Volvo V60 Cross Country SUV-ifies a compact station wagon

An active lifestyle wagon that has us pining for a crossover

Published: April 11, 2015 08:00 AM

Americans pretty much like their station wagons in just one flavor: imitation SUV, with an added helping of raised ground clearance and a dash of rugged-looking body cladding. This trend makes Volvo’s V60 wagon a bit of an odd duck; it is a simply a traditional wagon. Not surprisingly, after months of tepid sales, Volvo has introduced the V60 Cross Country.

Of course, Volvo has followed this path before. Known for station wagons, Volvo sales took off when the larger V70 wagon morphed into the XC70 nearly 20 years ago. Volvo eventually stopped selling plain-Jane wagons, following the same soft-roader trail as Audi (no more A4 wagon, just the Allroad) and Subaru (Legacy wagon is gone, leaving the focus on Outback).

Sticking to the proven recipe, the SUV-ified V60 Cross Country gains plastic body cladding around the wheels and adds 2.6 inches of ground clearance.  Inside are heavily bolstered “contour” seats, covered in fetching Beechwood brown leather in our test car. Volvo made some equipment upgrades for “2015.5” models, including standard navigation, simplified logic for the Sensus infotainment system, and—finally—power lumbar adjustment for the front seats.

While the S60—the sedan basis for the V60—offers a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and an eight-speed automatic transmission, Volvo hasn’t worked out offering all-wheel-drive with that drivetrain yet in this platform. That means you get the Swedish brand’s familiar 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder, mated to a six-speed automatic. This engine doesn’t escape the sound harmonics peculiarities inherent with odd-number cylinder counts, but engine noise is pretty well isolated. Wish we could say the same about filtering out rough roads; like other Volvos, the ride is on the stiff side.

Like the Allroad, the V60 Cross Country seems like a tough sell next to the brand’s own small SUVs. Sized for dual-income-no-kids couples, the V60 has a snug rear seat and modest cargo area. By comparison, the XC60 has a lot more room.

And it’s not like going with the smaller V60 Cross Country is saving you much money, either. Equipped with the Climate, Convenience, and BLIS (blind-spot monitoring) packages, plus metallic paint, our V60 Cross Country stickered at $46,475. A comparable XC60 T5 AWD Premier goes for $47,280; that’s not much more money for a lot more space.

No doubt there are a handful of wagon aficionados who will welcome the V60 Cross Country. I get it. After all, I’ve owned two European station wagons myself. But gone are the days when station wagons had a lock on car-like driving dynamics. Add in the SUV’s habit-forming higher seating position and extra room, and wagons become a hard sell—even if they are gussied up to look like SUVs.

As our new V60 Cross Country goes through its break-in period and on to formal testing, we’ll see how the Cars team responds, either embracing its car-like packaging or left pining for crossover.

Tom Mutchler

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