Our long-term V60 Cross Country: a history lesson

Published: 16 September 2020

Rugged V60 on our fleet
This or an SUV?
Chris Chilton will find out...

The long and winding off-road from the Second World War to the Ikea car park.

Volvo TPV
Volvo builds its first car in 1927, but four-wheel drive isn't on the options list (hell, neither are four-wheel brakes, until 1928). But 17 years later, Volvo's engineers mash together the body of its PV800 saloon with the mechanical guts of its small truck to create the Terrängpersonvagn (literally 'off-road car') or TPV, for the Swedish military.

TPV

PV544
Volvo's hunchback PV isn't four-wheel drive, but it certainly proves its off-road mettle, demolishing strong competition from Mercedes, Citroën, Peugeot and Ford to win 1965's gruelling Safari Rally. The winning team comprises driver Joginder Singh and his brother Jaswant, who wear turbans instead of crash helmets.

PV544

C303
The 'Cross Country' tag makes its first appearance in 1974 on promo material for Volvo's civilian version of its forward-control military truck. Tiny overhangs, portal axles that give it massive ground clearance and an ability to climb an 80 per cent slope make it an off-road weapon. In 1983 a C303 wins the truck class of the Dakar.

C303

V70 XC
The 850 becomes Volvo's first true all-wheel-drive passenger car in 1996, and its first modern crossover arrives a year later when engineers add chunky plastic bumpers and taller springs to the 850's successor, the V70. The idea is cribbed from AMC's 1980 Eagle, but Volvo still beats Audi's A6 Allroad to market by four years.

v70 xc

XC90
The original 2002 XC90 is a massive car for Volvo, in every sense. The company's first true SUV gives the Swedes a serious foothold in the newly exploding tall-premium sector – and more bragging rights over SUV-less Audi, which is behind the curve again, and BMW, whose X5 lacks the XC's third row of seats.

xc90 mk1

V60 XC
While our XC isn't going to win any African rallies, and it's not going to transform Volvo's image, given the choice of this or a C303 for a seven-hour trek from Devon to Norwich, I'll take the V60 XC, thanks. This or a roomier, even more cross-country-ish XC60 for a similar monthly spend, though? We'll take the SUV.

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Volvo V60 Cross Country

Price £40,785 (£48,290 as tested) 
Performance 1969cc 4-cyl diesel, 187bhp, 8.2sec 0-62mph, 130mph 
Efficiency 47.8mpg (official), 34.1mpg (tested), 135g/km CO2 
Energy cost 17.6p per mile 
Miles this month 721
Total miles 3389


Month 3 living with a Volvo V60 Cross Country: backing it up

V60 XC reversing camera

You return to your car at the supermarket to find a large van has parked next to you. With zero visibility of oncoming traffic until you've moved back at least two metres, reversing out is a game of Russian roulette.

But our V60 has two features to make it less terrifying. One is a rear-view camera with a hugely wide field of vision; the other, a rear Cross Traffic Alert system that's part of our car's optional £1600 Drive Assist safety suite.

The audible warning about passing cars and pedestrians is useful, but it escalates to lurchy braking far too early, often when pedestrians are miles from the back of the car.

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Volvo V60 Cross Country

Price £40,785 (£48,290 as tested) 
Performance 1969cc 4-cyl diesel, 187bhp, 8.2sec 0-62mph, 130mph 
Efficiency 47.8mpg (official), 34.1mpg (tested), 135g/km CO2 
Energy cost 17.6p per mile 
Miles this month 149
Total miles 2668


Month 2 living with a V60 Cross Country: SUV or SUV-ish?

This month, Chris is comparing his new V60 Cross Country with his outgoing VW Touareg. You can read earlier VW reports here.

What shape SUV do you fancy this morning? I've been asking myself this question every day for the last couple of months because I've got three 4x4s on the go, though only two of them actually do go (my old CR-V dog/DIY-carrier has a sticky offside front caliper, but the weather's been too grim to tempt me to get the tools out).

But even a van down, between the Volvo V60 and Touareg I've got most eventualities covered. Normally, the departure of one long-term test car dovetails with the arrival of a new one. But Volkswagen kindly let us hang on to the Touareg a little longer so we could compare it with the Volvo taking its place.

We're obviously not suggesting the Touareg and V60 are straightforward rivals (Volvo has the XC90, VW the Passat Alltrack, for that), or that there's much to link them beyond their off-road prowess, be it real or imagined. But it's interesting to note that there's only around £5k between the price of a diesel Cross Country and an entry-level SE Touareg with the diesel engine. That gap grows closer to £20k when the Touareg in question is in fancy R-Line trim like ours.

Neither car is really likely to spend much time scrambling up farm tracks, though if it came to it, my money would be on the VW getting to the top first – provided it didn't pick up another pricey puncture on the way.

While both give you more ground clearance than regular saloon cars – the Cross Country's floorpan is raised 60mm over a regular V60's, and it also gets hill-descent control – only the Touareg offers an air suspension option allowing you to lift it further clear of obstacles.

That air kit's not cheap, mind, at £1685, or £2370 if you combine it with the rear axle steering that makes a huge difference to the urban manoeuvrability of what is a large vehicle.

There's no four-wheel steering on the V60, and none needed, either. It has a great turning circle, and the Volvo's compact dimensions mean it's definitely the preferred option for a sortie that involves scything through my local narrow Devon lanes. It pulls off the neat trick of being huge on the inside (generous rear-seat space; 529-litre boot) without feeling big on the outside. If there's a downside, it's that despite that extra 60mm of ground clearance, the driving position is still very much car-like. Because, of course, the Cross Country is a car in SUV fancy dress, not an SUV.

