Having spent many hours behind the wheel of a 1987 Volvo 740 turbo, we are well acquainted with the Swedish automaker Volvo’s prowess in building versatile, reliable and fun-to-drive sport wagons. Volvo may even deserve credit for inventing the form as we know it today. The new-for-2015 V60 Cross Country takes the sport-wagon theme to a whole new level, blending the qualities that made those old Volvos so desirable with a dollop of off-road capability.
The V60 basically is an S60 – one of Volvo’s most popular models – with a wagon body, while the Cross Country feature adds all-wheel drive, an impressive 7.9 inches of ground clearance and protective armor for vulnerable underbody components. It also adds considerably to the price. A base, front-wheel-drive V60 starts at about $36,000, while our lavishly equipped Cross Country had a sticker price in excess of $48,000. The base model also comes with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that’s nearly as strong as the dated inline Five that powers all Cross Country models, yet much more fuel-efficient.
The V60’s strengths are the same strengths that have kept Volvos on the American road for generations. Everything feels solid, bordering on indestructible. Durable though it proved to be, our old 740 had flimsy interior components that seemed at odds with the car’s sturdy body and bulletproof mechanical features. There’s nothing flimsy about the V60’s interior. Plastics, leather and fabrics hold out a promise of durability over the long haul.
The I-5 engine delivered satisfactory performance despite a coarse exhaust note. Power is sufficient but not invigorating. We attained almost 26 mpg in mostly highway driving; the car is rated at 20/28.
The ride is European – meaning it’s composed but not soft. Handling is predictable, reflecting the V60’s sport-wagon roots. Critics who have driven the base V60 and the Cross Country prefer the base model’s driving qualities, but sales volumes for these wagons have been similar.
Very tall drivers may turn to a model with a little more leg room, but the multi-directional power seat enabled everyone who drove the V60 to find a comfortable position. The same can’t be said of passengers in the back seat, where knee room is scant. The V60 also doesn’t have as much cargo room as some competing crossovers. The Subaru Legacy Outback wagon, for example, can swallow 73.3 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seat lowered, compared with the Volvo’s 43.8 cubic feet. For a weekend trip for two and a few grocery runs, however, space behind the rear seat in the V60 was ample.
Not surprisingly, the Volvo’s crash-protection and accident-avoidance technology made an impression, though major components – such as the adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning system and pedestrian recognition – were optional. The V60 exited Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests with a Top Safety Pick Plus designation.
Earlier-year S60 models generally have compiled better-than-average reliability records in Consumer Reports magazine reader surveys.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.2015 Volvo V60 Cross Country
Engine: 2.5-liter inline Five, 250 horsepower, 266 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,602 lb.
Suspension: 4-wheel independent
Ground clearance: 7.9 inches
Wheels: 18×7.5-in. alloy
Tires: 235/50R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 43.8 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 3,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 17.8 gallons
Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular unleaded gasoline