Volvo claims it invented the concept of the off-road estate when it added four-wheel-drive to the V70, jacked up the suspension and added tough lower-body cladding, creating the V70 XC.
Subaru will tell it got there first with the Legacy-based Outback, but let’s not split hairs. In the last 20 years, estates with SUV styling cues and a bit of off-road ability have become hugely popular.
Volkswagen Group is the most prolific exponent of the genre, currently producing six variations on the theme across its brands. But Volvo is expanding its portfolio, too, adding the V60 Cross Country to the range.
It’s not quite as rufty-tufty as the bigger XC70, a long-time favourite of farmers. The ride height is raised 65mm, giving a bit of extra ground clearance for rough road work and an appreciably higher driving position. Plus there’s extra cladding around the wheelarches, side sills and under the bumpers.
Really, though, it’s more for urbanites who want a biggish family car with a bit of SUV style and that high driving position, but for whatever reason don’t want a proper SUV.
Those would-be SUV buyers should be happy on the style front. The V60 is one of the better looking mid-size estates and the Cross Country additions don’t spoil it. The interior remains as good as ever, too. The liberal covering of buttons show the car’s age, but there’s no denying they’re easier to navigate around than most touchscreen systems. And the frameless rear view mirror is a work of genius.
Our test car had the entry-level D3 diesel engine, a rather remarkable motor. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit produces a relatively modest 148bhp and 256lb/ft of torque, but it feels much stronger than that, especially in the mid-range. Volvo claims 67mpg; we managed 48mpg without really trying so 50-plus should be easily achievable.
The manual gearbox proved annoying, with a lot of clutch travel and a lever placed too far back. We don’t often recommend the optional automatic over the manual, but we do here. It changes smoothly and suits the laid back engine. Our car didn’t have four-wheel-drive, either, which eliminates the off-road ability the styling implies it has.
Handling isn’t exactly involving, but the steering is accurate and the suspension controlled. The extra height doesn’t introduce much noticeable extra body roll, but has made the ride a bit too stiff. It’s no worse than the V60 R-Design, but rivals from Skoda and Subaru are more supple.
Those rivals have a lot more space, as well. The V60 CC has a fairly cramped back seat and just 430 litres of boot space (1241l with the rear seats folded). By contrast, the VW Passat Alltrack has 639l/1769l of space.
The aforementioned Passat and Outback offer more space and four-wheel-drive for the same money, but the Volvo V60 Cross Country is still an interesting, stylish option.
Volvo V60 Cross Country 2.0 D3 SE Nav
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual; front-wheel-driev
Power/Torque: 148bhp; 256lb/ft
Economy/Emissions: 67.3mpg; 111g/km
Top speed: 127mph
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By Only Motors