Which ought to pay dividends on the road, but it's not that clear cut. The Touareg weighs a solid 2070kg, but is related to the Porsche Cayenne, remember. And with its optional air suspension and adaptive dampers, a twist of the DCC does a great job of firming things up. In fact, because the ride's not particularly great even in the Comfort setting, I often drive it in Sport just to nix any body heave.

V60 CC LTT badge

The Volvo, on the other hand, while lighter, still weighs a massive 1862kg. Its body control is just about acceptable in normal driving, but becomes comically soggy if you try to up the pace. And because the suspension comprises traditional steel coils and passive dampers, there's no way to sharpen it up. Combine that with overlight steering, a sluggish gearshift map and no shift paddles on the wheel and you've got a car that's most definitely not cut out for getting anywhere in a hurry.

Getting there in comfort? That the V60 can do. The seats are excellent and noise levels low. But both those positives also apply to the VW, whose 95bhp advantage helps it get to 62mph almost two seconds quicker.

And since our 34mpg average in the Volvo (38mpg on a long run) isn't much better than the VW's 30-35mpg, and the multi-screen interior feels more special, it's those keys I find myself reaching for if I have any kind of big mileage to do. Now upgraded to business class by the CR-V's demise, my labrador prefers the VW's 281 extra litres of boot space, too.

Yes, it's an unfair comparison, and it's one I won't be making for much longer. Soon it'll be time for the Touareg to go – and for me to get the spanners out. That CR-V isn't going to fix itself.

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Volvo V60 Cross Country

Price £40,785 (£48,290 as tested) 
Performance 1969cc 4-cyl diesel, 187bhp, 8.2sec 0-62mph, 130mph 
Efficiency 47.8mpg (official), 34.1mpg (tested), 135g/km CO2 
Energy cost 17.6p per mile 
Miles this month 1498
Total miles 2519


Month 1 living with a Volvo V60 Cross Country: hello and welcome

V60 CC static

Who remembers the crossovers before the crossover? Volvo does. Seems there's still room for cars from the original crossover mould. Cars like the V70 XC Volvo introduced at the Frankfurt motor show way back in 1997 before we'd caught the SUV bug. The idea behind that car – take a standard estate, whack some big springs in it and some utilitarian cladding – is the same one it's used to create this one, our new V60 Cross Country.

Essentially this is a V60 estate, Volvo's rival to the Audi A4 Avant, but with a sprinkling of off-road style, and the merest hint of off-road ability. There's no air suspension to raise the car's body over rough ground, just regular steel coils up front and a composite transverse leaf at the back, like you'd find on older Corvettes. But there is an additional 60mm of ground clearance compared with the regular Volvo V60, and you get standard four-wheel-drive hardware, normally only available when you choose the powerful, but pricey, T8 hybrid powertrain for your V60.

V60 CC LTT panning

Curiously, T8 power isn't available in the Cross Country. Choosing your XC comes down to choosing between petrol and diesel power. Your options are a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol with 247bhp and a 187bhp 2.0 diesel. Whichever you go for you get an eight-speed auto 'box and all-wheel drive. Pick the petrol and you can hit 62mph in a spritely 6.8sec, but a 36mpg WLTP rating suggests you'll struggle to see more than high-twenties in daily use.

The diesel alternative takes a more leisurely 8.2sec to reach 62mph but is rated at 48mpg WLTP, so should be capable of 40mpg on motorway runs. That sounded worth a second or two from the lights to us, so we'll be filling up at the black pump – and turning up the radio to drown out the vocal diesel clatter.

To minimise the clatter of wheels thumping into potholes we've stuck with the standard 18-inch alloys rather than jumping up to 19s or 20s. And mated to Bright Silver paint (£675), those wheels make for a handsome, but discreet, package. Inside, things are more lively. We have tan-coloured seats and the metal-effect dashboard inlays that come with every Cross Country.

Standard kit includes heated leather chairs, automatic LED headlights, keyless entry and start, a 12.3in digital instrument display and a 170w 10-speaker hi-fi. But we've upgraded that to a 600w Harman Kardon system for £600 (an 1100w Bowers & Wilkins set-up is available at £2500), and added the Winter Pack (£350, heated steering wheel and front screen), Xenium Pack (£1800, panoramic roof, parking cameras and assistance), and IntelliSafe Pro (£1625, adaptive cruise, blindspot monitoring, cross-traffic alert and other safety gadgets). No less useful are the plastic boot liner (£180) and muddy boot-friendly rubber interior mats, which you'd have wangled for free from your dealer in the old days, but actually cost £120.

V60 CC LTT chris driving

It's early days but we've already identified some core Cross Country strengths, including excellent long-distance seat comfort and a ride that's far more supple than the sportier R-Design V60 we featured in a Giant Test a few months back. The 529-litre boot is also usefully bigger than the one you'll get in an A4 and C-Class.

Core weakness might turn out to be the ponderous gearbox and the on-the-road usability of the 9in portrait infotainment system. Or maybe not. We've got six months of cross-country trips ahead of us to find out.

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Volvo V60 Cross Country

Price £40,785 (£48,290 as tested) 
Performance 1969cc 4-cyl diesel, 187bhp, 8.2sec 0-62mph, 130mph 
Efficiency 47.8mpg (official), 34.1mpg (tested), 135g/km CO2 
Energy cost 17.6p per mile 
Miles this month 1021
Total miles 1021

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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