- A practical non-SUV option for families
- Very comfortable seats
- More supple and refined than the regular V60
- Cross Country upgrade is steep
- Five-cylinder can be laggy
- Heavy steering at low speeds
For a while there, it was looking like having children meant being forced into an SUV. Sure, SUVs are popular for a few reasons: rugged aspirations, lots of space, and a coveted high-riding driving position. But what the marketing won’t tell you is the important stuff: SUVs usually don’t drive as well as cars, they’re hard to see out of, and they can be pretty thirsty.
A growing number of buyers are turning to a simpler solution: the station wagon. In 2015, the wagon started making its quiet comeback—they’re getting more popular at a variety of price points, from the Volkswagen Golf Wagon through to the supercar-fast Audi RS6.
In the middle is Volvo’s V60—a capable and quietly sophisticated wagon that’s been around here since 2011. Until now, Volvo haven’t offered the V60 as a Cross Country model. A Cross Country is the Swedish brand’s term for raised ride height, all-wheel-drive, and a bit of handsome cladding added to the exterior.
That changes for 2016 as the Cross Country trim arrives in showrooms. It’s a pack that not only handily boosts the V60’s versatility, but it also looks great. Revised suspension makes it more supple and quiet than the regular V60, too. And crucially, nothing has changed inside to detract from the Volvo V60’s incredibly high comfort levels—particularly the seats, which are simply the best in the industry.
More and more people are asking—do I really need to buy an SUV? Cars like this modern Volvo Cross Country have us confidently answering, ‘no’.
Where the regular V60 is a four-cylinder proposition, the Cross Country has something a bit more interesting under the bonnet: a turbodiesel five-cylinder. The brand’s most recent fours can’t handle an all-wheel-drive system in their current form, so a 2.4-litre in-line five motivates the Cross Country instead. That’s a blessing in disguise: fives like this one produce a meatier engine note, and they run a little smoother than their smaller cousins, too.
In this Cross Country, the five makes 140kW of power and 420Nm of torque. It takes until 4000rpm to fully tap into power, but all the torque arrives at 1500rpm. Twin-turbocharging makes this engine largely lag-free. Sink the boot and we found that the Cross Country accelerates cleanly and rapidly. Out on the open road, overtaking is achieved confidently. From a standing stop, the Cross Country accelerates from 0-100 in a respectable 8.9 seconds.
All four wheels can do the driving when they need to, but most of the time, the Cross Country operates as a front-drive car. The power gets to the ground through a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s not as snappy as Volvo’s new eight-speeder, but it’s a largely seamless experience that finds the right gear and stays out of the way. Paddle shifters—and a sports gearbox mode—are standard, though you won’t use them much.
It’s a heavy car at 1.8 tonnes, and you feel that weight through the steering. A future revision will need to include upping the assistance at town speeds—the Cross Country’s tiller is just too weighty to make parking as easy as it should be. The steering weight feels much more appropriate at higher speeds, though, where the Cross Country feels as dynamic as its lower-riding V60 siblings. Here, we found the steering accurate and responsive, with predictable turn-in.
Despite the diesel being stuck with lugging two tonnes around once passengers are aboard, fuel economy doesn’t suffer. The official, sub-6L/100km figure is wildly optimistic, but we found about 8.5L/100km in mixed driving to be quite achievable if you’re willing to be a bit careful with the loud pedal.
The Cross Country’s extra 65mm of ride height isolated us from bumps a lot more than in a regular V60, which can feel crashy over bad roads. The revised suspension is definitely softer, and although body roll is present, it’s never offensive. The Cross Country is quieter, too. It’s a $5,700 upgrade to take the Cross Country over a standard diesel V60, but you’re buying more than just light trail capability: you’re buying a more refined car to drive.
We recently reviewed Volvo’s new full-size XC90. That car is all-new, with all-new seats. They’re good, but getting back into a V60 reminded us that it’s this car that has the most comfortable interior a Volvo has ever had. If you want to get properly comfortable, this is the car for want: the front seats in the Cross Country are the best in any car.
The soft, leather-trimmed seats are adjustable and equipped with a memory function for three drivers. They don’t go as low as some of us would have preferred, but nearly everybody was able to get comfortable. The side, back and thigh bolstering are perfect. On short and long trips, the Cross Country makes driving a comfortable, wafting experience.
The Cross Country shares all of its interior with the normal V60. The floating dashboard concept still looks modern and cool, more than a decade on from its introduction—but unlike the XC90 which uses a huge portrait touchscreen, the V60’s centre stack is starting to look busy. It is dominated by climate, audio and navigation buttons, which can be hard to master. They control a seven-inch screen which you can’t touch. The screen is crisp and clear, but getting the hang of the navigation isn’t as intuitive as it needs to be.
The standard audio system is punchy, powerful and very clear. You can upgrade to a $1,650 Harmon Kardon system but we don’t think there is a need: the stock stereo is one of the best in the business.
The leather used on all five seats feels high-quality. Our test car was (very durably) trimmed in black leather, with a unique Cross Country bronze stitch pattern, which was handsome. You can choose a variety of colours to lift the brightness inside. Other cabin materials—from the aluminium on the door handles to the carpeting—is similarly premium-grade. The Cross Country is almost $9,000 less than a similar Audi, but it punches well above its weight in the quality stakes.
Up the back, there’s ample room for two people—as long as your teenagers aren’t too tall, that is. The achilles heel of the V60 is its limited headroom out back: six feet will fit back there, but not much more. As for getting a third passenger in, the all-wheel-drive system requires a tall hump in the floor which means only a small child will fit comfortably. Smartly, there are air vents for the rear passengers, which lessens car sickness.
