For as long as I can remember, the Volvo Estate car has always been a thing of sensibility, of comfort, and of course, safety. These days I’d have to add desirability to that list of qualities as it seems that Volvo can do no wrong on the design front. The Volvo S60 is already a robust alternative to the evergreen BMW 3 Series, while its V60 estate is equally impressive. But for those who do leave slightly more outdoorsy lives, this Cross Country variant is sure to impress.
It wears a more rugged-looking exterior design, with black plastic cladding surrounding the base of the car and continuing around the wheel arches. This cladding does help protect the paint in places but also emphasises the lifted appearance of the car. An increase of 60mm in ride height provides additional ground clearance, placing it easily on a par with most other crossovers and some SUVs.
On the practical front, the estate body provides ample amounts of cargo capacity, with 529 litres available before you have to consider lowering the rear seats down. For those trips to Swedish flat-pack furniture stores, those rear seats can drop to increase the load volume to 1,441 litres - all very useful, as is the electrically operated tailgate. Should you need more, the Cross Country also comes equipped with roof rails for affixing bike carriers or roof boxes.
Aside from its ability to swallow up all your stuff, the rest of the interior is every bit the high quality finish that you’d expect from Volvo these days. It is comfortably on the same level as upmarket rivals like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, all of which also offer estate body styles in their respective ranges. However, Audi is the only one to offer a rugged variant like the Volvo.
The look and feel of the cabin is a near-replica of the massive V90 and includes the same 12.3-inch digital instrument display. Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system is quite slick to use, and the touchscreen display reacts as quickly as any top-end tablet would. A further boon for tech-savvy folk is the inclusion of Android Auto and Apple Carplay, enabling seamless smartphone integration at all times.
Of more importance is Volvo’s driver assistance features, including what it calls Pilot Assist. Not to be confused with any form of self-driving or autonomous driving, the Pilot Assist is more like a smart combination of adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist. It helps to maintain the car in a central position within its lane and while ensuring a safe distance is kept from the vehicle in front. Having tried numerous systems that provide similar features, the Volvo is by far one of the best out there. It works very well and isn’t overly intrusive. Furthermore, the car is excellent at detecting and warning of any potential risks, adding to the strong sense of safety that has long been a virtue of Volvo cars.
Reinforcing the go-anywhere image is Volvo’s competent all-wheel-drive transmission that helps to provide ample levels of traction in less-than-ideal ground conditions. The ‘D4’ power unit is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel that produces an output of 187bhp and generates 400Nm of torque, both of which are more than adequate to move the Volvo at a comfortable pace.
It may come as a surprise to some, but the handling characteristics of the Volvo V60 Cross Country are right up there at the very sharp end of the segment. The car has a steering and suspension setup that is better than above average, with the former delivering a quick and direct feel that encourages you to tackle corners and bends with greater enthusiasm. It doesn’t have what I would call a hugely engaging degree of feedback, but the steering is at least consistent in how it feels and ensures that you have confidence in what the front axle is doing. Despite the increase in ride height, overall body control is satisfactory, and there isn’t as much lateral roll though bends as you may expect. Equally, it does an excellent job and soaking up surface imperfections, while on rougher rural roads it ensures a comfortably smooth ride.
That ride comfort combined with the efficiency of Volvo’s diesel engine and the eight-speed automatic transmission can also transform the V60 Cross Country into, well, a perfect car to cross a country in. In top gear and at motorway cruising speeds the diesel engine isn’t too vocal, and the cabin is reasonably insulated from road noise. Demand more from the engine at lower speeds, and it can sound strained at times. But where the Volvo begins to truly shine is when you end up much further away from civilisation, as I discovered during a recent break when I had the car. Exploring more remote locations in the countryside where the roads become increasingly smaller and well maintained, the Volvo never once faltered in its progress. Even as the weather turned particularly nasty and driving conditions worsened, the V60 seemed to relish the challenging environment.
There is both Hill Descent Control and an Off-Road mode at your disposal should you want to get even further off the beaten track, though even on unpaved sections of forest tracks I never had to switch from the default drive mode, thanks to the ability of the all-wheel-drive system. With its raised height there are approach/departure/breakover angles of 17/18/23 degrees respectively. At the same time, the Volvo’s ability to wade through 300mm of water will no doubt leave you questioning why you’d even need to consider a larger, bulkier SUV. Many cars claim to be great all-rounders, but a long seven days behind the wheel of the Volvo V60 Cross Country, in all manner of conditions, proved that this is most certainly one of those cars.
Model: Volvo V60 Cross Country D4 AWD
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel
Power: 187bhp at 4,250rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750-2,500rpm
0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
Max speed: 130mph
WLTP fuel consumption: 42.8-47.9mpg
WLTP CO2: 143g/km