Volvo’s Cross Country line is mostly unique in the industry. Certainly the Swedish company is not alone when it comes to producing crossover utilities, but unlike Volvo most premium-branded competitors duke it out in the regular SUV classes against the XC60 compact and XC90 mid-size models. Volvo takes things a step further by offering raised and bulked up versions of its V60 and upcoming V90 wagons in an effort to fill the niche between car and SUV, the V60 Cross Country and soon to arrive V90 Cross Country truest to the original crossover concept.
The idea isn’t new. The first Cross Country rode on the mid-size V70 P2 (second-generation) platform way back in 1999. Volvo wasn’t the only player in this market either, Audi first offering a taller version of its A6 Avant wagon dubbed Allroad the same year, and later bringing the compact A4 Allroad to market in 2009, which effectively replaced the regular A4 wagon in our market. Honorable mentions of mainstream volume branded models should be given to the American Motors’ Eagle that initiated the rugged raised wagon idea way back in 1979 and Subaru’s 1994 Outback that gave it legs in the modern era, launched simultaneously with the Impreza-based Outback Sport, the latter replaced with the current (XV) Crosstrek in 2012. Volkswagen has only recently followed suit with its Golf Wagon-based Alltrack, but so far none of Volvo and Audi’s premium rivals have literally raised their compact wagon game.
The unique V60 Cross Country arrived on the scene for the 2015 model year, along with its rather unusual S60 Cross Country sibling that’s attempting to toughen up the four-door sedan segment. Volvo sold a paltry 571 units of the latter last year, although V60 Cross Country sales weren’t all that much better at 2,725. Just the same they looked mighty good against the Audi A4 Allroad’s 2,300 sales, although they really need to be assessed beside the regular V60 wagon’s 3,407 deliveries, as well as the XC60 compact SUV’s much stronger 20,452 sales. In other words, it’s an also-ran. The wagon, however, is an essential bread and butter body style to Volvo and its diehard customer base, instead of mere afterthoughts that might one day get axed like Cadillac’s CTS Sport Wagon, Jaguar’s X-Type Sportwagon, or Lexus’ IS SportCross.
Call me unusual if you like (I’ve been called much worse), but the V60 Cross Country makes total sense to me. Then again, unless you carry a lot of very expensive kit around and your neighborhood requires the security of a lockable trunk (hence the S60 Cross Country), wagons are a lot more useful and more often than not look sportier than their three-box counterparts, whereas SUVs can be heavy and cumbersome. My appreciation of wagons is no doubt a result of my half-Euro parentage, and possibly my 50-something age, although other than our familial 1960 Pontiac Strato Chief Station Wagon, a ’70 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser we borrowed from friends for a road trip to California one year, and the odd Chevy Nomad seen at weekend show and shines, I can’t remember thinking wagons were remotely cool.
The V60 Cross Country is. I like its taller profile and stylish body cladding, which is simple matte black around the wheel cutouts and purposefully non-truck-like in between where sculpted silver rocker extensions reside. These are beautifully detailed, as are the lowered front and rear fascias that come complete with stunning silver front and rear undertrays, which happened to look body-color on my Bright Silver Metallic painted tester. Lastly, an italicized “CROSS COUNTRY” nameplate is discretely written in embossed block letters across the rear bumper’s thick matte black garnish. The V60 Cross Country also doesn’t get the usual SUV-like roof rails across the top, its take on the useful contraptions flush-mounted albeit still useful for attaching a roof rack with cross members. Down below, machine-finished V-style five-spoke 18-inch alloys with light gray painted pockets get wrapped in 235/50R18 Pirelli Scorpion Verde all-season rubber, combining for a nice look and great traction.
Those taller tire sidewalls are joined by a 2.5-inch increase in ride height for 7.9 inches of total ground clearance and considerably more wheel travel, which together with undercarriage protective skid plates, standard Haldex torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, hill descent control, hill start assist, and a host of active traction and stability control tech, improves off-pavement capability. Understand, this is a soft-roader in most every respect, but it’s certainly good enough for tackling a muddy dirt road on the way to the summer cottage or a snow covered ski hill parking lot, plus a little more when called upon. At the same time it takes to corners much better than your average SUV, because its center of gravity is considerably lower. All the while the Cross Country’s 360-degree visibility is improved over the regular V60, the extra height providing a better vantage point amid congested city traffic.
Due to those relatively small aforementioned sales numbers, Volvo keeps things simple when it comes to choosing powertrains and trims. To be clear, Volvo is beyond generous to offer three engines in the regular V60, the Cross Country smartly integrating the base V60 T5 Drive-E AWD combination, which means the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and drives all wheels via an eight-speed automatic with “Geartronic” manual mode. It was also smart to replace last year’s 2.5-liter five-cylinder and six-speed auto combo even though the engine and transmission spent just two years in this relatively new model, the smaller four producing 10 horsepower and 8 lb-ft of torque less output, but with a smaller displacement and two additional forward gears considerably better fuel economy at 22 mpg city, 30 highway and 25 combined, compared to 20, 28 and 23 for the 2015-16 version.
I certainly didn’t notice any lack of go power, the V60 Cross Country delivering strong straight-line performance from standstill to freeway speeds, while highway passing performance was also very good. There’s even plenty of power and loads of grip for a fun stint through a winding canyon road, but it was the Cross Country’s ride quality and overall comfort that really impressed. The regular V60 already offers a very compliant fully independent suspension, but the Cross Country’s greater wheel travel makes it even more comfortable, while its standard eight-way power-adjustable front seats are some of the best in the industry.
