The Cross Country harkens back to the good old days, where the station wagon ruled.
The term “best of both worlds” can be viewed quite differently depending on your own personal outlook. It can refer to the combination of best attributes of two differing products or strategies, or it can be viewed as a compromise when compared to a focused product or strategy. Consumers have come to demand the best of the best, but that definition of “best” is constantly evolving. The crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) that are masquerading as minivans these days – while they are genuinely practical in most cases – come with their own set of tradeoffs. The wagon body format is holding on for dear life, but some brands are promoting it as a real alternative. Jacked-up and high-riding wagons are now becoming more commonplace, and Volvo continues to soldier on with their Cross Country series.
The hot new wagon in Volvo’s fleet is the V90, available in both standard (reviewed here) and Cross Country variants (here). Both show off Volvo’s new platform and newfound sense of style, so it’s not a surprise to see the new kids on the block steal the show. Volvo’s V60 wagon and S60 sedan are the only two to remain on the old P3 platform, which dates back to 2011, and coincidentally is derived from the Ford EUCD platform. We expect to see an all-new V60 and S60 on the in-house SPA platform in a few years, though that hasn’t stopped Volvo from keeping these two models reasonably up to date. We reviewed a 2018 Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD for a week-long evaluation.
The V60 Cross Country follows a formula that has seen a lot of success: wagon body, increased ride height, black cladding around the extremities, and all-wheel drive. To that end, the V60 Cross Country gains 65mm of ground clearance. It is the most obvious change compared to the standard V60, though the unique “Neso” 18-inch aluminum wheels and aluminum-finished skid plates at both the front and rear add some practical personality. LED headlights with auto high-beam control and the usual high-mount Volvo wagon taillights give the two-box design that familiar Volvo identity. What’s interesting: the more rugged focus of the V60 Cross Country means “relatively” small 18-inch wheels and generous 50-series sidewalls. All that extra rubber in the tire translates to a comfortable ride, in an era of rubber-band tires on sports cars.
Inside, the V60 Cross Country shows off the Volvo of yesteryear – not that this is a bad thing. The brand has moved onto their new interior design ideology, the most obvious item being the huge portrait-oriented touchscreen living in the centre of the dash. Climbing into the V60 Cross Country, the always-excellent seats are what greet you first. The digital instrument cluster still looks pleasing to the eyes, and while it is more than functional enough, the newest and flashiest Volvos impress with their fully-digital instrument clusters.
Infotainment systems have a knack for making cars feel dated (or progressively modern), and the V60 Cross Country is no exception. The Sensus infotainment interface doesn’t support touch inputs, and its screen is barely larger than some high-end smartphones of today. You turn knobs and press buttons to interact with it; which is almost refreshing, compared to blindly stabbing away at a numb touchscreen. If it needs to be said, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not supported here. The heated seats and steering wheel are good enough to withstand the harsh Scandinavian winters, so they end up being supremely effective in the Greater Toronto Area.
While front seat comfort reigns supreme, the rear seat accommodations are a good indicator of how dated the current V60 platform is. I sit fairly upright in the driver’s seat, and close to the steering wheel, and the knee and leg room behind myself pales in comparison to all of Volvo’s current products based on the newer SPA (Scalable Product Architecture). On the bright side, the rear cargo area is very generous, at 692L with the seats up. Chalk it up to less efficient interior packaging at the time.
The theme of familiarity continue under the hood, with Volvo’s “T5” Drive-E engine being the only one offered for the Cross Country. In this case, T5 refers to a 2.0L turbocharged gasoline inline-four, with direct injection. There is no supercharger bolted onto the intake to boost horsepower and torque. As such, the engine is rated at a respectable 240hp at 5600RPM, and 258 lb-ft. of torque from 1500-4800RPM. Power is sent through an Aisin eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. This engine essentially replaces the old 2.5L turbocharged inline five-cylinder, and while it doesn’t feature the same characterful five-cylinder warble, it produces similar power numbers, all while returning better fuel efficiency ratings.
The new technology baked into the Drive-E engine architecture allows the V60 Cross Country to achieve an estimate of 10.8L/100km in the city, 7.8L/100km on the highway, and 9.4L/100km in a combined cycle. During a windy and cold week of mixed driving, I ended up with an indicated average of 10.0L/100km. Volvo’s idle start-stop calibration is particularly aggressive, wanting to shut off the engine just before coming to a full stop. In a refreshing change of pace, this T5 Drive-E engine will happily accept regular 87-octane fuel, and the tank will hold 67.5L of it.
The Volvo V60 Cross Country Premier starts at $47,950, before taxes. This particular tester was fully equipped: the $1,550 Premier Plus Package adds headlight washers, auto-dimming mirrors, and active HID headlamps with cornering abilities. The $1,350 Climate Package adds heated rear seats, the all-important heated steering wheel, and a heated windshield. The $1,600 Technology Package adds Driver Alert Control, as well as Adaptive Cruise control, to the requisite alphabet soup suite of active and passive safety features. The $1,000 BLIS Package adds front and rear park assist, as well as blind spot monitoring and cross-traffic alerts. All in, with the $900 Onyx Black Metallic colour, the as-tested price comes to $54,350.
This price point competes seemingly head-on with the Audi A4 allroad (reviewed here). While both share similar philosophies, turbocharged 2.0L engines, and increased ride height, the Audi features their latest and greatest design, inside and out. This alone may be worth putting it on your shortlist, but some of the biggest competition may come from within the same family. The all-new XC60 is hitting our shores now, and it features nearly all of the good attributes from the XC90, in a more compact package, at about the same price point. It’s no wagon, but the XC60 has handsome looks on its side, and a more modern design that addresses some of the V60’s shortcomings.
Additionally, competitors from Subaru and Volkswagen aren’t far away. Subaru has their hot-selling Outback, and Volkswagen has their rugged Golf Alltrack. While neither of these options come from luxury marques, both of them share a lot of similar attributes as the V60 Cross Country. The fully-loaded (and coincidentally named) Subaru Outback 3.6R Premier offers up smooth six-cylinder power, premium brown leather seating (just like this V60 Cross Country), and a more modern interior with the latest smartphone integration options. You also get Subaru’s excellent all-wheel drive system, and their version of the full active safety suite, for considerably less money (just over $42,000 at the time of this writing). Volkswagen’s Golf Alltrack is a bit smaller, but you get that solid European feel, thanks to the excellent MQB architecture. It’s a little down on power with just 170hp, but the DSG automatic returns a unique feel that also improves efficiency.
The Volvo V60 Cross Country harkens back to the good old days, where the station wagon ruled. The thing is, Volvo has always embraced the wagon and continues to offer the long roof option, as seen with their gorgeous V90 and similarly rugged V90 Cross Country. It’s now a crowded family with the new XC60 and upcoming XC40 crossover, and as a result, the older V60 and S60 models live in the shadows of their shiny new siblings. Based on how successful the V90 and S90 are, we can expect the next V60 and S60 to jump head-first into the excellent new Scalable Product Architecture and design. Those two will be ones to look out for.