Safety: That’s generally the first word that comes to mind when someone drops the name “Volvo” in casual conversation. That, or perhaps suburban driveways lined with blocky Swedish station wagons or SUVs. It’s certainly not a bad connotation, to be sure, but with the new Volvo V60 Cross Country, the company is out to show that the brand has more depth than many might realize.
Volvo’s no stranger to rugged vehicles, by any means. The XC70 has long been a significant part of the company’s automotive roster, and there have been other soft-roader vehicles in the automaker’s portfolio that we don’t necessarily see here in the States. But the V60 Cross Country, which will make its in-person debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, will be significant in that it renews its commitment to fight the likes of the Audi Allroad.
As far as luxury off-roaders go, there isn’t a whole lot to choose from, especially in North America. There’s your usual slate of Land Rovers and there’s the aforementioned Allroad, as well as the Lexus LX, which is built on the Toyota Land Cruiser platform. But for smaller vehicles, it comes down to the Audi, essentially, and that’s about it; Volvo wants a piece of that pie.
Built on the gorgeous V60 wagon that hit showrooms earlier this year, the Cross Country allows for some better prowess when there isn’t asphalt involved — or when it’s entirely shrouded by frozen white substances. But don’t think that this is merely a station wagon with some additional body cladding: Volvo has massaged in additional features to ensure it’s as capable as the SUVs that normally adorn the backroads.
“With ground clearance increased 65mm [about 2.6 inches] compared to the V60, the Cross Country’s sturdy construction offers unparalleled control on and off the beaten track, coupled with an enhanced sporty driving experience thanks to torque vectoring technology and corner traction control. The V60 Cross Country really is a getaway car — enabling an adventurous lifestyle in pure rugged form,” said Lex Kerssemakers, the strategic vice president of Volvo.
The segment that the new V60 will be playing in is sort of an interesting one. It takes dedicated fans to bring their expensive luxury vehicles off-road, where they risk damaging the paint, denting the rims, cracking the body work here and there, and — this goes without saying — making a complete mess of the outside of the car. The XC70, which is larger, is in a similar position: It’s a $40,000-plus car that’s meant to be treated like a Subaru.
That will be the V60 Cross Country’s challenge: finding owners committed enough to use the car as intended but who don’t necessarily want to bring the dirt with them inside. Subaru built its name on cars for people who spend most of their time outside, and as a result, their vehicles feel downright washable, inside and out. But Volvo is moving upscale, into a segment where eating in the car is frowned upon.
That’s not to say it can’t be done, as Audi is finding out with the Allroad. Like the other new Volvos, the car is gorgeous. Its additional off-road parts — the plastic side moldings — don’t feel intrusive in the least, and everything, in true Scandinavian design tradition, has been done minimally and tastefully. Largely, it looks like the V60, but more able and capable. Because it is.
There’s a new skid plate for both the front and back, extra scuff plates on the sides, and the exhaust ports have been maneuvered to slot into the rear bumper to protect the tips from damage. However, Volvo’s engineering took the car several steps further in making the Cross Country truly ready for less-than-desirable (or sought after) road conditions — there are hill descent controls and thicker tires to reduce road noise and help reach its rugged ambitions.
“We are delighted to add the third true Cross Country model to our product portfolio. The successful combination of dynamic styling and rugged capability places the V60 Cross Country in a class of its own,” Kerssemakers said.
The car will be made available early next year and presumably arrive in the U.S. with the company’s 250-horsepower, five-cylinder engine mated to an automatic and all-wheel drive. Don’t expect superb fuel economy numbers — we’ll probably be looking at about 23 miles per gallon combined, on par with the Allroad.
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