The SUV trend shows so sign of letting up anytime soon, and that’s good news for the likes of Volvo. From the small and fashionable XC40 right up to the posh and family-friendly XC90, the Swedish manufacturer’s range of SUVs is one of the best in the business.
But not everyone wants the running costs or even the image of a high-riding SUV, and Volvo knows this only too well. The Swedish firm has been selling Cross Country cars for over 20 years and these jacked-up versions of normal models come with all the trappings of SUV life, but in a more traditional and, some would argue, a classier body shape.
The V60, launched last year, is the latest Volvo estate to receive the Cross Country treatment. So there’s a 60mm rise in ride height, lashings of grey plastic for the lower grille, side sills and wheel arch extensions, a more comfortable suspension set-up, all-wheel drive, an off-road option for the driving modes and hill descent control.
The Cross Country is based on the entry-level Momentum trim, but there’s still a healthy standard safety kit list including city brake with steering support, speed limiter, driver alert with lane keeping aid and traffic sign recognition. Sat-nav is also thrown in and all V60s, not just the Cross Country, get Volvo’s nine-inch portrait touchscreen.
However, as the Cross Country is the rugged model, there’s not a wide options list and for the time being, there’s no higher-grade ‘Pro’ model. As a sign of this model’s tough character, the standard upholstery, for instance, is a vinyl and fabric combo in black or a pretty natty beige checked design.
It’s hardly anything new, then, but just like the larger V90 Cross Country, the V60 wears its rugged makeover well. Its only real, like-for-like rival is the Audi A4 Allroad, while further down the pecking order lies the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer. The amount of choice has shrunk recently, too, thanks to Skoda no longer offering a Scout version of its Superb Estate and the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack quietly disappearing from sale.
The V60 arrives in the UK with only a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder 187bhp D4 engine, but the range is expected to swell to include this T5 variant, with its 237bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol motor, later this year.
Just like in the V90 Cross Country, the default option for a tough estate car is a diesel engine but the T5 is actually a great fit. It’s far smoother at idle and when you prod the throttle compared with the slightly rough four-cylinder D4, and the eight-speed gearbox is well matched. The T5 does have 50Nm less torque than the D4 but it has an extra 60bhp and this, coupled with the all-wheel drive system, makes the T5 is a pretty quick thing.
The V60, just like the rest of the new range of new Volvos, is more comfortable to drive than its German rivals and even more so with the Cross Country. That extra 60mm of ride height and a softer suspension set-up make a huge difference compared with a standard V60, and yet the loftier stance doesn’t translate into wallowy handling.
Grip on and off-road is impressive, and the V60 Cross Country is able to climb and traverse some pretty tough conditions. Our car was fitted with studded tyres and while this doesn’t give an accurate impression of how it would cope on UK roads, you can’t help but think the V60 would feel invincible in Surrey after a light dusting of snow.
The only real complaint is the steering because while its languid responses are fine in the humdrum V60, it’s slightly too unnerving in the Cross Country. As it’s just that bit higher off the ground, when you turn it into a corner there’s a momentary feeling of no accuracy whatsoever; if Volvo could add a bit of initial bite to the CC’s steering, it would top off what is, in general, a relaxing car to drive.
Elsewhere, the Cross Country is identical to the V60 we’ve come to really rate. The interior is beautifully put together, with gorgeous detailing and design, premium-feeling materials and solid build quality. That nine-inch portrait-layout infotainment set-up can be a bit fiddly to use at first, but with time it’s an easy and straightforward system to operate. Moreover, there are Volvo’s famously supportive seats and excellent driving position while in the back there’s more legroom than you’ll find in the A4 Allroad.
Even with the all-wheel drive system, there’s no impact on boot room compared with a standard front-wheel-drive V60, so you get 529 litres with the seats up and 1,441 litres with them all folded down. The Audi offers slightly more when the seats are down, but loses out to the Volvo on everyday capacity. The V60 also scores well with some neat practical touches in its boot, such as a pop-up luggage divider.