Volvo upholsters these in Off-Black or Soft Beige leather with $41,700 base trim, while you can pay another $500 for contoured sport seats in all Off-Black, or two-tone Off-Black and Blonde (that looks light gray in the photos), or Beechwood (a rich saddle brown; misspelling intentional); these seats are standard in Platinum trim. My tester came with the standard Milled Aluminum inlays, which looked fabulous and had that cold feel of genuine metal, although if you’re more of a traditional luxury fan a mere $400 will buy you Urbane Wood or Piano Black Wood inlays.
Along with items already mentioned the V60 Cross Country’s standard features list includes the usual premium suspects such as power-folding heated side mirrors, an electromechanical parking brake, pushbutton ignition, a beautiful leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone auto climate control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, navigation, driver seat memory that also adjusts the side mirrors, HD and satellite radio, Volvo On Call telematics services, a powered glass sunroof, power-folding rear headrests, rear parking sensors, a retractable cargo cover, a cargo safety divider, and more.
Additionally, the V60 Cross Country includes a very impressive combination of active and passive safety features including City Safety autonomous braking that detects vehicles as well as cyclists and pedestrians, Dynamic Stability Control with sport mode, torque-vectoring Corner Traction Control, whiplash protection front seatbelts, and more. Some of these help it earn a best possible Top Safety Pick Plus score from the IIHS, as well as 5 Stars from the NHTSA.
If you’d like to upgrade your V60 Cross Country further, you can add active dual-HID headlights with auto high beams, power-retractable auto-dimming side mirrors, a HomeLink garage door opener, a heatable windshield, heated windshield washer nozzles, a heatable steering wheel, heatable front seats, heated rear seats, an interior air quality system, front parking assist, a rearview camera (that really should be standard), a 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, 3G Wi-Fi hot spot connectivity, rear entertainment with an 8.0-inch monitor integrated within the backside of each front headrest, rear sunshades, a Quick-Fold Front Passenger Seat, dual two-stage child booster seats, adaptive cruise control with Queue Assist, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control, road sign information, lane departure warning, collision warning along with pedestrian and cyclist detection with full auto brake, and lane keeping assist.
The V60 Cross Country offers up a nicely designed interior that delivers high marks for design and build quality, although its scorecard only gets a mid-grade when it comes to the materials used and overall modernity. This means you’ll be pampered with soft touch surfaces across the dash top and instrument panel, but most of the IP’s lower panels are made from harder plastics, including the glove box lid. Still, each door is skinned in higher end pliable synthetics, which isn’t always the case in this class especially amongst the Japanese. As noted its metal inlays are real, while Volvo dresses up other cabin areas with a tasteful assortment of satin finished and textured metals.
The floating center stack continues to be an attractive styling statement, but despite some beautifully detailed rotating metal knobs the general layout is micro-managed with overzealous switchgear. I remember being impressed with this setup 10 years ago, and my analog loving nature appreciates it, but Volvo’s new state-of-the-art tablet-style touchscreen found in the XC90, S90 and upcoming V90 makes the outgoing system look both dated and complicated. Just the same, all of the V60 Cross Country’s switchgear is superb, and its main digital interface, while a bit small at 7.0 inches, is easy to operate and filled with features, unless of course you’ve spent time with the newer system. In contrast, my tester’s upgraded TFT gauge cluster is much more advanced, the large center dial surrounded by secondary digital meters, while the displays are configurable depending on the drive mode selected.
As noted the V60 Cross Country’s front seats are comfortable with plenty of adjustment and more importantly good inherent design, while the car’s front passenger compartment is spacious too. It would be in ideal choice for a road trip, as you’d probably arrive more refreshed then when setting out. The rear seats aren’t quite as roomy, but I certainly had no problem fitting in with comfort. After positioning the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight frame I had about four inches ahead of my knees and another four or five above my head, Volvo smartly sculpting the rear portion of the roof out to increase ceiling height. Rear passengers also enjoy vents built into the backside of each B-pillar, and overhead reading lights. Additionally, no matter which door you’re using the Cross Country’s taller ride height makes for easier ingress and egress.
This benefits loading too, the cargo area reasonably large at 15.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats when measured below the retractable cargo cover or 24.4 cubic feet from the cargo floor right up to the roofliner. Fold the solidly built 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks flat and its gear-toting capacity increases to 43.1 cubic feet, which isn’t as generous as the premium wagon class average, but still makes for a versatile cargo/passenger environment that lets your rear passengers enjoy the comfort of a window seat while long items, such as skis, are stowed in the middle.
I suppose Volvo traded off maximum potential cargo space for sleek styling, and it’s difficult to argue against the latter after taking in the Cross Country’s beautiful lines. Sure the V60’s general shape is starting to show its age, but that’s only due to the automaker’s brand-wide design language overhaul, its new rectangular grille, Thor’s hammer LED headlights, and more upright rear glass making everything else in the Swedish company’s lineup appear like yesteryear’s news. Compare the V60 Cross Country to competitors and it comes off both sportier and more elegant, while the fine details noted earlier really stand out. No doubt redesigns of the V60 and S60 lines are well on the way, but until then they remain smart choices in their respective segments, and the Cross Country an especially good way to get the merits of an SUV while enjoying the better handling of a car.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press