What's the biggest difference between Volvo's latest Cross Country and the V60 wagon on which it's based? Three inches of ground clearance. Take that, add a little body cladding, and you've got a tall wagon that's as butch as it is beautiful. I want one. Admit it: You do, too.

Yes, this transformation from V60 to Cross Country is minor, but man, does it work. Volvo's been doing the Cross Country thing since the late 1990s, and it's a part of the luxury space, however small, that it owns like no other automaker can.

Scandinavian slick

It's easy to fall in love with the new V60 Cross Country on a Volvo-designed handling course atop a frozen lake in northern Sweden, where I first tested the car earlier this year. The Cross Country's extra ground clearance means it easily and eagerly blasts over packed snow. And with nicely weighted steering and a throttle that's easy to modulate, I have no trouble hanging the V60's tail out for extended drifts through a long, right-hand sweeper on this Arctic playground.

The Cross Country uses the same all-wheel-drive system as the standard V60 T6, which can split power 50/50 between the front and rear axles, but mostly runs a front-wheel-drive setup in cruising conditions. The only difference is that the Cross Country adds an Off-Road mode to its AWD system, which really just gets you hill descent control. It works a treat on a short, steep slope that takes me from solid ground out to the frozen lake, keeping the V60 Cross Country at a slow-and-steady downward speed even on this slick surface.

It's worth noting that Volvo fitted its European-spec cars with Michelin X-Ice North studded snow tires, which add heaps of traction in these super-slippery conditions. (Studded snow tires aren't legal in some parts of the US, but I can't recommend studless winter rubber enough if you live in a cold-weather state.)

Hoonable ice capades aside, the V60 Cross Country is a relaxed, easygoing cruiser. Along the snowy streets of Luleå, Sweden, the Volvo offers a supple ride, but one that's never floaty or disconnected. The V60 doesn't get the optional rear air suspension of the larger V90 Cross Country, but you honestly don't need it. The standard suspension setup is perfectly fine -- and besides, Volvo says only like 5% of V90 Cross Country buyers opt for the air suspension, anyway.

Splish splash.

Bruce Benedict/Volvo

T5 power is perfectly fine

Every US-spec V60 Cross Country will be powered by Volvo's ubiquitous T5 powertrain, consisting of a 2.0-liter, turbocharged I4 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. No, you can't buy a Cross Country with the V60's more powerful, turbocharged-and-supercharged T6 engine. But you can't buy a standard V60 T5 with all-wheel drive, either.

With 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque on offer, the T5 setup feels just-right in the V60 Cross Country. In fact, I prefer this engine to the more complex T6 and T8 setups in Volvo's other cars. The added power of the V60's T6 engine is nice, but with a turbocharger and a supercharger offering assistance, there are often weird bursts of power in weird places throughout the engine's rev range. Instead, the turbo-only T5 offers predictable punch, achieving maximum torque from 1,800 rpm. The all-wheel-drive V60 Cross Country may have 275 more pounds to lug around than a front-wheel-drive V60 T5, but Volvo says it's only slightly slower when accelerating from a standstill. It hits 62 miles per hour in a respectable 6.8 seconds.

EPA fuel economy data won't be available for a couple more months, but expect the V60 Cross Country to return slightly less than the 24 miles per gallon city, 36 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined ratings of the standard V60 T5. That said, many Roadshow staff members have had trouble hitting the EPA numbers in other T5-equipped Volvos, so as always, your mileage may vary.

This thing has great curb appeal.

Bruce Benedict/Volvo

Comfy and capacious

You can buy a V60 wagon in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription trims, but Volvo says the Cross Country will only come one way. Exact US equipment levels and packaging are still TBD, but European models will have 18-, 19- and 20-inch wheel options. The car you see here rides on 19s, and I think they look great.

Inside, leather seats and metal accents look fantastic in the handsomely designed V60 interior, and a panoramic sunroof lets the light shine in -- helpful on those dreary winter days. I kind of wish the Cross Country were available with the City Weave cloth upholstery like the Momentum-trim V60, but I guess there has to be one bit of imperfection in this package, right?

Because the V60 and Cross Country are dimensionally identical inside, you'll find adequate headroom, and taller drivers didn't register any complaints after driving the Cross Country over the course of two days. Like Volvo's other new cars, the heavily sculpted front seats are as comfy as they are pretty, with support in all the right places. The rear seats offer plenty of room for average-height adults or your precious brood. And when they're folded flat, you've got 50.9 cubic feet of space to haul your whatevers.

Volvo's interiors might all look the same, but you won't hear me complain.

Bruce Benedict/Volvo

Familiar tech, and lots of it

Like in every other new Volvo, infotainment duties are handled by the company's Sensus Connect software, a love-it-or-hate-it system if there ever was one. On one hand, Sensus is beautiful to behold, its 9-inch, portrait-style display offering bright, crisp graphics and colorful displays. I like that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are housed in a separate tile on the Sensus home screen, meaning they don't automatically take over the whole interface.

On the other hand, Sensus' myriad pages are difficult to navigate, and even after countless loans of Volvo products over the years, I still feel like I don't quite have a grasp on where everything lives in the menu structure. A faster processor means Sensus isn't as slow to start up and respond to inputs as it once was, but I still notice some lag. And I like Volvo's 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster enough, but it isn't half as pretty or information-rich as what you'll find in the latest Audi and Mercedes-Benz products.

Being a Volvo, safety tech is in appropriately high supply. Pre-collision braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors and a 360-degree camera are all standard. Volvo will offer its Pilot Assist tech, too, which combines the adaptive cruise control and lane-keep tech for partially autonomous, hands-on-the-wheel driving.

With 8.3 inches of ground clearance, this thing can boldly go where many wagons can't.

Bruce Benedict/Volvo

A little goes a long way

Volvo says the 2020 V60 Cross Country will be available to order in the first quarter of this year, but deliveries won't take place until summer. Like the standard V60, the Cross Country will be available at all Volvo dealers -- it won't be an order-only affair like the V90 wagon. Pricing hasn't been released just yet, but I'll bet the V60 Cross Country comes in right around $45,000. A front-wheel-drive V60 T5 starts at $38,900, and the Cross Country will offer a little more in the way of standard equipment.

The V60 Cross Country's closest competitor is the Audi A4 Allroad, which starts at $45,700. A Buick Regal TourX, meanwhile, starts just under $30,000, but it isn't half as nice inside as either of its European counterparts. Volvo's larger XC60 crossover is a more functional alternative and it overlaps the Cross Country in price. But come on, you don't just want to be another anonymous part of the crossover-SUV set, do you?

Besides, that's what I like best about Volvo's Cross Country models: They're different. The V60 is arguably the best example of the Cross Country package yet -- it's nicer to drive than the bigger V90, and I think it looks better, too. It might not be too different from a standard V60 wagon, but that's because the V60 is a hell of a strong foundation on which to build. All it takes is a little more ride height and some tough-guy style. The Cross Country updo makes Volvo's V60 more appealing than ever.

Originally published Feb. 5.
Update, Aug. 28:
Adds new photos.

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