Review: 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country
The Cross Country is a raised, ruggedized version Volvo’s S60 sedan. One they say builds on their tradition of lifestyle vehicles (marketing lingo for cars built with outdoorsy, adventurous folks in mind). When we were offered the opportunity to spend a few days with one of those lifestyle vehicles in New England with an historic blizzard on the way we jumped at the chance. Why wouldn’t we?
Under the hood the Cross Country features Volvo’s T5 engine, a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder good for a healthy 250 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. The power ran through a 6-speed Geartonic automatic transmission we found to be a bit lackluster—not great, not terrible. We calculated a disappointing overall fuel economy of 22-23 MPG.
The exterior is where the Cross Country shows its sense of adventure. Volvo lifted the sedan to give it just shy of 8” of ground clearance. Exclusive to the trim level wheels, black fender extensions, and dual integrated exhaust tips add a muscular sportiness. Scuff plates along the door sills and a visible rear skid plate add to the practical side. Where the S60 looks right in the organic market parking lot or carpool line, the S60 Cross Country looks completely at home in the Green Mountains on a day the snowfall would be measured in feet.
The interior of the Cross Country was equally as practical, but a lot less exciting. Volvo referred to the front seats as “sport seats” which we assumed referred to some contouring and inoffensive bolsters along the bottom half of the seat. They were comfortable enough to see us through six or so hours of road tripping, and supportive enough to keep us firmly in place when we did a little winter driving.
The instrument cluster was a clean, modern design with access to performance and diagnostic information as well as the standard speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges, etc. The rest of the dash and center stack area was modern and a bit stark. The Sensus infotainment system was accessed via a 7” LCD monitor set near the top of the dash. While the screen was a good size and in line with most of the S60’s competition, it felt small in the vast landscape of dash.
The stack below the screen housed controls for the Sensus system as well as analog audio and HVAC controls. Four knobs flanked the centerpiece of the stack which was a rectangle of buttons surrounding Volvo’s unique HVAC fan controls. A stylized human shape allows occupants to direct airflow to various parts of their body. We thought the whole setup was a little odd. Volvo apparently likes it since they use it. A lot.
The elements of the vehicle systems that were controlled via the four knobs were easy enough to learn. The controls requiring use of the very northern European collection of buttons had a much steeper learning curve. Our recommendation is to take whatever time you need to learn these buttons before setting out on a drive through Boston’s street-signs-are-merely-suggestions traffic on a snowy day.
The center stack gave way to a console with a reasonable amount of storage. A rolling lid covered two practical cupholders and an armrest served as the lid of a storage bin behind them. The armrest was plenty wide enough, but set a little too far back for our comfort. This is maybe a small complaint for short daily drives but one that begins to loom on a road trip.
The 60/40 split rear seats were comfortable and plenty roomy for some well over six foot tall guests we drove to dinner. A fold down armrest with a pass-through to the trunk was ideal when we needed to transport skis. The trunk was itself was too shallow and barely fit two full-size suitcases. Barely. It was about as deep as we expected front to back, but was roughly 8” shallower than expected top to bottom. Cargo room is the result of a full-size spare and that sweet ground clearance; however, it was a tough pill to swallow in comparison to some of the cavernous trunks we have gotten used to in the S60’s competition.
Driving the S60 Cross Country made us forget whatever worries we had with other elements of its design. Acceleration was in line with its competition, but the handling and surefootedness set it apart. It was as if the car was designed for winter. We drove through falling snow, on packed snow, on loose powder and on slushy gravel. The S60 Cross Country never gave us reason to worry or question its ability. An acre of empty parking lot with about 6” of fresh snow gave us the opportunity to play around a bit. In spite of our best efforts to break the car loose and force it to lose traction we couldn’t.
The Bottom Line
The Cross Country performed as if it was designed with an eye toward winter. We love it for its weather handling ability. We just can’t get past the knowledge there are equally as capable vehicles with more cargo room, better fuel efficiency, and a much lower price tag. Drive through New England and you’ll see a lot of them.