If your kids are still small, the Cross Country includes two integrated booster seats in the second row. These raise the height of the seat to a level safer for toddlers. The boosters are one of our favourite features of the car.
The Cross Country will be sold on its practicality. For the most part, we think that’s a successful sell based on the fact that this all-wheel-drive Volvo will be versatile enough to handle more challenging terrain than you might think, including mud and light ruts, making this a good camping car. Our American colleagues, for example, report back that it’s great on snow. Here, we limited our off-roading to trail work, where it is right at home.
But those aspirations of camping largely remain as aspirations, at least for most of the year. The Cross Country’s practicality back home is a mixed bag. If you look at raw hauling space alone, we found the Cross Country’s 430-litre boot smaller and less practical than other wagons, including the direct competitor from Audi, the A4 Allroad, or the Mercedes-Benz C-Class wagon, which both have 490 litres.
Raw numbers rarely tell the whole story, though. Out in the real world, the Cross Country’s feeling of durability make it a practical option. The interior trims are luxurious-feeling but actually very hardy: you won’t be afraid to rough up this V60. Muddy boots, school bags, tents, even a bike with the seats folded down—they’ll all be swallowed up.
Those seats do fold absolutely flat and there’s a bar sitting across them to prevent objects from sliding further into the cabin. They fold 40/20/40, which means the middle seat can be folded independently—great for skis, snowboards, fishing rods, or other narrow objects, while retaining a four-person capacity inside.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
The Cross Country is covered under Volvo’s new “Service 2.0” arrangements. We were slightly deflated to learn this still doesn’t include capped price servicing—but Volvo assures us that Cross Country owners will enjoy a range of other benefits. These include a personal contact at every service, a loan car or alternative transport, a car wash included, and a renewed roadside assist plan as long as you keep servicing the car at Volvo-approved dealers.
Volvo assembles the Cross Country at its Torslanda plant in Sweden. We found the build quality to be very high. Panel gaps are tight, there was no hint of looseness or squeaking anywhere, and the ‘door close test yielded a nice, deep thunk. Inside, material quality, as discussed in the ‘Comfort’ section, is satisfying.
We enjoyed the boosted safety credentials of a Cross Country optioned with the steep (but worthwhile, to us) $4,300 Driver Support Pack. This brings blind spot alert, letting you know if someone is sitting where you can’t see them; active cruise control; and cross traffic alert. This is great because rearward visibility is a bit tight—RCTA warns you audibly if you are backing out of a spot and something is approaching from the side.
Out of the box there are eight airbags, a host of active safety features, the benefit of the all-wheel-drive system and a reversing camera. Euro NCAP crash-tested the Volvo V60 on behalf of ANCAP. In these tests, the V60 scored 36.34 out of 37. It has a crash rating of 5 stars. You should accept nothing less when buying a car.
VALUE FOR MONEY
There’s just one Country model: technically, it’s called the V60 Cross Country D4 Luxury. At $63,375, that means upgrading to the Cross Country comes in at $5,700 over a normal V60 D4 Luxury. So, what do you get?
The biggest addition is the tried-and-tested Haldex all-wheel-drive system. This is a variable AWD programme that shifts torque to the rear and front in real time to free the car if you get stuck. It also adds a layer of grip in very wet conditions, which adds some peace of mind.
You get the exterior upgrades, which mean some handsome plastic cladding and aluminium strips, plus a Cross Country board at the rear.
More subtle in the price is the improved way that the Cross Country drives. We found the raised and revised suspension to improve bump compliance and reduce noise in the cabin.
A few options to consider would be the safety pack ($4,300), the sunroof ($2,000), a beautiful natural wood trim for the centre console ($700), and the tyre pressure monitor ($150) if you plan to actually off-road the car. Plus, the good paint colours are a $1,375 metallic paint addition—bringing our optimal Cross Country to $78,440 on the road. Is that good value? Well, it’s about $6,000 less than a similarly-equipped Audi A4 Allroad—and you’re buying the more comfortable car when you buy the Volvo.
2016 Audi A4 Allroad ($72,000): the closest competitor to the V60 XC is the Audi’s A4 Allroad. This wagon sits underneath the better known A6 Allroad ($112,000), but is sized similarly to the Volvo. The Audi is a touch more practical, with a bigger boot. Similarly, it wears cladded bumpers all around with a slight ride height boost and uses Quattro all-wheel-drive paired to a two-litre diesel which is not affected by the Volkswagen emission issue. Keep in mind, the Allroad is the last of the old-shape A4 wagons, so you may be able to score a deal.
2016 Skoda Octavia Scout Premium 135TDI ($41,390): The Skoda Scout is significantly more affordable than the V60, but you don’t take a dramatic step down in quality. Skoda is a Volkswagen brand, and the Octavia shares many components with the Golf and Passat. The Scout Premium is well-equipped. The Scout uses the Skoda brand’s 4x4 system paired to a Volkswagen two-litre diesel which, like the Audi, is not affected by the emission issue.
2016 Subaru Outback Premium 2.0D ($43,490): Like the Cross Country range, Subaru’s Outback has been around here for decades. The most recent iteration takes a step down in price, and a step up in looks, with rugged cladding and muscular lines. The Outback Premium receives leather, satellite navigation and other fruit. The two-litre diesel is a bit gruff but it is miserly with fuel. Subaru’s all-wheel-drive systems are famed and they don’t have their durable reputation for no reason.
|Power||140kW @ 4000rpm|
|Torque||420Nm @ 1500-3000rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||78kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||5.8L/100km|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Drivetrain||All wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Cargo space (seats up)||430L|
|Cargo space (seats down)||1241L|