Review: 2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country
– Vail, Colorado
Once upon a time, Volvo's Cross Country range had the lifted, premium wagon niche all to itself. It was a good time – the XC70 was the only vehicle a freshly promoted executive could replace his Subaru Outback with. But now, beset not just by the growing ranks of crossovers, but by competitors in the very niche Volvo created, the XC70’s spiritual successor, the V60 Cross Country, is facing an uphill battle.
Audi and its A4-based Allroad – not to mention the larger, Europe-only A6 Allroad – is the V60 Cross Country's most natural challenger, but it's not the last. Mercedes-Benz is preparing a high-riding E-Class (that may or may not be coming to North America) If that's successful, a smaller C-Class variant seems like a given. And if Mercedes and Audi are doing a thing, it's only a matter of time before BMW joins, too. Then there are the low-end competitors – while the V60 CC starts at $45,200 (est.), the Subaru Outback does the same darn thing in the mainstream segment and for a lot less dough. And that that presents this question: Riding on a platform that's effectively in its twilight, can the V60 Cross Country continue to tempt mainstream consumers with the idea of a premium offering and stave off the advances of Germany's luxury giants?
- Volvo's long-in-the-tooth, 2.5-litre, turbocharged five-cylinder is dead. In its place is the same turbo-only Drive-E four-cylinder sold with the front-wheel-drive 2016 S60 and V60. While the 240-horsepower, 258-pound-foot 2.0-litre turbo is down 10 hp and 8 lb-ft on the old 2.5-litre, the torque peak is broader, at 1,500 to 4,800 rpm versus 1,800 to 4,200 rpm, and the performance snappier – the Drive-E V60 hits 100 kilometres per hour in 6.8 seconds, while the 2.5 spends 7.0 seconds just running the same. But counterintuitively, the fuel consumption was better on the 2.5.
- The mountain roads around Vail, CO provide some spectacular views, but starting at 2,469 metres (8,100 feet) and climbing well past 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) is tough for any car, even a force-induced vehicle. It’s difficult to get a true sense of how a car will perform at sea level when testing over three kilometres above the ocean, it's safe to say the V60 CC's Drive-E engine coped better with the height better than your breathless author. Since its torque curve is flatter than the plains around Denver International Airport, the 2.0-litre is always able to serve up enough twist to hustle the 1,778 kilogram (3,920-pound) Volvo down the road. And even at altitude, the turbo spools quickly, aiding and abetting the engine's lusty character.
- Volvo dropped the old “Geartronic” six-speed automatic for a new Aisin eight-speed unit. Its relaxed upshifts are very smooth, giving the V60 a refined character under light to moderate acceleration. Dig into the throttle harder, and the transmission is quick enough to respond, dropping to the most appropriate of the eight forward gears. The Aisin autobox also acquits itself on steep hills, holding the appropriate gear without any input from the driver. A clever gearbox, even if it's not the most sporting.
- The driver interfaces (steering wheel, shifter, and seats) are perfectly adequate. Even though the steering wheel is the same unit Volvo's used for years, it looks and feels nice. The seats, meanwhile, are comfortable over extreme long hauls. And the quality is there, too. It feels like a Swedish engineer fawned over every little switch between bites of pickled herring. The window switch and door pull actions feel especially solid and serves as a satisfying reminder that Swedish craftsmanship is much more than affordable flat-pack furniture.
- Yeah, the new Drive-E 2.0-litre makes the V60 quicker and more efficient, but five-cylinder engines are a dying breed and we're still sad about another biting the dust. The old five-cylinder is George Clinton to the Drive-E engine's One Direction – you're trading a fun, offbeat warble for an anonymous four-cylinder note that sounds the same as all the other 2.0Ts running around. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the 2.0T, as we mention above, but come on, bring back the funky engine, Volvo!
- To take a page from our very favorite Swede, Volvo borked the naming scheme for not only its V60 Cross Country, but most of the other vehicles in the 60 Series by dropping the 2.5-litre. Back when car designations made sense, the T5 badge identified cars with the aforementioned 2.5-litre five-cylinder, while Volvo reserved the T6 badge for its 3.2-litre, turbocharged straight-six engine. Now, Volvo's nomenclature is all higgledy-piggledy, like Mercedes or BMW. The T5 is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four. The T6 is also a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, even with a turbocharger and a supercharger. And since the V60 Cross Country doesn't offer a T6 (yet) we aren't really sure why our tester is even wearing a T5 badge.
- There's not a lot Volvo could do here, but we need to point it out all the same – the 60 Series feels old. The centre stack remains a plasticky mess of buttons and the nav screen is difficult to use and depressingly tiny (despite allegedly being seven inches wide) compared to the rest of the dash. And while the tiny touches feel great, the soft-touch plastics on the dash and doors don't stand up in a world of leather-lined cabins and French stitching. Volvo has made efforts to freshen the cabin up, adding a prominent, high-quality display in the instrument cluster, but it's the kind of bandage that can't make up for interior woes that demand a full-scale redesign.
Photos: Brandon Turkus / Motor1.com