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A car or truck doesn't have to be the best in every measure to be highly desirable. The 2021 Volvo V60 Cross Country isn't the most versatile vehicle available today, nor is it the quickest, fanciest or best equipped. But man, it's a terrific all-around package, one that feels like more than the sum of its Scandinavian parts.
Riding about 2.5 inches taller than the V60 wagon (with a generous 8.3 inches of ground clearance) and fitted with standard all-wheel drive as well as hill-descent control, the Cross Country is designed for mild off-roading, to get you up that icy driveway or across a meadow to your favorite fishing spot. Special wheel-arch trim and exterior moldings provide a more robust look and are a nod to that enhanced capability. You might think these injection-molded add-ons would spoil a beautiful design, but the Cross Country is just as pretty and elegantly proportioned as the standard V60.
But unlike its lower-riding stablemante (which is available with a potent plug-in hybrid powertrain), the V60 Cross Country is only offered with one engine, a 2.0-liter turbo-four that belts out 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Smooth, servile and nearly silent, this little dynamo nonetheless provides plenty of giddy-up and an estimated 0-to-60-mph time of 6.4 seconds.
This Volvo's engine is backed by an incisive eight-speed automatic transmission that's as smooth as sandwich spread -- except when it's cold, then it's a bit slow to shift. Fortunately, this sluggishness disappears once the drivetrain thaws out. Speaking of warmth, for what it's worth, the V60 Cross Country has the quickest-acting steering-wheel heater I've ever experienced, and the butt-warmers are similarly effective.
Driven in frigid Midwestern weather with plenty of winter precipitation, this Volvo is a capable steed, never losing its footing or causing me to second-guess its poise. Get overzealous with the accelerator and it will go playfully sideways on snow or ice before the stability-control system gently intervenes to get you pointed in the right direction.
The V60 Cross Country's steering is light to the touch but still reasonably precise. A bit more front-wheel feedback would be nice, as would softer springs. The ride is certainly well controlled, but I find it a lot stiffer than it needs to be. At least somewhat offsetting the stony ride is this Volvo's posh cabin. The front seats are supremely comfortable and for an extra $500 can give you a gentle massage. The backseat also offers plenty of passenger space, at least for the outboard riders; anyone relegated to the middle position will have to contend with a large hump in the floor.
Aside from its annoyingly wide sills that streak your pant legs with dirt if you're not careful when disembarking and the cheap-feeling, non-extending sun visors, the rest of this V60 Cross Country's cabin is sumptuous. This example's beautiful, brown Nappa leather and laminated, open-pore wood accents look richer than an aristocrat's study. The $2,800 Lounge Package also gets you a stitched dashboard cover, four-zone climate control, ventilated front seats and a few other niceties. If things feel a bit too cozy, just retract the standard panoramic sunroof's shade to let a little light shine in. This interior's overall design is generally warmer and friendlier than what you get from German automakers these days, though some of the tech could be improved.
Volvo's familiar Sensus Connect infotainment system is as intricate as it's ever been. And even though it seems noticeably snappier on this Cross Country's 9-inch touchscreen than I've come to expect, it's still not my favorite multimedia array. Thankfully, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, though they do show up a bit small on the portrait display since it's so tall and narrow. Augmenting that panel is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that's reconfigurable but always seems a bit washed out.
When it comes to safety and driver-assistance features, this is a Volvo, so, yeah, there's plenty. The usual goodies like lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring are all standard and work pretty much seamlessly. Full-LED exterior lighting is also included at no extra charge. Beyond all that, this V60 Cross Country is also fitted with Pilot Assist, Volvo's adaptive cruise-control system with lane centering. It comes bundled along with a head-up display, a 360-degree camera and a wireless phone charger in the $1,900 Advanced Package. This ever-attentive cruise-control system smoothly regulates the Cross Country's speed relative to other traffic, though the lane-centering could be improved. Occasionally it gets confused and will tug back and forth on the steering wheel, which is a bit unnerving.
Stick to the highway where Pilot Assist is in its element and the V60 Cross Country should return 31 miles per gallon. Around town, it's rated at 22 mpg and combined it should deliver 25. In mixed use, I've been averaging around 24 mpg, which is not too shabby considering the cold weather.
Even though Volvo is not the only automaker to offer a lifted station wagon, the V60 Cross Country is kind of in a class of its own. The lovely Audi A6 Allroad and new Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain are a riff on the same formula, though they're bigger, more powerful and really a better rival to Volvo's own V90 Cross Country. Still, it's conceivable buyers might cross-shop these German offerings with the smaller V60 Cross Country, and if they do, they'll find it significantly more affordable. As tested, this example checks out for $57,290 including $995 in delivery fees, a figure that also incorporates a smattering of options, by far the priciest of which is the $4,000 Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system. Eschew any extras and you can take one of these elevated station wagons home for less than $47,000, around 20 grand less than an entry-level Allroad or All-Terrain.
The 2021 Volvo V60 Cross Country may not excel in any particular area, but it's still beautiful and upscale, offers plenty of features and is pleasant to drive. With ample comfort, enhanced versatility and Swedish good taste, it's proof you don't have to be the best to be a winner.