to enjoy the nappa leather seats which are far more comfortable than those of his Land Cruiser.

In addition, the seats also feature a massaging function and are heated, the latter especially welcoming as it was about 10 degrees outside. Space in the back is also pretty impressive and the boot is big enough for drinks, snacks and a rifle, just in case the game drive turns into a Jurassic Park-like thing. 


The Volvo is pretty quiet which means that the animals don’t run away from it. What’s more, the car has stop/start. This meant that when we saw an animal and came to a stop, the car switched itself of. When it was time to move on, the car would start up by itself. It was also fitted with the 360 degree camera system, which in this case made looking out for dangerous animals a boon.


After a two-hour game drive through the beautiful reserve, I got to see all sorts of animals. I also got to see what the V90 Cross Country is all about. Sure it’s not as capable as a Land Cruiser, but it did everything we asked of it.

What’s also impressive is that the car performs just as well on the highway and on country roads. My only issue is that this is South Africa and we tend to love our SUVs over estate cars, especially  when the estate car in question costs close to R1-million. That said though, not once did Adam or I feel that we needed an SUV. So is the V90 Cross Country a good game viewing vehicle? It sure is.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
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