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First drive: Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.

First drive: Volvo S60 Cross Country
Volvo dares to be different with saloon S60 off-roader.

   



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Volvo S60 Cross Country

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A daring move by Volvo, as the Swedish firm applies its Cross Country know-how gleaned from countless rugged estate models to its S60 saloon. There's nothing wrong with the execution, especially when it is fitted with the excellent Drive-E powertrain, but a front-wheel drive, off-road-looking saloon? Is this a niche too far...?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Volvo S60 Cross Country D4 Lux Nav manual
Pricing: from 33,695; car as tested 38,195
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 111g/km (VED Band C, 0 year one, 30 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 67.3mpg
Top speed: 130mph
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
Power: 190hp at 4,250rpm
Torque: 400Nm from 1,750- to 2,500rpm

What's this?

Another of those high-riding, plastic-clad, rough and tumble four-wheel drive estate ca... no! Wait! This one's a saloon! That's right, Volvo - a company that brought us the V70 XC way back in 1998, making it one of the first to enter this road-car-meets-SUV crossover segment - has decided to chance its arm on making a four-door S60 with pretensions of go-anywhere ability. To that end, we have the visual memes we've already stated: there's dark coloured plastic clothing the wheel arches of the S60 Cross Country's body; underslung skid plates sit centre front and rear of the Volvo; it has a ride height considerably higher than your common or garden S60, because it's 65mm taller; the front grille is a special honeycomb shape; and, er... it's front-wheel drive. Ah.

That is because, even on this launch, Volvo's spokespeople admitted this car is a gamble. To that end, it has a more limited engine and trim line-up than its V60 Cross Country estate sibling, which will hit showrooms at the same time. You can have the S60 with four-wheel drive (badged D4 AWD), but that means the S60 Cross Country ends up with the old 2.4-litre, five-cylinder turbocharged engine and six-speed Geartronic auto transmission. It has the same 190hp as this front-wheel drive model yet the outgoing, outmoded drivetrain architecture and extra weight means it emits 149g/km CO2 and returns just 49.6mpg.

Far better to go for the 'regular' D4 model, which gets the new 2.0-litre Drive-E engine, mated to either a six-speed manual or a fresh eight-speed Geartronic auto (120g/km, 61.4mpg). However, unless the car is on the new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) chassis - and the only Volvo that is at the moment is the new XC90 - then four-wheel drive and Drive-E cannot be teamed up. Meaning you're left with a two-wheel drive 'soft-roader'. Saloon. OK, it's guaranteed segment-leading status, as it's in a class of one. But... really?

As Lux Nav is the only trim available for the S60 Cross Country, an appealing cabin with leather sports seats, navigation and pretty much any toy you can think of is provided, and one area where the S60 Cross Country (and the V60 Cross Country too) really scores highly is in the driving position. Some of these crossover vehicles have only marginally higher ride heights than the standard car on which they're based, leaving you feeling as if you're not in anything different to the norm. That 65mm hike for the S60, though, makes it feel almost as tall from behind the wheel as the XC60 'proper' SUV, which guarantees the Cross Country excellent visibility, although we'd have liked Volvo to do a bit more with the cabin aesthetics to mark the Cross Country out from any other S60.

Anyway, enough prevaricating - does this crackpot idea from Sweden prove to be a visionary move that mere mortal minds like ours cannot understand?

How does it drive?

The Drive-E engine and gearbox are a delight. We've said it before and we'll say it again about Volvo's determination to go to a range of super-, turbo-, and super- and turbocharged engines with a maximum capacity of 2.0 litres spread across four cylinders - it's a stroke of genius. Whenever you sample a Drive-E Volvo, it immediately renders any of the company's older mechanicals archaic and the same is true of the S60 Cross Country D4. Driven alongside a V60 Cross Country with the five-pot unit, it's streets ahead in terms of refinement and consumption.

The S60 makes hardly any noise, even during hefty bouts of acceleration, and driven around a mixed route of Cotswolds A-roads and lanes - frequently snarled up with holiday traffic - it managed to return a genuine 50mpg or thereabouts. Deeply impressive. The six-speed manual is superb, so clean of throw and precise, and you'll be surprised how weighty and informative the S60 Cross Country's steering is.

There is a more comfort-focused ride/handling balance, as there's quite a bit of lean from the Cross Country on that tall suspension. It does grip and grip hard, but you have to work through a fair amount of body movement prior to the suspension fully loading up. The pay-off is a ride that is appreciably smoother and more supple than that on a regular S60, which is a comfy car as it is. For that reason alone, the S60 Cross Country is worth consideration - it floats over bumps and imperfections in a magnificently serene display, yet body control is strong enough that the car doesn't feel bouncy.

Verdict

So the S60 Cross Country is well-engineered and reasonably appealing on the aesthetic front inside and out. A success, then? Well, no. While there's nothing wrong with it dynamically, it remains a car where we wonder who's going to buy it. Volvo has set itself a sales target that, on the face of it, looks modest, of just 100 units annually (compares to 850 for the V60 Cross Country). As good as the S60 Cross Country is, even 100 looks optimistic. And as it has a restricted range compared to the V60 Cross Country (from 30,195), its starting price of 33,000 does not look conspicuous value, especially when our loaded-up car started knocking on the door of forty grand.

Nevertheless, there's a contrary part of us that revels in cars like this, as they prove that the automotive companies' bean-counters don't always get their way. Sometimes, the engineers and designers force something through that really has no right to exist in the first place. The S60 Cross Country is one of those cars that's destined to sell in extremely low numbers, but it might join an oddball collective of similarly off-kilter machines, both past and present, which go on to enjoy cult used-car status: things like the Hyundai Genesis, or the Volkswagen Passat W8, or the Lancia Thema 8.32. So we love it. But we really can't recommend it over either a regular S60 or the far more sensible and useful V60 Cross Country.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 15 Aug 2015



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2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.

2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.



2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country. Image by Volvo.
 






 

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