OFF-ROADING STATION WAGON: Writer Robert Daniels tested Volvo's luxurious V60 Cross Country. Image: Robert Daniels
Cape Town - The Volvo V60 Cross Country (CC) may not be as impressive as its 2016 SA Car Of The Year Award sibling, the XC90, but I must admit it made me think - Why buy a large, thirsty and expensive SUV when this raised and modified version of the V60 can do the job?
These lifestyle incarnations of normal road cars are not very popular in South Africa, but sell very well in Europe and the US.
Manufacturers know that most SUV owners don’t go off-roading which makes this the ideal, more affordable alternative.
You get a fair share of off-road ability in case you ever need it, sans the SUV related affordability issues like heavy fuel consumption and dodgy handling charateristics. Sounds good to me.
The problem is that manufacturers don’t take into account the huge snob appeal, a full size SUV brings to the table in a country as obsessed with premium brand awareness as is the case with South Africa.
Image gallery: 2016 Volvo V60 Cross Country
Since Volvo caters to an already left wing demographic the eccentricity of this Cross Country model makes lots of sense for Volvo as a brand in its biggest market, the US.
There it competes with the Subaru Outback, another left wing alternative which sells extremely well in North America. We might not need all wheel drive road cars this side of the Atlantic but the snowy weather over there makes all wheel drive a 'must have' feature which explains the sales success for a manufacturer like Subaru. Volvo is aiming for a slice of that particular market share.
Five cylinder turbo
This Volvo V60 CC T5 AWD I evaluated is propelled by a 2.5-litre turbo petrol five cylinder engine generating 187kW/360Nm Torque. Powerful enough to take the rather large V60 CC from 0-100km/h in about seven seconds it certainly is a formidable power unit driving all four wheels through a six-speed auto gearbox.
Only problem is that this car does not enjoy being rushed. The normal V60 weighs 130kg less than the Cross Country and this version is also 60mm taller than the normal one. It’s higher centre of gravity together with the added weight increased body roll in corners, but all this is forgiven once you veer onto any gravel road or into any national park. Out here it suddenly makes sense.
The comfortably tuned suspension, tall ride height with amazing visibility, all wheel drive and usefully large power and torque reserves come together making the V60 CC feel unstoppable.
The dark plastic cladding around the wheel arches make the V60 CC look the all-wheel drive part and enormous 19" wheels in a menacing black finish lend a very confident appearance to the usually friendly looking V60.
The six-speed auto with manual override paddle-shifters on the steering wheel seems a little old tech when compared to rival but who needs more gears when you have 360Nm of torque?
Shifts are smooth and effortless while progress is brisk. Fuel consumption is quoted at 8.5-liters per 100km and it makes do without low range transfer cases and other pointless 4X4 memorabilia.
How does it drive?
It handles better than most SUVs, uses less fuel and its high power and torque output together with all-wheel drive traction really come together beautifully on any dirt road to give you a very rewarding and above all comfortable driving experience.
It’s not perfect though. The interior looks particularly dated when compared to rivals and the steering wheel is almost comically large. Then the Volvo hits back with superior active as well as passive safety features and what remains the most comfortable seats I’ve ever come across in a car that does in fact not cost the earth.
At R550 000 its practically a bargain when compared to much more expensive SUV offerings with similar performance and features.