Estate or SUV? Marina takes a road less travelled with the V60 Cross Country from Volvo.
There’s no denying we’re a big fan of the luxury SUV here at Marina magazine – we love the bold, dominant looks and their suitability for our lifestyle – however, some drivers prefer something a little more reserved. They consider the big 4x4s to be somewhat ostentatious, and yet still desire many of the capabilities and capacities associated with these vehicles; the security and reassurance of dedicated and sophisticated four-wheel-drive systems, the load-carrying capacity of a large boot, the ground clearance to get down rutted access roads without damage – the sort of features you find in a 4×4, but not in a regular saloon or estate car. In short, they want the best of both worlds, and now, perhaps, they can have just that.
Volvo first introduced the idea of an all-terrain estate with the V70 Cross Country in 1997, and while that model found favour with a certain country set, it never really hit the mainstream. Jump forward two decades and the market for premium estate cars with increased ride height and four-wheel-drive for light off-roading has strengthened, with competition from Audi’s A4 Allroad Quattro, the Skoda Octavia Scout 4×4 and even Seat’s Leon ST X-Perience all vying for a piece of the action.
Volvo’s current offering in the rugged estate market comes in the form of the V60 Cross Country – an update model in the standard V60 range alongside the standard road cars and sporty R-Design models – but is this latest Cross Country worthy of the name?
A closer look
At first glance there’s not much difference between the Cross Country and a regular V60 estate. The interior is shared with other models in the V60 range and feels typically well built, well designed and appropriately premium as befits the Volvo brand – the excellent driving position remains, with ample adjustment of steering wheel and seat to ensure all but the tallest drivers will find a comfortable driving position.
Boot capacity is the same as a regular V60 too, with 430 litres available with the rear seats up, rising to 1,241 litres with the seats lowered – not quite class-leading and not a long way behind the 495 / 1,455 litre split of the bigger XC60 – amply large enough for the majority of users.
Look a little closer though and the Cross Country differences start to become apparent; most noticeable of these is the 65mm increase in ride height which affords the Cross Country its greater ground clearance.
Other visual differences include the black plastic wheel arch extensions, honeycomb front grille, gloss black mirrors and some rugged silver-coloured scuff plates at the fronts and rear. Parked side-by-side with a standard V60 these styling modifications are easily spotted, but seen in isolation the Cross Country model is nicely subtle and classy.
Living with a Cross Country
If you’re used to the typical handling of a tall SUV, you will probably find the V60 Cross Country very sure-footed. In general driving conditions the Cross Country feels remarkably like a standard V60. Enthusiastic driving quickly highlights the 65mm increase in ride height, with more body roll in the bends and a tendency for the suspension to take longer to settle over undulations at speed. It remains a competent chassis, but perhaps lacks the precision you might expect from a regular saloon or estate.
Take a road less travelled and those negatives are offset by benefits – as our brief (and absent-minded) excursion down a very steep, slippery and rutted farm track quickly revealed. In a regular V60 I’d have grounded the bottom of the car multiple times and it’s highly unlikely we would have got back up when we realised we’d gone the wrong way, however the Cross Country made light work of the wet, rocky and loose surface confronting us for our return journey – aided in no small part by the excellent traction and significant torque from the D4 engine.
All engines in the range are excellent, but my pick would be the 188bhp variant of the D4 four-cylinder tested here. It offers all 400nm of torque from just 1,750 rpm and, when coupled to the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission in our review car, makes for an effortless long-distance cruiser with ample performance. The automatic transmission with sports mode provides very clean shifts and suits the lazy, torquey nature of the diesel engine, and has no impact on performance, matching the manual’s 0-60 time of just 7.5 seconds. It does, however, impact the mpg figures, with the six-speed manual matching the automatic’s overall combined 61.4mpg around town – with the manual gearbox the V60 Cross Country achieves an incredible 70.6mpg combined figure.
With a maximum braked trailer towing capacity of 1,800kg the V60 Cross Country is certainly capable of towing a small boat should the need arise, and matches the capability of sibling models the XC60 and XC70 in this respect. Although, if you regularly need a large towing capacity, many of the larger SUVs available comfortably exceed this figure, with Volvo’s own XC90 offering a maximum braked trailer weight of 2,400kg.
Being a Volvo you can rightly expect safety to feature prominently in the specification. In addition to the six standard fit airbags, our D4 Lux Nav review model came fitted with the Driver Support Pack – a £1,900 option that includes collision warning with full automatic braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection, distance alert, lane keeping aid, the excellent blind spot information system (with cross traffic alert) and a whole host of other driver-centric safety aids to ensure you remain as aware of what’s going on around you as possible.
The Cross Country is a well-appointed model in the V60 range, with standard fit including voice control, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors and a seven-inch colour touchscreen infotainment display featuring the excellent Sensus satellite navigation with full European mapping and lifetime map updates. All the buttons and controls fall easily to hand and the infotainment system is easy enough to use, although it is a little clunky compared to the sophisticated, and button-free, iPad-sized touch screen that dominated the dash of the XC90 we reviewed last year. As technology and expectations move on, it’s little touches like this that remind you the Cross Country is an evolution of the now long-established V60 model lineup.
The V60 Cross Country is a supremely well accomplished car which offers most of the benefits provided by larger SUVs with fewer of the drawbacks, but if you’re looking for a tow car, you might be better off sticking with those larger SUVs. If, however, you are a potential buyer who is used to driving large saloons or estates and in the market for something a bit more rugged and capable, then it’s difficult to argue against it – although Skoda’s Octavia Scout 4×4 offers everything the Volvo does, with a larger boot, for around £10,000 less than the equivalent V60 Cross Country.