The V60 Cross Country is a premium midsize wagon with all-wheel drive that's designed to handle foul weather and light off-roading while also delivering carlike qualities that make it easier to live with than more trucklike SUVs.
It looks rugged and has the capability of huskier crossovers, but rides smoothly, handles deftly and most importantly to some, slips into parking spaces like a midsize sedan.
What Is It?
The 2015 Volvo V60 Cross Country is a midsize station wagon with a raised ride height and increased ground clearance to better negotiate deep snow, muddy dirt roads or even big city potholes.
The V60 Cross Country joins the larger XC70 wagon, which has been a mainstay in the brand's lineup. How are they different? The Cross Country has tidier dimensions and weighs less than the XC70, but to further separate the personalities of these two close kin, Volvo has slightly firmed the suspension of the Cross Country for a sportier driving experience.
The Cross Country is fractionally narrower and shorter (in length) than the XC70 by a full 8 inches. That translates to an inch less rear-seat legroom and a whopping 28.3 fewer cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats folded flat.
As with the XC70, the enhanced foul-weather capability largely comes from a taller suspension that raises the wagon up nearly 3 inches above a conventional V60 and provides 7.9 inches of ground clearance. Most cars have around 5-6 inches of clearance, so the extra room under the chassis means larger rocks and deeper mud can pass beneath this V60 without damaging anything.
Its all-wheel-drive system is Volvo's latest and is said to react to wheel slip much more quickly than the previous systems. That means the Cross Country should crest steep snowy driveways easier, without the driver realizing the system is working overtime behind the scenes. The Cross Country also comes standard with Hill Descent Control, a feature that when engaged, automatically helps slow the car on steep descents by using the braking system.
What Body Styles and Trim Levels Does It Come In?
The V60 Cross Country is available only as a four-door station wagon with all-wheel drive. The base Cross Country model ($41,925) is very well equipped. Luxury touches like power leather seats with memory and a moonroof come standard. Since this is a Volvo, smart safety technology is naturally part of the package. Volvo's City Safe system comes on every Cross Country and can, at speeds below 31 mph, determine the likelihood of a collision and either prepare the brake system in anticipation of a panic stop or apply full braking.
A 250-horsepower inline five-cylinder engine comes standard and is matched to a six-speed automatic. The torque-rich drivetrain allows the V60 to effortlessly cruise around town or up steep grades without much pedal pressure from your right foot. According to the EPA, the V60 will return 23 mpg in combined driving.
Opt for the Platinum trim ($45,590) and Volvo includes an excellent-sounding 130-watt Harman Kardon audio system, xenon headlights with washers, Keyless Drive and a rear park assist camera among other features. The Platinum trim also carries both the Climate package (heated windshield, seats and steering wheel) and the Technology package.
The tech package is particularly valuable because it brings many of Volvo's latest safety systems to the Cross Country, like Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with Full Auto Brake. This system uses radar and cameras to distinguish pedestrians and cyclists from other objects and apply full braking power to avoid an accident. Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake works similarly and can apply the brakes if it detects an accident is inevitable. The tech package also includes lane departure warning and conveniences like adaptive cruise control, active high beam and road sign information.
Of course, some options can be added individually to any Cross Country model, like heated front seats, glossy wood or black interior trim, a dual-screen rear DVD system and even two-stage booster seats for kids: a great feature for families.
How Does It Drive?
The Cross Country is based on the chassis of the V60, Volvo's sportiest wagon, but it doesn't handle with the crispness of a sport sedan. This is a tall car, so there is noticeable body roll through turns and the Volvo's brake pedal felt a bit soft. Generally, however, the Volvo has an engaging personality that feels less cumbersome than your average crossover. And that makes sense, as the Cross Country weighs a full 400 pounds less than Volvo's own XC60 crossover.
Volvo says the raised-up suspension delivers a bit more suspension travel, too. That means the longer stroke of the springs and shocks can absorb big bumps, so the ride is smoother. Take the Cross Country across a rock-strewn dirt two-track and it soaks up the terrain with ease. For those who tackle an urban grind through broken, potholed pavement every day, this is one wagon that won't spill your latte.
