Engine: 2.5L Inline five-cylinder makes 250 hp, 266 lb-ft of torque or 295 lb-ft in overboost
Transmission: six-speed automatic only
Fuel economy: Estimated 20 MPG city, 28 MPG highway
Price: $41,940 to start or $49,350 as-tested (including delivery).
It’s been nearly 20 years since Volvo introduced the first Cross Country; back then it was a butched-up version of the stolid V70 wagon intended as a temporary salve until Volvo could develop a proper SUV.
The Cross Country proved to be so popular that Volvo eventually dumped the regular V70 from its lineup and kept the Cross Country version. The latest iteration is known as the XC70, and it remains in Volvo’s lineup to this day.
Given such a legacy, we’re not surprised that Volvo has already Cross Country-ized the new-for-2015 V60 wagon, officially labeled as a 2015.5. And since the XC60 moniker is already in use, the new car gets the long version of the name.
Giving the V60 the Cross Country treatment meant raising the suspension to provide 7.9 inches of ground clearance, though the 18-inch wheels still wear all-season street tires. The rest of the exterior changes are largely cosmetic: Honeycomb grille, window surrounds and mirrors in gloss black, and silver sill extensions, roof rails and skid plates. The regular V60 was an attractive wagon to begin with and the Cross Country treatment gives it an athletic, adventurous look. The styling of Volvo’s other SUVs have aged well and we think the V60 Cross Country will do the same.
While the regular V60 wagon offers a plethora of powertrains, the Cross Country gets just one: Volvo’s 2.5 liter turbocharged five-cylinder with a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. The sound from the engine is fantastic and we were impressed by the on-road performance: Power output is 250 hp and 266 lb-ft with a torque peak that stretches from 1,800 to 4,200 RPM. The 2.5 will overboost to 295 lb-ft for ten seconds — just floor the accelerator with the transmission in any gear except first. This extra burst of passing power comes in very handy on a two-laner. EPA fuel economy estimates are 20 MPG city and 28 MPG highway, and we saw low-to-mid 20s on our hilly back-country drive.
Efficient All-Wheel Drive Capability
The Haldex all-wheel-drive system directs 100 percent of the engine’s power to the front wheels by default, and can send up to 50 percent of that power rearward as needed. Volvo claims a quicker response time than older AWD systems and its operation seemed pretty seamless to us. As for hard-core off-roading, that 7.9-inch ground clearance will get you pretty far off the beaten path and the standard Hill Descent Control helps with tricky terrain. It’s is no Jeep, but the V60 Cross Country will get further in mud, sand and uneven ground than ordinary wagons.
Aside from the slightly taller eye-point – the Cross Country positions its driver higher than a regular car but lower than most crossovers – the driving experience is about as car-like as a crossover can offer. Bend the V60 Cross Country into a sweeping turn and the tires will speak up with a soft wail; despite their apparent objection, the grip starts strong and stays strong, even as you crank up the speed. The steering is an electro-hydraulic setup, with an electric motor driving the power steering pump as needed. Our test car had the optional ($325) variable-assist system, which eases off the boost at higher speeds and cranks it up when parking. We expected more feedback and feel from this dying breed of steering gear, but perhaps absence has made our heart grow fonder (or maybe all-electric systems are just getting better).
Overall we found the V60 to be competent, but — as with the front-drive V60 T5 we tested not long ago — not particularly thrilling. If you want thrills, you’ll want the V60 Polestar — but be warned, its awesome handling comes with a rough ride.
The Cross Country’s dash is identical to the V60; we like the functionality, though when we drove the regular V60 we mentioned that the overall design was a bit dated. There are a lot of buttons on the center stack, but the layout makes sense. We like the full phone keypad, which makes dialing the Bluetooth speakerphone a cinch, as well as the climate controls, which feature a pictogram of a seated human. Want air at your feet? Press the little person’s feet. (And when someone cuts you off in traffic, poking the little chrome head can be downright therapeutic.) The Cross Country comes standard with navigation, but programming the system through the small dial controller can be a bit fiddly.
There’s nothing dated about the instrument panel, which features a round LCD speedometer that offers three display modes (Eco, Elegance and Sport). Each displays a different color scheme and a different set of auxiliary gauges, and Sport replaces the analog speedometer with a tachometer and a digital speedo.
Volvos are often praised for their seat comfort; the V60 Cross Country gets a contoured seat upholstered in real leather (as opposed to the fake stuff now favored by many luxury brands). New this year is an electric lumbar support, replacing the awkward manual knob on other Volvo seats.
Bad Back Seats
We liked the comfort of the front seats, but found the back seats woefully inadequate for adults. Legroom is in short supply; the seat would be considered cramped by small-car standards, and it’s downright meager compared to a utility vehicle. An hour-long ride in the back seat had your 5’6″ author begging for mercy, or at least some ibuprofen.
Cargo space is also in short supply: Just 19.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats, a size we associate with a small hatchback, not wagon/SUV crossover like the V60 Cross Country. We were able to fit a couple of suitcases, but a decent-sized baby stroller would be a squeeze. Sadly, this seems to be a trend: The Audi Allroad, Lexus NX, and Land Rover Evoque are all similarly stingy on cargo space. Folding the rear seats opens up 43.8 cubic feet, but we can name several SUVs that will give you nearly that much space with the back seat in place. The V60 Cross Country would be a useful load-hauler for a single or a couple, but the XC70, which offers significantly more room for passengers and luggage, would be a much better choice for families.
How Much Does it Cost?
Pricing for the Volvo V60 Cross Country starts at $41,940; that isn’t cheap, but when you consider the standard navigation system, leather upholstery, and 3G WiFI hot spot, it’s a good deal compared to vehicles like the Audi Allroad and Mercedes GLK350. We drove a well-equipped Platinum model with a nicer stereo, a heated steering wheel and seats, keyless push-button ignition, lane departure and blind spot warning systems, adaptive cruise control, and a collision avoidance system, and it listed for $49,350. Expensive? Maybe, but when you consider that you can now pay over $40,000 for a Kia SUV, it doesn’t seem like such a bad deal given the Volvo’s pedigree.
The V60 Cross Country is an intriguing package; we love the looks, we love the powertrain, and we love how it gives the V60 wagon an SUV-like presence without affecting the basic V60’s utility. Unfortunately, there’s not much utility to impact: For a wagon (or an SUV), the V60 is woefully short on rear seat and cargo space. It’s a good choice for active singles and couples, but you’ll probably want something with more interior room if you have kids.