Wagon on tiptoes
THE GOOD
  • Wagon looks, wagon practicality
  • Cheaper than the Germans
  • Standard all-wheel drive
THE BAD
  • Only one engine option
  • Extra ride height is just for show
  • Fussy infotainment system
2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country Review

A wagon by any other name, the 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country puts on its pretend-crossover duds and sits wider and higher off the ground than its standard V60 cousin. That’s it. That’s the only difference. Whether this makes it more or less appealing depends entirely on your perspective.

Styling: 8/10

Volvo’s post-millennium wagons have always been graceful in appearance, and the V60 Cross Country is no exception. It’s a carbon copy of the regular V60‘s long roof lines, with the addition of plastic cladding over the wheel wells and along the rocker panels. It’s also riding on a suspension system that gives it 211 mm (8.3 in) of ground clearance, and a front and rear track that has been pushed out so its 19-inch wheels better fill its fenders, beefing up its character in the face of more rugged-looking SUV rivals.

Inside, the car’s digital gauge cluster and large central screen clean up the control surfaces and keep things visually simple and smooth across the dashboard. It’s a pleasing and inoffensive cabin, with a few Volvo quirks we’ll get to later when looking at its feature set.

Safety: 8/10

There was once a time when the Volvo name was synonymous with safety. While modern technology may have democratized advanced passenger protection across almost every brand, Volvo still makes an effort to stand out with a gaggle of driver assistance features. It’s worth noting that much of this gear is included in the price, which isn’t always the case when shopping premium brands.

The inclusion of features such as automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and lane-keeping assistance is welcome. If you want more, you need to step up to either the Premier Plus package, which adds adaptive cruise control and parking assist, or the Premier package, which adds blind-spot monitoring. It’s odd that blind-spot monitoring isn’t included alongside Pilot Assist, or that all safety features aren’t grouped in the same package, but rather bundled with other luxury items. All told, you’ll be paying an extra $5,000 to fully equip the Volvo with watchful electronic eyes.

Keep in mind that some of these systems work better than others. It’s not always easy to tell whether Volvo’s adaptive cruise control system – which is intended to self-steer with the driver’s hands on the wheel – is active or not, as the coloured icons indicating its status are buried in a corner of the driver’s display. This can lead to situations where the vehicle is still keeping up with the flow of traffic but no longer staying in its own lane, which you only discover once it has strayed.

Volvo recalled every 2019 and 2020 model for software updates to its automatic braking feature earlier this year, due to an issue where obstacles were not detected by the forward-facing system.

Features: 8/10

Most of what comes standard with the Volvo V60 Cross Country is comparable to its German luxury rivals. You get a large, wagon-appropriate sunroof, a power tailgate, and heated leather seats, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – some of which you’d have to dip into the options sheet to score at BMW or Audi.

Options exist in the Volvo world, too, of course. Although LED headlights are included, you’ll have to snag the Premier Plus package to get them to turn with the steering wheel, or to add fog lights. This package also includes a drive mode selector so you can swap between frugal and furious transmission programs. The Premier package is a little more comfort-oriented, as it includes a larger gauge cluster for the driver, a heated steering wheel and heated seats in the rear of the vehicle, and four zones of automatic climate control.

User Friendliness: 6/10

Remember those Volvo quirks mentioned earlier? You’ll most often brush up against them when interacting with the V60 Cross Country’s infotainment system or drive modes. The centre stack’s enormous touchscreen can be confusing to use, with menus and submenus sliding in from the sides, bottom, and top of the LCD real estate. Fonts are often small and not easy to parse, and I would have preferred a knob or buttons for the climate controls rather than having to dig through Volvo’s interface.

Starting and stopping the car is quirky, too, with a console-mounted starter that you twist to the right to start and... twist to the right again to stop. My tester was also equipped with the Drive Mode selector, which is best described as a dimpled chrome roller set just behind the ignition toggle. Push to activate, then scroll to the drive mode you want.

Practicality: 9/10

Wagons – even those disguised as crossovers, like the V60 Cross Country or Subaru Outback – are among the best at combining a pleasing driving experience with excellent utility. This Volvo’s 1,441 L of cargo capacity with the rear seats folded puts it on par with the average small SUV, but what I liked most about it was the enormous opening at the rear that makes it easy to stack packages, tools, and sports equipment inside the vehicle. There’s also a button on the tailgate that will close it and then automatically lock the doors, so you can walk away with an armful of gear and not have to reach into your pocket for the fob.

