Review: 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country
A better CUV.
THE PROS & CONS
- What's Good: Good interior space, zippy powertrain, looks inside and out
- What's Bad: vague steering, busy infotainment
Believe it or not, it’s possible to take something as rare as a station wagon (rare in Canada and the US, anyway) and make it even rarer – and I don’t mean giving it bonkers power like the Audi RS6, or weird portal axles like that E Class All-Terrain thingy they did a couple of years back. Having said that: what Volvo has done with the vehicle you see here is kind of like that Mercedes, in that this particular Volvo wagon – the V60 Cross Country – is designed with a little more exploration in mind.
With its plastic rocker panels and fenders (tough to see against my tester’s black paint), specialized AWD system and hill-descent control, it joins rarefied air occupied by pretty much just one other car in Canada, and that’s the Audi A4 Allroad Quattro. These are what some might call the wagon’s last stand against the CUV hordes; wagons that are meant to be used pretty much exactly like most CUVs are. It’s also a segment that Volvo’s contested for quite some time going all the way back to the V70 XC back in 1998. To show just how serious they are, Volvo has a bigger sibling to the V60 in the form of the V90 Cross Country.
It is a good look for the V60. Indeed, the model is a looker to begin with and the extra additions seen here kick things up a notch in the uniqueness department. One can easily picture one of these with a roof box or ski rack on top, ready to tackle whatever its weekend warrior owner is thinking of throwing at it. You get increased ride height over the standard V60 and AWD as standard as well as hill-descent control, which is not something you’re going to see all too often in the compact car world. In fact, this may be the only vehicle in the compact car world – in Canada, at least – that gets a hill-descent control system. Guess they’re pretty serious about drivers off-roading this thing, hey?
While they may not be doing a whole lot of that, most any driver will likely be plenty satisfied with the power on-tap, even though there’s only one option for the CC trim, which starts as a V60 T5: a 2.0L turbo four good for 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, fed to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. There are no paddle shifters, though, which is a bit of a shame. While those numbers aren’t sky-high by any means, the hp count is on-par with the Audi, though the German does add almost 20 more torques to the equation. It’s more about how this particular powertrain makes the V60 CC drive overall – but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Inside, there aren’t any changes over a standard V60, but I do like the “City Weave Textile” seat upholstery (most will likely just refer to it as “plaid”) in my tester as it somehow adds a little more “Swedish-ness” to the proceedings. Hard to explain exactly why, but all I know is that the material wouldn’t look out of place adorning some trendy couch cushions in an Ikea catalogue. When you’re in a somewhat funky car like this, well, why the heck not? Plus, you still get those neat little Swedish flag tags popping from the seatback seams and Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system, complete with the vertically-aligned 9” touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are also here, but they don’t take up the entire display, which allows for quicker access to the native system and the various features housed within such as the climate controls, navigation and driver aids. I like this, though you’d think that with a screen that’s aligned like an iPad, why not have CarPlay take up all the real estate? I think it’s because most in-car infotainment systems are a horizontal affair, and these apps are developed to work in that alignment.
The other issue I take with the system is the driver-aid screen. Your blind spot system, lane keep assist and others are all housed on a screen, but the way they’re displayed is just too busy. Even after testing a number of Volvos with Sensus over the years, I still have trouble finding stuff. It’s a little annoying but more than that, it’s distracting while driving.
The rest of the interior is mostly top-notch though, as has become the norm with Volvo today at all levels. My tester didn’t have the top-end “Contour” seats Volvo offers, but the 6-way power adjustable items I did have provided good support and comfort, though I could have used a slightly larger bottom cushion; the Contour seats have a thigh extender there, which would have helped.
Otherwise, it’s a nice serving of brushed aluminum trim, fantastic-sounding (and looking) Harman & Kardon audio system and there’s actually more cargo room and front and rear legroom here than there is in the XC60 CUV. Cargo’s easier to load, too, thanks to the lower liftover height provided by the V60. Ahhhh, the refreshing advantages of choosing a wagon over a crossover. Don’t love how you can only open the pass through between the rear seats from inside the hatch, though. Would like to be able to do that from inside the cabin.
Speaking of advantages: let’s talk about the other big one when it comes to wagons over CUVs – the drive.
As stated before, the power figures aren’t colossal but the way in which the V60 CC deploys that power is right on that mark. A lack of turbo lag and that AWD means that the launch is good, and even after launch, speeds continue to increase with little complaint. The more I thought about it, the best comparison I could think of when it comes to the V60’s powertrain was that of the turbocharged hot hatches that continue to populate the market – think Honda Civic Si or the VW Golf GTI/R twins. Until you look behind you and see more room than in a CUV and realize you’re making forward progress more akin to a smaller vehicle, even though you’re not in one. It’s a great sensation and it’s actually a good amount of fun.
Unfortunately, I can’t quite say the same thing for the handling. The front end is light enough, so it doesn’t feel heavy as you start to wind it through the turns – but there is a distinct lack of communication between the front end and the driver. As I took the V60 CC on one of my favorite handling test routes, I found myself having to correct multiple times through turns, because it’s hard to judge that vague front end enough to know how it’s going to respond to your inputs. It actually led to a hair-raising moment or two as speeds increased, which was replaced by feelings of some frustration at low speeds because the turning radius isn’t spectacular, either. It’s too bad that the handling can’t quite make good on the powertrain’s promises, because that really would be a great 1-2 punch for the CC.
The ride, however, makes up for it a little and indeed, a good ride will probably sway more buyers at this level than sharpened handling. It’s properly luxury-lite in the way it rides, with only the harshest road imperfections causing reverberations in the cabin. It’s a better ride, actually, than the top-spec V60 T8 Polestar Engineered which is the more performance-oriented of the two models.
Which, in the end, is kind of a confusing message from Volvo. On the one hand, wagons – especially AWD wagons – are touted over CUVs for their driveability. In the case of this particular wagon, that’s not quite true because that steering makes it feel bigger than it is.
On the other hand, though, that powertrain remains something to behold and there’s the small detail of having more room inside than the likes of the XC60. So it ticks some boxes – and if we’re honest, its ride, powertrain and interior room are probably higher on the list for most buyers than sports car handling – but not all of them so the argument for it over a more popular CUV is not as clear as it could be.
Having said that, though, I know that I’d still have it over the XC60 in a heartbeat. In fact, I’d have it over its higher-spec T8 sibling, too. It’s just so darn easy to like that the foibles become the kind of quirks you learn to deal with – even celebrate – from something you love. It just pips the Audi Allroad in terms of base price, too.
That, then, is a win for Volvo.
2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country
BODY STYLE: Five-door wagon
CONFIGURATION: Front engine, all-wheel drive
ENGINE: I4 turbo, 250 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque
TRANSMISSION: eight-speed automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 658-1441 litres
PRICING: $40,650 (base); $56,725 (as tested)
WEBSITE: Volvo V60 Cross Country