| First Drive | Hampshire, England | Volvo V40 Cross Country |
Model tested: Volvo V40 T5 Cross Country SE Lux Nav AWD
Engine: 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, six-speed automatic
Body style: five-door crossover
Rivals: Audi Q3, MINI Countryman John Cooper Works, Nissan Juke Nismo
CO2 emissions: 194g/km
Combined economy: 34.0mpg
Top speed: 146mph
0-62mph: 6.0 seconds
Power: 254hp at 5,400rpm
Torque: 360Nm at 1,800- to 4,200rpm
In the Metal:
Take one rapid Volvo V40, add a raised ride height and chunky contrasting detailing and roof bars and you've got the V40 T5 Cross County. Think of those summer dress wearing music festival goers in Hunter wellingtons and you'll have an idea of what Volvo might have had in mind. Actually, perhaps trackside spectators, as the T5 Cross Country is damned quick and, somewhat inexplicably, the only car in the Volvo V40 Cross Country range to come with four-wheel drive.
The other models in the line-up look much the same, only they make do without the 'AWD' badge on the boot lid and a couple of driveshafts at the rear wheels. The result might be unusual, but it's not without appeal. That's true inside too, Volvo's traditional styling blending with new-found TFT screen trendiness, the one-time standard-bearer for sensible, uncluttered cabins is now a bit more daring, and interesting. Space is decent front and rear, though headroom's not overly generous in the back, and the boot, while a decent size, isn't accessed by a particularly accommodating hatch.
With its somewhat confused brief it wouldn't be surprising to discover a car that came with a number of compromises on the road. The reverse is true. As Volvo admits it'll sell this particular model in infinitesimal numbers, that it exists at all is to be applauded. With an engine that saw service in Ford's Focus RS (albeit in a slightly more aggressive state of tune) the unlikely performance flagship from Volvo has a promising heart. It's a cracking engine, with decent response and the sort of off-balance rambunctious note that's both appealing and full of intent. It's quick, the engine's 254hp and sizeable amount of torque - and its spread - making the T5 very eager indeed.
Not just in a straight line either, as the V40 Cross Country handles rather sweetly. The bumped up ride height that comes courtesy of the Cross Country designation means that, while firm, it rides with decent composure. The steering is pretty alert too, being quick to turn in and offering a touch of feel at its rim. There's no real signal that the four-wheel drive system is divvying up drive front to rear, except for the fact that, almost regardless of how wet, greasy or muddy the road is, the V40 T5 Cross Country gathers pace with little fuss, and indeed, real ease.
That it's fun is the biggest surprise, the real shame here being that, as an auto only, you can't get more involved. The six-speed self-shifter is swift and smooth enough, dropping gears when you're heavy with your right foot, though the lack of paddles does rob it of some driver enjoyment. You could swap gears via the stick, but it feels a bit clumsy doing so. Unlike the rest of the car, which feels really rather sorted. The V40 T5 Cross Country has a whiff of the mature Subaru Impreza about it, only without the wild side and the crappy interior.
What you get for your Money:
You're buying one of the longest badges in the business. Thankfully Volvo doesn't put it all on the car, as V40 T5 Cross Country SE Lux Nav AWD would just look silly. Being a range topper it's difficult not to gulp when asking 'how much', and the answer is 'a whisker under £34,000'. That's before someone at Volvo went a bit mad with the options, bumping our test car up to nearly £40k. We could live without many of them, and doing so wouldn't leave you wanting for much, save the cool instrumentation - so you could add that back in for £350.
This machine heads a range of Cross Country models all based on Volvo's relatively new V40 hatchback. Naturally the biggest sellers will be those powered by smaller diesel engines. The Cross Country add-ons bump up the price - as well as the ride height - by £1,000 over a standard SE or SE Lux model. It's worth paying too, as the Cross Country designation does make the already distinctive V40 stand out a bit more - in our eyes even over the more expensive, low and sporty R-Design version.
Expectations weren't too high for this Frankenstein-conceived machine, but the reality is really rather enjoyable. Quick and composed, the Cross Country name here is more in reference to those sinuous, hedge-lined roads that go between the fields rather than driving straight across them, even with its four-wheel drive and raised ride height.