If you’re one of the rare few who would consider taking the Cross Country, well, cross-country, then the additional ground clearance offered should make short work of rutted roads or an open field. Without any underbody armouring, however, serious off-roading is a bad idea. Think cottage access and snow fording instead of mud pit shenanigans and you get the gist of what Volvo’s trying to accomplish with the car.

Comfort: 8/10

Lifting up the Volvo V60’s suspension hasn’t had a negative impact on its quiet cabin, or the way it absorbs rougher stretches of asphalt. The Cross Country was composed over Montreal’s pockmarked, construction-choked streets. Niceties such as multiple settings for the heated seats and even the steering wheel’s warmer are appreciated, and both the forward and rear positions offer the kind of comfort and visibility that helps prevent feelings of claustrophobia on longer trips.

My only complaint was an automatic climate control system that seemed to have trouble keeping up with the summer’s heat, and I often had to roll down the window to try and get more of a breeze inside the car when travelling at speed.

Power: 7/10

Perhaps the biggest difference between the V60 Cross Country and its two siblings – the V60 wagon and the larger XC60 crossover – is that it’s only available with a single drivetrain. Lacking the choices found elsewhere in the Volvo lineup, the Cross Country’s T5 trim is limited to a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine that produces 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are also included.

This is a perfectly adequate amount of power – no more, no less – and it’s delivered in a relatively smooth fashion. The Volvo doesn’t leap forward with authority when the pedal is floored, but it can pass when it needs to, and the engine never feels overtaxed.

Driving Feel: 7/10

Yes, it’s weird to drive a slightly wider, somewhat taller version of another car. That being said, I never really found myself noticing any impact of the additional ride height, whether on the highway or tooling around town. While it’s certainly not a sporty vehicle, the V60 Cross Country didn’t roll over to the side any more than a V60 wagon would in tighter corners, which made the “crossover” aspect of the vehicle’s suspension setup more of a wash for me. I didn’t take the car off-road, and, as mentioned earlier, I don’t think anyone ever will (or should).

One frustrating aspect of the V60 Cross Country’s driving experience was the automatic engine stop-start system. I couldn’t easily find a way to deactivate it, which meant the motor’s constant on/off behaviour at stoplights was somewhat of an annoyance. The option to do so is buried inside the massive infotainment system’s millions of lines of code, but parsing through those menus every time you climb behind the wheel would get old fast. Please add a button on the console, Volvo, preferably in place of the brake-hold button that I thought was the start-stop disabler during my first three days with it.

Fuel Economy: 7/10

The Volvo V60 Cross Country’s fuel efficiency is officially rated at 10.8 L/100 km in the city and 7.7 L/100 km on the highway. This is less efficient than what you’d find in a front-wheel-drive version of the V60 T5, and behind the average for a non-luxury crossover of similar size (albeit with less power). I saw in the neighbourhood of 15.0 L/100 km in mostly city driving.

Value: 6/10

Premium cars like the Volvo V60 Cross Country aren’t really about value. Instead, they focus on providing a specific experience at a price point that conveys at least a little status to the buyer. It’s hard to tell what level of brand equity Volvo has built in the luxury segment in Canada, but given that it offers more wagons and wagon-like models than any other automaker, it’s on a short list if this is your body style of choice.

At a base price of just under $50,000 – with another 10 per cent on top of that if you want all of its available equipment – the Volvo comes in just under rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz, and only the latter two provide you with a similarly sized wagon equivalent. Load up the options on any German-sourced crossover/wagon, and you’ll quickly leave the V60 Cross Country’s bottom line behind.

The Verdict

Volvo has targeted “lifestyle” buyers who are on the fence about a true crossover with its long-running Cross Country model. If you absolutely need your wagon to be taller than your neighbour’s, then the Cross Country trim is for you. If you want more choice in terms of what’s under the hood, a regular V60 – which is also offered with all-wheel drive – is a better choice.

Wagon on tiptoes 7/22/2020 6:30:00 AM

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 2.0L   Model Tested 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD
Engine Cylinders I4 Turbo   Base Price $48,900
Peak Horsepower 250 hp @ 5,500 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm   Destination Fee $2,015
Fuel Economy 10.8/7.7/9.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $61,015
Cargo Space 656 / 1,441 L seats down  
Optional Equipment
$10,000 – Premier Plus package, $2,550; Premier package, $2,600; Harman Kardon sound system, $1,200; Metallic Paint, $900; Leather, $1,500; Charcoal headliner, $250; 19” wheels, $1,000