The five-cylinder provides plenty of torque at a low engine speed, so the V60 Cross Country never feels burdened, even on steep grades as you toe into the throttle. Volvo says the Cross Country takes 7.0 seconds to reach 60 mph, so this is certainly no hot rod. The six-speed automatic has a Sport mode that makes the transmission's upshifts firmer and more positive. Selecting this mode also changes the engine's fuel map to deliver better performance.
One of the best qualities about the Cross Country is its size. The car is relatively small and easy to place on the road. Similarly, it rides at a height that's a sweet spot between car and crossover. It's tall enough to provide excellent visibility of the road ahead and yet it's not so tall that it requires a huge effort to slide into and out of the seats.
How Well Does That All-Wheel-Drive System Work?
We were able to test the V60 on a special ice-driving course to get a feel for the system's traction. Armed with studded winter tires, we were turned loose on a giant ice slick the size of a football field.
Most impressive was how seamlessly the stability and traction control systems worked. You don't have to drive a certain way to take advantage of them, as they simply work in the background to keep you pointed in the right direction. We could basically floor the throttle and the systems would manage the torque and the wheel slip so we could drive precisely on solid ice.
When we turned the stability system off, the difference was dramatic. Even with studded tires, controlling the V60 without electronic help was a handful. There's no doubt that its stability and traction control systems are a huge advantage when it comes to handling low-traction situations.
How Does It Rate in Terms of Interior Comfort?
The interior of the Volvo is generally a luxurious and pleasant place to spend time. There are some elements, however, that look dated for a wagon in this class. The center portion of the dash is home to an army of buttons instead of the more modern central knoblike controller that most of its competitors use.
The dash screen is small and the system isn't quite as sophisticated and intuitive as those from other luxury brands. Once you dive into the menus, however, the Volvo offers nicely descriptive pictograph icons that help explain some of the car's more advanced features.
The Cross Country model of the V60 comes standard with Volvo's wonderfully supportive Contour sport seats. You could spend hours in them without fatigue. Rear-seat occupants have a bit less room to relax. A 6-footer has enough headroom, but legroom is on the tight side. Similarly, the rear door openings are fairly narrow.
The Cross Country's interior is probably a bit too tight for many families. However, that rear seat does split (40/20/40) and fold flat so hauling people and cargo together is easy. And with that whole rear seat folded, the Volvo can swallow 43.8 cubic feet of stuff. That's respectable, but shy of both the XC70 wagon and XC60 crossover.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Most buyers looking for all-weather traction mixed with cargo-hauling ability and seating for five will shop for a crossover or SUV, so it's not surprising that most manufacturers don't offer a tall station wagon like the V60 Cross Country. However, Audi and BMW offer all-wheel-drive wagons in the same price class.
2015 Audi Allroad: The Audi Allroad is the V60 Cross Country's closest competitor. The Allroad is an A4 wagon (Avant in Audi-speak) that's been raised to handle snow and mild off-road driving. However, the Audi has a bit less ground clearance than the Volvo. The Audi starts at $43,295 and delivers slightly more rear-seat legroom and space in the cargo hold.
2015 BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon: Unlike the Audi and Volvo, this BMW wagon doesn't ride on a raised suspension. And there's no skid plating. So this BMW isn't the best choice if you plan to drive on rough terrain. BMW's X1 is better suited to that task. But the $43,550 BMW does however handle curvy roads like a true sport sedan, and the powertrain feels much stronger than the Volvo's, too.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
You need an all-weather family vehicle but don't necessarily want an SUV. Or maybe you're just looking for something stylish and safe that can swallow a couple kids and their stuff. Either way, the V60 Cross Country is a unique offering in a limited segment.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
Although you can option the Cross Country with Volvo's own booster seats, this wagon is a little small for a family larger than three. The wagon's roof line tapers dramatically and looks sleek, but that cuts into the cargo hold and doesn't allow for bulky items (like strollers) to fit easily. Volvo's own XC70 wagon can fit more inside and isn't that much larger on the outside or more expensive.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.