Volvo's stunning XC90 SUV and S90 sedan leave many of its older cars, like this V60 Cross Country, in a somewhat uncomfortable place. These cars are a link to earlier days for Volvo, remnants of its Ford ownership and somewhat more humble styling. They're still great machines, but driving one you're left wondering just how long it'll be before they, too, are reborn into the same, classier look and performance of Gothenberg's latest.
But don't let such doubts dissuade you from including the $42,000 V60 Cross Country on your list if you're looking for a solid tall-rounder. This lifted wagon has the capacity and comfort to get you through just about everything life has too offer, plus enough off-road chops to handle the worst that a New England winter can throw your way.
To get the Cross Country, take a standard V60 wagon and give it a bit of a lift. Two and a half inches worth of lift, to be exact, thanks in part to more generous wheels and tires, but largely due to the revised suspension. The Cross Country also gets a hill descent mode, useful for those steep Vermont driveways, and a somewhat more limited engine selection.
OK, much more limited. The sole choice is the T5 specification, a two-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder delivering a healthy 240 horsepower. That's connected to a torque-vectoring Haldex all-wheel-drive system via an eight-speed automatic transmission that's hardly sporty but is plenty smooth.
In fact, smooth is the best way to describe this car. That heightened perspective hasn't lowered the ride quality one bit and, if anything, the bit of lag from the turbocharged engine just seems to add to the cosseting nature of this car. Things get even more posh in the winter months, when heated seats and steering wheel will help keep your extremities toasty, and the heated front and rear glass will ensure you won't spend too much time hacking away with a scraper in the mornings.
While the trend towards small, crossover SUVs continues, it's hard not to look at a car like the V60 and think it's the perfect solution for anyone needing practicality and comfort in a compact package. Both the front and rear seats have plenty of headroom for adults, and while this isn't the most generously proportioned wagon on the road, it would take one hell of a Costco run to reach full capacity.
My two large dogs had plenty of room in the back with the seats up and the (optional) cargo barrier folded down, but of course they preferred riding with the seats down -- and their heads out the window. Should you need more, the roof rails are standard and, if you add on a tow hook, the V60 will haul 3,500 pounds worth of whatever else you have to throw at it.
Unencumbered, the car is rated for 22 mpg in the city and up to 30 on the highway. In our mixed testing we split the difference, coming in at a respectable 26.
When it comes to technology, the V60 has it where it counts -- but comes up pretty short in other areas. Let's get the disappointments out of the way first: neither Android Auto nor Apple CarPlay are supported here. And while our car did have navigation, it was sluggish to use, voice recognition was painfully unreliable and the system overall made enough interesting routing choices for us to swear it off entirely.
That's the bad. The good is that the (optional) Harman Kardon sound system does a great job of filling the cabin, and there are enough safety features in here to make you feel like you're driving around in a bubble.
Go with the $3,600 platinum package and you'll get those better speakers, plus adaptive cruise control and a suite of safety features, including full auto-braking with detection for pedestrians and cyclists.
Volvo's blend of luxury, practicality and ability make it something of a distinct proposition, but it isn't without competition. On the lower end, Subaru's Outback is worth considering, which starts at just over $25,000, meaning you could save some serious cash here. Even fully optioned out, the Outback barely gets to $40,000, making it the value proposition. But, while offering similar power, the Subaru's CVT means the pace will be a little more leisurely, and neither the interior appointments nor ride quality will be quite as posh.
On the higher end, priced far more comparably with the Volvo, is Audi's A4 Allroad. It starts at $44,000, but easily soars over the $55,000 mark when you add all the comfort and safety features found on the higher-spec T5 Platinum V60. For that you'll get a more engaging drive, though, and a far more modern interior, bristling with technology.
While not exactly a budget offering -- our fully loaded T5 Platinum just crossed the $50,000 mark -- the V60 Cross Country is definitely a premium experience. With a compelling mix of comfort, luxury, capacity and capability, there's little not to like.
About the only true thing to wonder about here is how the next generation V60 might look -- and how long it'll be before the V60 offers the same stunning looks and tech as Volvo's latest. But then, as in the world of technology, you can't always sit around and wait for what's next.