It’s widely believed that Americans don’t like station wagons, and U.S. sales figures tend to bear that out. But I suspect our aversion to wagons is mostly based on old memories of long miserable road trips in the back seat of the family truckster, trapped next to your little brother who was always carsick. Strangely enough, the same buying public that declines the station wagon has made compact crossover SUVs the biggest market segment in America. And let’s be honest: most of the time, a crossover is just a wagon with a higher ride height and some extra body armor.
It is long past time to cast off outdated prejudices and give the venerable station wagon a fresh look. As a candidate for your consideration, I suggest the Volvo V60 Cross Country.
An elegant car
“Our customers want a rugged appearance, but they want an elegant car, not an SUV. We try to keep the line pretty sharp,” says Lex Kerssemakers, President of Volvo Cars USA.
To deliver that elegant car in precisely the desired form, Volvo now offers three versions of the V60 wagon. Buyers can choose from a basic front-wheel-drive setup, an all-wheel-drive system designed for street and highway use, and now the new Cross Country model.
To bridge the gap between the V60 AWD and the XC60 crossover, Volvo added a few key features to make the V60 Cross Country a little tougher. Most noticeably, the Cross County rides more than half an inch taller than the basic V60. That may not sound like much, but it’s enough that you can see the difference. When you couple the ride height with aggressive wheel arch guards and a bit more rocker panel protection, the Cross Country is recognizable at a glance.
There are a few more differences in interior trim, and you get 18-inch wheels instead of the 17-inch wheels found on the regular models, but the important stuff is what goes on under the skin.
Standardizing on Drive-E
The new Cross Country is the first V60 with AWD to get Volvo’s Drive-E engine. Drive-E was introduced for the 2015 model year with three different versions of the same 2-liter 4-cylinder engine. The T5 uses a turbo to achieve 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The T6 includes both a turbo and a supercharger and delivers 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet. There is also a special version of the T6 engine that is rated at 362 horsepower and 347 pound-feet, available only on the halo Polestar vehicles. All Drive-E engines use an 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission manufactured in Japan by Aisin Seiki.
Our aversion to wagons is probably based on old memories of miserable road trips in the family truckster, trapped next to your carsick brother.
The T5 is the only engine offered with the V60 Cross Country, but buyers who opt for the street-hot V60 AWD R-Design will get the T6 engine, and the Polestar V60 is also available if you want to spend quite a bit more money.
Standardizing on Drive-E is noteworthy because until the 2017 models came out, Drive-E engines were available only on FWD cars. Volvo’s AWD customers were limited to the last-generation set of engines, which offered comparable power but lacked the fuel economy of their Drive-E successors. The 2017 V60 Cross Country delivers an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
Volvo’s AWD system is a fifth-generation Haldex design, which means it’s mainly a front-wheel-drive system that actuates an electro-hydraulic clutch when the traction control system detects the beginnings of wheelspin. Once activated, the Haldex system can send up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels. The system automatically activates when you’re stopped, so moving out always engages all four wheels. Once you’re moving, Volvo’s AWD engagement is so smooth that you’ll almost never feel it coming into play.
It’s worth mentioning that all Cross Country models include Volvo’s Hill Descent Control system. You actuate the system with a button on the dash, and then you just use the accelerator to control the speed of descent, which will be slow but controlled. You never have to touch the brake pedal.
Volvo has set a goal that no one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020. That’s an ambitious challenge, especially in a world where liability concerns discourage stake-in-the-ground pronouncements. Yet if any automaker could achieve zero fatalities, it would be Volvo.
The V60 Cross Country is already well on the way, with a long list of standard safety features including all the usual control assistance plus City Safety, which can stop the car in time to avoid a frontal or turning collision at speeds up to 31 mph. That’s assuming that the driver does nothing to prevent the crash, which is the case about half the time. Above 31 mph, the collision will be mitigated if not completely avoided.
The V60 Cross Country has just two trim levels – base and Platinum. Platinum trim includes two safety-related packages that are optional on the base model, like the Convenience and Technology packages.
The Convenience package gives you the backup camera, keyless start, Homelink garage door control, and the ability to customize your power steering. However, the Technology package is where the serious safety equipment comes in, with adaptive cruise, forward collision warning and auto-braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection and auto-braking, lane departure warning, road sign information, and a driving distance alert.
Blind spot monitoring is a totally separate package in the Cross Country, and it costs extra on both trim levels. In addition to the basic blind spot alerts, you also get front parking assist and a lane change merging aid, which is simply an extension of the blind spot alert system to spot traffic coming up on the car.
The 2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country interior hasn’t changed much from prior years or from the regular V60 models. That’s OK, because the Volvo interior was already among the most comfortable on the market. Volvo’s seats are supportive without being hard, and nicely bolstered to keep you in place even when you’re bouncing down an unpaved road. The steering wheel position is fully adjustable, and the overall driving ergonomics are excellent.
To bridge the gap between the V60 AWD and the XC60 crossover, Volvo added a few key features to make the V60 Cross Country a bit more rugged.
The V60 Cross Country is a mid-size car, but it’s a spacious mid-size, with plenty of space between the driver and front seat passenger. Regardless of the trim level you choose, the V60 is going to give you 43.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Remember we were talking about station wagons and why you should give them a chance? This is where that happens. If you buy the S60 sedan on the same platform, you only get 12 cubic feet for your cargo. If you want to do better than the V60, you have to jump up to the much larger XC60 SUV.
Volvo also gives you a very quiet cabin, with a nice sound system. Platinum buyers get the upgraded 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system, but honestly Volvo’s basic sound system is more than adequate with 8 speakers and your choice of all the usual music sources. Volvo’s Sensus Connect connectivity and app support system is included as standard equipment on all V60 Cross Country models.
The final note on interiors is that the Climate package is optional, but really necessary if you want heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, and that nifty internally heated windshield.
Tech could be improved
It’s no exaggeration to say that the V60 Cross Country has all the technical bells and whistles you could want. Option up the car and you’ll get navigation, media, backup camera, start/stop, lane departure warning, and park distance warning. There’s phone support and a Wi-Fi hot spot as well (with data plan subscription) as part of Sensus Connect.
To control all that, Volvo’s center stack is a true waterfall design, with a small storage compartment behind the climate and infotainment controls. There’s still a telephone keypad in the center, which may look old-fashioned but turns out to be very convenient. The climate controls are similarly easy to use: there’s a little person made of buttons and you just press the buttons corresponding to the parts of your body that you’d like to have warmed or cooled.
One key feature is that the controls for the engine start/stop, lane departure, and park assist are right there in the center stack. This means that any feature that starts to annoy you, such as lane departure warnings when you’re on a narrow road, can be switched off with one push of a button, rather than navigating a series of menus.
One thing that could be improved on the V60 Cross Country is the small display screen. The screen measures 7 inches, but seems smaller. You don’t get a good map view when the navigation is also displaying other information, and lack of screen real estate makes it harder to get a good orientation. Plus, you have to use the steering wheel controls or the center stack buttons to navigate the systems. The brand-new 90 series Volvos have a much larger touchscreen interface that works much better.
Out on the road
You can spend a long time talking about all the technology under the hood and in the dash, but the real test of any car is to get it out on the road, and in this case off the pavement as well.
When you get the V60 onto the street or highway, you can see how well the Drive-E engine works with the 8-speed transmission. Power is always available, from a standing start to the critical highway passing ability. The Cross Country’s 7.9-inch ground clearance means you have a good view of the road without feeling like you’re sitting on a tower.
You can spend a long time talking about all the technology, but the real test of any car is to get it out on the road, and in this case off the pavement as well.
One big advantage to driving the Cross Country instead of an SUV is that the V60 corners like a car. Part of Volvo’s stability and traction control system is Corner Traction Control, which helps reduce understeer by applying torque to the outside wheels in a corner. That helps the V60 feel tight and confident in mid-corner, and especially when you’re accelerating out of a corner. Of course, there’s a corresponding active yaw control to help control oversteer, too. It’s good to know that these systems are working for you, even though you’ll probably never notice them operating. The V60 Cross Country just goes where you point it.
The comfort of the cabin comes together with performance-luxury driving dynamics to give you a car that you can drive for long distances without feeling cramped or unduly fatigued. On the launch event, we routinely covered several hundred miles and up to 6 hours a day in the cars, and we came out feeling as good as when we started.
When you get off-road – or at least off-pavement – you will notice that the increased ride height of the Cross Country gives the V60 suspension more room to move and soak up the bumps. The best praise you can give the Cross Country is that it makes driving a gravel road a no-brainer. You just go.
Should you be excited?
The 2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country starts at $42,695 for the base trim. That gets you the 240 horsepower T5 engine, 8-speed automatic, AWD, and the nice interior. If you jump up to $46,345 for the Platinum trim, you get the Technology and Convenience packages, plus the nice Harman Kardon stereo and a few other features.
To recap, with the V60 Cross Country wagon, you’re getting all the performance, safety, and comfort of a sedan, plus much better cargo capacity. You’re also getting the capability and convenience of a crossover, all built into a truly elegant car. Volvo wagons have earned a loyal following for decades. Maybe it’s time to give the V60 a serious look?
- Great engine choices
- Top-shelf comfort
- Station wagon utility
- Improved fuel economy
- Capable AWD
- Navigation/infotainment system needs updating to 90-series level