In an age where SUVs and CUVs have virtually pushed the formal car based station wagon to the brink of extinction, the entries in this once thriving segment have largely been relegated to select brands that still offer them to customers looking for that hidden gem for their driveway. Volvo is one of these brands, and has offered customers Cross Country versions of some of its models since 1997 when the original V70 XC thundered its way onto dealer lots.
The V60 Cross Country is the latest recipient of Volvo's proven formula of taking a car or station wagon, and raising the ground clearance just enough to allow intrepid owners to venture a bit further off the beaten path than its mainstream counterparts. But does it still have the distinct magic and capability that has made the Cross Country series a hit with buyers?
The exterior styling of our Twilight Bronze Metallic (AKA brown) tester shares the bulk of its traits with the standard V60 wagon as well as its sedan counterpart the S60. The look is handsome and stylish, but at the same time is also starting to show its age when compared to some of its rivals. Being a Cross Country model, Volvo stylists added several minor tweaks that help the car broadcast its off-road oriented mission.
This includes the 19-inch Bor Matte Black alloy wheels as well as strategically placed bits of cladding, and skid plates to help protect vital components underneath when off-roading.
The interior of our tester was a rich and luxurious place to spend time in. The leather seats were very comfortable, and even offered aggressive bolstering that did a good job keeping occupants in place during spirited winter driving. A handy fold down center arm rest with cup holders in the second row proved to be pleasing to passengers, and was able to fit a sealed cup of hot cocoa cocoa with relative ease.
The driver and front passenger benefit from the flow through scheme for storage, and the space even comes equipped with a small tray to hide a cell phone or other small items. Unlike other Volvo's which tend to feature wood trim accents, our tester gave mother nature a break, and came equipped with tasteful metallic trim accents that looked and felt high quality.
Opening the rear hatch is a manual affair, but it does reveal a healthy amount of cargo space. The rubber mat that helps protect the rear cargo floor is a thoughtful touch especially for this type of vehicle. Lastly the heated leather wrapped steering wheel felt wonderful in the hands, and was pleasing to the touch.
With all the good things that the cabin achieves, its a pity that it is let down by some of the limitations imposed by its underpinnings. The center console for example still has way too many buttons, and some of them are crammed too close together, with the climate controls still retaining the seated person outline that dictates air flow in the cabin.
Look for this button happy mashup to be replaced by inputs from the Sensus touchscreen infotainment system, which will clean up the clutter, and give the V60 the same futuristic flair that defines the S90, V90, and the XC90 SUV. The rear seats are also cramped and the wagon profile does chop some headroom when compared to rivals.
While our outpost in Metro Detroit is a long drive away from some of the trails that dot the upper half of the state, the brutal Michigan winter spared no mercy, and a massive snowstorm that pummeled the area roughly 48 hours after the Volvo's arrival proved to be a formidable test of the Cross Country's capabilities. The storm dumped over 9 inches of fresh powder, but wheras other vehicles (including my 2013 Buick Verano Turbo) would have gotten stuck and be forced to tap out.
The V60 proved to be a formidable billy goat, and was able to power its way through snowy suburban streets as well as icy city roads. This is thanks to the fore-mentioned ground clearance as well as its sticky snow tires which paired nicely with its standard all-wheel drive system. Handling in our tester was solid and composed, though feedback from the electric steering rack was vague.
Performance comes from a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder which is good for 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The engine delivered very strong acceleration, and with the bulk of the torque available at only 1,500 rpm, the V60 proved to be a surprisingly good choice when it came to off the line acceleration especially from a stoplight. We highly recommend switching the car into Sport mode which not only holds gears for longer, but also eliminates the bulk of the vagueness that dogs the steering in its default mode.
An eight speed automatic replaces the older six speed, and it delivered smooth crisp shifts and also improves the car's acceleration. The transmission's manual mode also came in handy when navigating tough snowy roads, and further enhanced the Volvo's confidence in navigating tricky sections of my daily commute.
Pricing for the 2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country starts at $41,700 for the base Premier model, with the uplevel Platinum model having a base MSRP of $46,345. Our generously loaded Platinum grade tester had a lofty as tested price of $50,130 thanks to options such as the $3,650 Platinum package, the $1,550 Climate Package, and the $925 Blind Spot Information System Package. Other notable highlights included the $560 fee for the metallic hued paint, $750 for the slick BOR rims, as well as the $995 destination fee.
While this figure is not cheap, it still makes the Cross Country a compelling cross shop especially for buyers that want all-wheel drive and higher ground clearance, but without making the full transition to a formal CUV or SUV entry. It's also a smaller alternative to the elegant V90, and we look forward to seeing what the next generation V60 Cross Country has in store for the select few that still embrace the station wagon as a viable choice for their family.