Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: June 3, 2019
Having the skill and fully making use of said skill don’t always go hand in hand. Your track and field trophies and muscular silhouette may suggest you have the ability to parkour your way across New York rooftops but that doesn’t mean you have the cojones to set out and actually do it. The same goes for having impeccable cardiovascular stamina, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing you could outrun a thief, robber, or even a Godzilla invasion.
The Volvo V60 Cross Country shares an identical outlook. Are owners actually going on cross country trips, fording ponds and rivers, and descending down treacherous hills on a regular basis? Most likely not, especially in North America, but it’s nice knowing that when the time comes, it has the ability to accomplish such a feat. And that is the guardian angel that sells and warrants the premium for jacked up wagons like this Volvo, providing a safe haven of confidence on the off-chance its dormant skills may one day be required.
The V60 is the compact wagon of the lineup, based on the S60 but with an elongated roofline, hatchback trunk, and more cargo capacity. In Cross Country (CC) guise, the V60 is raised 60 millimetres for better ground clearance and is clad in black plastic around the bumpers and wheel arches to protect the sheetmetal, expertly blending a wagon and crossover mentality. I admire the fact that Volvo didn’t bother slathering fancy “Cross Country” badges all over the vehicle like BMW and Mercedes do with their off-variants. Instead, there’s a unique diamond-dotted front grill and subtle Cross Country lettering embossed into the rear bumper. Matched with the already stylish T-shaped headlights, integrated roof rails, and a range of 18-, 19- and 20-inch wheels (the latter of which is shown in our photographs), and the V60 CC is one of the most exciting looking wagons to date - not bad for an automaker whose name is synonymous with safety.
The V60 CC is all about the adventure, the experience, and the practicality of heightened ground clearance, a similar mindset to the Audi A4 Allroad and Volkswagen Golf Alltrack variants. The added height allows for easier entry and exit out of the vehicle, and also makes loading heavy cargo into the trunk less of a bending exercise for taller folks. It provides a sense of safety for novices who prefer a higher seating position and are worried about curbing the wheels - best not to underestimate how much an few extra millimetres of ground clearance can do for your vehicle. Though I doubt many of these V60 Cross Countries would ever see any off-road terrain (except our 2015 Cross Country that we hammered through mud), you can confidently venture off the dirt path, countryside, or snowcapped lands knowing that the CC will make it out alive. Of note: in some countries, the Cross Country actually outsells the regular wagon variant.
The V60 Cross Country starts at $48,900, $5,000 more than the V60 T5 Momentum, and the same price as the V60 T6 Momentum. The CC only comes in one trim with the T5 engine and standard all-wheel drive (the regular V60 with the T5 engine is front-wheel drive only). That means a turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-four delivering 250 hp and 258 lb-ft through an 8-speed automatic transmission, and the ability to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 6.8 seconds, more than enough for the daily commuter.
Despite putting out less power than the T6 engine (295 hp, 316 lb-ft), the T5 is significantly quieter and emits less clatter and physical vibrations when running. The party trick with Volvo’s T6 twin-charged unit is to mitigate lag: the supercharger fills in the void while the turbocharger is busy spooling, tagging in when each other need it most. This effectively eliminates turbo lag and results in a linear wave of power delivery. But the single-turbo T5’s lag is minimal and very manageable. Power comes on gradually rather than suddenly, and there’s an impressive amount of forward propulsion once the boost kicks in. Thanks to the quick and smooth shifting 8-speed transmission that plays behind the scenes without any fuss, most of the delay is mitigated without any hindrance to on-road performance. The gearbox shifts well enough that you never have to take the helm either - good thing as there are no paddle shifters available.
There is more steering feel here than the larger V90, the latter of which is electrically numb, overboosted, and you could rotate it 360-degrees with your pinky finger. Even though you can customize the amount of steering effort required to turn the wheel, it isn’t very pleasant or sporty to drive. Volvo has added some heft and weight to the new 60-Series vehicles this year, requiring a bit more effort to turn the wheel, though it still comes off as overly light when compared to any other modern compact vehicle. Be that as it may, I’m sure most drivers won’t mind, and might actually enjoy letting their muscles atrophy in the front seat.
That’s about the only issue I have of the drive. Compliant and comfortable, the Cross Country variant doesn’t lose any of its mannerisms or credibility out on the open road. Volvo made sure to soften up the suspension with the CC, and even though it drives much like the standard wagon, it does not handle vertical movements very well and tends to crash when hitting potholes or cracked pavement - could be the larger 20-inch wheels we had equipped on our tester. An air suspension was off the books, as it would impede on the amount of cargo space available, which is understandably of paramount importance to V60 owners. Still, the CC lacks any significant body lean, rides like butter when the road is smooth, and stays generally composed when flung around at moderate speeds.
We won’t go into too much detail regarding the 60-Series interior as we’ve covered it multiple times but summing it up, it is clean, simple, and very Scandinavian. If Ikea ever took up the job of designing a car interior, it would look exactly like this: minimalistic with ergonomic seats, lots of bare wood, and a careful use of chrome and plastics. Every dial, knob, and button has a light and deft touch to it, so they do not require much effort or dexterity to operate. The center infotainment screen is not as large as Tesla’s but very functional, responds to finger inputs flawlessly, and the web of menus will speak the same language as your iPhone. We did discover some lag issues with the screen, most notably when starting up the car. The rear view camera display does not always engage immediately after selecting reverse gear either, delaying parking maneuvers.
Some standout features with the V60 include the windshield wipers, which like Mercedes, have the washer nozzles embedded within the stalk. So instead of having a Hail Mary spray from the top of the hood, these nozzles pour a more calculated and controlled spray down the windshield. The instrument cluster displays crisp graphics along with the navigation map, and will additionally show a diagram of your approaching major intersection’s lane markings, notifying you with arrows if the lane is right-turn only, or simply for going straight - a neat feature that I haven’t seen any other automaker doing.
I can’t think of a good reason why you shouldn’t choose the Cross Country over the standard wagon. Despite a dip in output and linearity of said power compared to the T6, the T5 is smoother, quieter, and more than enough for the average driver. All-wheel drive comes standard, as does outdoorsy-proof body cladding and a jacked up ride height for those wanting near-SUV ride height without hopping on the bandwagon (no pun intended). The only advantages of the standard V60 are the optional engine upgrade, a larger variety of paint colours, and the softer nappa leather offered on the more expensive Inscription model, but the argument just about ends there.
The V60 Cross Country is the Swedish SUV alternative brimming with go-anywhere street cred, and if you’re not in the wagon camp or think that wagons are old-fashioned or out of the style, times have changed, my friend. Wagons are here to stay, and the Cross Country is a prime example of wagons done correctly. You may never need to trek far from the beaten path, but it’s nice knowing you can get there.
Model: 2019 Volvo V60 Cross Country
Paint Type: Crystal White Pearl Metallic
Base Price: $48,900
Price as Tested: $62.675
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four
Horsepower: 250 hp
Torque: 258 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD